Posts Tagged 'Festival'

December 9, 2015

Startups should embrace both diversity and inclusion

During the NewCo Boulder festival, web development agency Quick Left gave a talk about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The panelists shared stories of their experiences around diversity—good and bad—and gave advice on what can be done to make workplaces more inclusive. It was one of the best talks I heard all year.

After much discussion, both philosophical and tactical, an audience member expressed concern about counter-discrimination. Would the time come when he would be overlooked for a job because he was not a diversity candidate?

This is not the first time this has been brought up in diversity discussions, and he was expressing what many (perhaps too many) straight white males think when diversity is discussed. To the credit of Gerry Valentine, one of the panelists, he did not chastise the audience member, and instead commended him for his bravery. The man who asked the question gave voice to a common concern that is often thought, but rarely brought up. The panelists at NewCo Boulder handled it very well, pointing out that no one wants a job just based on their gender, skin color, sexual preference, or anything other than their ability to execute on the job. And, collectively, we want to create a world where everyone has the opportunity to compete for jobs on equal ground.

I was truly moved by the entire session, but found myself upset that even at the close of 2015 we are still answering questions about counter-discrimination. When Gerry commended the question for its bravery, I first wondered if he was being glib. But knowing Gerry, I was certain he was serious about his comment. Upon further reflection, I realized what's interesting about this "pale and male" pushback is that it comes from a place of fear. A fear of discrimination is at the root of the question when someone asks, "As a white male, am I going to get passed over for a job because this company wants to hire for diversity?"

Following Gerry's example, it's OK to acknowledge that fear. It’s OK to point out that white men don’t want to live in a world where they are discriminated against, even subtly. While that is a valid fear, for the straight white male candidate, it is only a fear of a potential future. If they can imagine potential discrimination, can they acknowledge that the reality of our world today: anyone who isn’t a straight white male does experience this as real fear. Imagine walking into a job interview having to first overcome the things about you that you cannot control (gender, skin color, sexual orientation, physical handicap, economic background, country of origin, etc.) just to get to a level playing field with the other candidates. If you don't want this for yourself, you certainly wouldn't want it for anyone else.

In startups, we love to talk about unfair advantage, but when it comes to hiring, the only unfair advantages should be skills and experience. What the movement for inclusion and diversity is about—and what we should be striving for—is a world where we all compete equally. If it is a brave thing to express your fear publicly, it is braver still to acknowledge the reality of the situation and work to rectify it.

One of the things I love about the startup community is that once we identify a problem, we move forward to solve it in as many ways possible. The path to inclusion in the workplace doesn't have to be a pendulum that oscillates between two extremes—discrimination and counter-discrimination—before settling down in the middle. Pendulums are a relic of the industrial era. In the digital era, we can choose our target, set our standards, and move forward as a community to achieve them. As you build your startup, build inclusion in your workplace from day one.


June 10, 2010

Black Plague!

So this weekend I had an opportunity to go to something called ‘Scarborough Fair’ which is a renaissance festival about 45 minutes outside of downtown Dallas. To give some idea of how large this festival is, it is a 167 acre site. At this festival people of all ages participate in this organic performance of sorts. You’ll have knights walking next to you while you are getting a turkey leg from one of the many vendors; you’ll have people dressed up as gnomes shooting you with blow-dart guns filled with marshmallows, and lots more interesting things happening all the time. It is really a fantastic experience.

The reason I bring this up is because here at SoftLayer we stay on the bleeding edge of technology. If you hear about a new technology that comes out related to the hosting industry, you can be sure that SoftLayer is hard at work at finding a way to integrate it into our systems. At this renaissance festival there were people using very old techniques to make things that we take for granted now. I saw glass blowing, blacksmithing, coin minting and all of these things were accomplished without the use of modern technology.

It is easy to forget that there was a time before electricity, before cell phones, and before gasp the internet. All in all it was a very enlightening trip, and it really made me appreciate the ingenuity of the people of that era, and before. Sure, we have iPhones, Laptops, and Bluetooth, but when was the last time you saw someone blacksmithing a sword, or practicing their knife throwing (very cool btw)? I can type about a hundred words a minute, but I don’t think I would fare to well in a joust.

Yesterdays artisans are today’s programmers and developers. They designed ingenious inventions to handle day to day tasks. Our developers manipulate the virtual world to do all sorts of amazing things. If you have a chance to go to something like this, I strongly recommend doing so, and if you have kids then be sure to bring them along. Experience all the fun of the Renaissance, without worrying about that pesky black plague!

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