Diversify This: “Why aren’t there any chicks at our pizza and beer nights?”

Diversify This: “Why aren’t there any chicks at our pizza and beer nights?”

Recently, Apple promoted its resident VP of Worldwide Talent and Human Resources to the coveted position of VP of Diversity and Inclusion. Other major power players like Microsoft, Atlassian and Philips have implemented inclusive hiring practices, and startups in locales around the world are championing both exponential growth and social conscientiousness.

But diversity, especially in tech, remains an issue that is difficult to navigate. Many fledgling CEO’s and founders don’t know what questions to ask, shivering at the thought of being called a racist or misogynist, or just don’t think diversity is a relevant enough issue to ask about. Moreover, it has become harder to have an open conversation or discussion on social media without it offending someone and blowing up.

The reality is: the concept of simply being amicable and non-discriminatory to your employees (and to other human beings general) is at this moment extremely vital to success. At the end of the day, when the numbers are crunched – companies with more diverse work cultures truly tend to perform better. We’re not trying to save the entire world here, but if we as an industry want to incrementally change our work culture, we first have to break down our own assumptions and expectations.

That’s why we’re starting Diversify This, an advice column that hopes to approach the ‘problems’ and the potential ‘solutions’ of diversity in tech by reaching out to you: The confused, the scared, the angry, the awkward, the ashamed, and the politically (un)correct. We may not have the right answers, but we hope to initiate the right dialogue.

Each week, I will answer questions submitted by you anonymously in the hopes of finally tackling that awkward elephant in the room. Because the only thing worse than talking about it (and it being awkward) – is not talking about it at all.

So let’s get to it.


Dear a.c.,
Last week I organized a Hackathon with free pizza and beer, and it turned out to be a sausage fest with no chicks. What’s up with that? We try to host cool events that attract not just guys but it never seems to work…

Sincerely,
Pizza and Beer

Dear P&B,

A lot of folks simply don’t feel welcome at events where all you have to offer is free pizza and beer. Sure, pizza is deliciously greasy and beer is, well, beer – but the connotations that come with ‘pizza and beer’ in the post-college world typically revolve around fraternity ‘bros’ and bad cases of acne – not that we’re discriminating here against sensitive skin types here.

I’m not saying women and other minorities don’t enjoy pizza and beer – but we must think of the systems of exclusion in place here. For instance, think of those who may have traumatic histories with sexism, those who don’t drink alcohol due to personal or religious affiliations, or those such as myself who can barely digest lactose or gluten. All of these people, and many others, may not feel welcome at your Hackathon if planned this way. Plus, if every single event you try to host offers pizza and beer, you’ll pretty much continue to get that same pizza and beer crowd. Not very good for your network.
The truth is, ‘bro culture’ (that is, hyper-masculinized language and activities) dominates our cultural sphere and there’s simply too much of it out there. This toxic culture, while fun for some, can also connotes with misogyny, binge drinking, rape culture and overall childishness for others. Not really a +1 for the “chicks”.

Right now, tech is still a male-dominated sector. Some argue that many folks in tech – specifically women – often have to adjust to “fit in” to this fraternity-style culture and continue to engage in these ‘pizza and beer’ style meetups, even if it’s really not their thing.
My suggestion? Keep the pizza and beer, but offer a wider variety of food and drink options on top of it. Market your Hackathon towards a wider audience by offering “plenty of food and drinks”. Furthermore, switch up the style and theme of all your events as well. Think of a “wine and cheese” Hackathon, or sushi and sake, or even just keep it simple with a “bring your own vice” event (gluten-free vodka would be mine). Remember, making things diverse can also be fun.

As a finishing note, try to stay away from using problematic slang like “chicks”. Do you even 2017, bro?

Do you have any burning questions you’d like to ask a.c. anonymously? Don’t be afraid, send him an email at ac [at] tq dot co.

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