“Do what you love”, “Time is short”, “The only way to do great work is to do what you love”.
I’m really tired of hearing that. It’s lofty for sure and worth striving for, but completely detached from the reality facing of millions of people. Let’s be ego-centric and talk about just the United States, where everyone’s supposed to get a shot at the American Dream. From Education Week:
A new analysis of test-taking data finds that in Mississippi and Montana, no female, African American, or Hispanic students took the Advanced Placement exam in computer science.
In fact, no African-American students took the exam in a total of 11 states, and no Hispanic students took it in eight states, according to state comparisons of College Board data compiled by Barbara Ericson, the director of computing outreach and a senior research scientist at Georgia Tech.
Out of a sample of 30,000 students, less than 20% were female, about 3% African American, and 8% were Hispanic (combining all Mexican American, Puerto Rican, etc.).
If this were more equitable of current US Demographics, it should be about 50% women and 20-30% Black and Hispanic.
That has to change.
But until it does, it’s awfully hard to tell people to “do what you love”. Clearly a good chunk of US students aren’t even getting the chance to do something as basic as work on a computer. Those that can are likely white, have access to faster and newer machines at school, Internet access at home, and can go through the day thinking about HTML and not whether or not dinner is going to happen.
No one wants to support teachers and students in the pursuit of technology careers more than me. But someone has to recognize that not everyone has the same opportunity or chance and there’s not much I as an individual can do about it alone. For those of you in the web development community, ask yourself this: “Can I name one prominent black web developer?”
Only if I think for a few minutes can I name any prominent female developers. Except Natasha.
Most people would ask, “Well, why does it matter?” Because diversity makes for better companies. Anyone who’s watched even a bit of Mad Men can see that. Ad men used to spend weeks and months building advertising campaigns for things like pantyhose and bras and couldn’t understand why the campaigns weren’t successful until they got advice from women. Turns out women didn’t always want a “sexy bra”, they wanted a bra that made them feel comfortable.
Insight from women and people of all different backgrounds makes for a better product, a better agency, a better company. That leads to better products for consumers and a more well-rounded and heuristic approach to providing services.
On a personal note, I’m thrilled to work with a strong female designer here at SuperPixel because Natasha is able to bring a worldview and style that works well for women, and many of our clients are women. To this day I don’t think Colors with Suzanne would have turned out nearly as good as it did without both of us working on it.
So men, man up and help others ascend to a higher level. We’re all better off for it.