Some of you do not really love women

Published on Jul 28, 2016 by Kristi Leach

There is a lot of talk at Chi Hack Night right now about being inclusive. Truly including people means learning to appreciate the things they enjoy, the ways they express themselves, their style.

If you don’t like the way women sound and socialize and approach professional life, maybe you…don’t really like women.

It’s not enough to tolerate women

If you don’t like us, it shows.

I can see you cringing a little when I say something about my nail polish or my nieces and nephews.

I notice you rushing to a decision for the group when I’ve posed some questions with the intent of being collaborative.

When you tell me you tried to listen to that podcast I recommended, but you just couldn’t take the host seriously because of the way she talks, I wonder if you will take me seriously when I talk.

It’s not just men

I’ve experienced the same dismissive deprecation of femininity from women. Hell, I’ve had to unlearn it, myself.

I’m always noticing new ways that we cringe at women being too feminine to be appropriate or serious, or not feminine enough to be pleasing.

This is a problem at Hack Night because…?

Tell me: if you had even one brush with disdain at a tech meetup that you didn’t have to attend, why would you go back? Why would you raise your hand to speak or to start a new project?

Overcoming bias is a practice

I’m a UX researcher and strategist. Which means I spend 80% of my time poking holes in other people’s ideas. Asking around for negative feedback on their work. Pushing them to spend time and money testing their most well-loved assumptions.

I ask people who are used to being the smartest people in the room to slow down and really care about other, subjective points of view. I push them to get past the cognitive biases that have served them well in so many other situations.

I also push against my own doubt all the time, trying to move closer to the empathy that will make those difficult conversations the best they can be. Paying attention to someone’s communication style, asking questions, choosing the words that will find our common ground.

Not because I’m placating–because it feels good to finally get that click of understanding and appreciation of a point of view that’s totally different from mine. Because it overcomes my own biases and makes me better.

Sometimes, though, I’m already worn thin by Tuesday night.

Do you really want to be inclusive?

Do you really want to include women, nontechnical people, people of color, low income people, LGTB people, formerly incarcerated people, people with disabilities? Do you really want to build things for them?

The more you understand, appreciate, love the people in those communities, the more you will understand the specific ways your community would be better with them in it. And the more likely there will be something in Hack Night for them.

About the author

Kristi Leach

Kristi Leach
Kristi is a UX researcher and strategist in Chicago.