Friday, October 25, 2019

ATO 2019 - Inclusion event (a report)

This was the second year that ATO hosted a pre-conference track on diversity and inclusion. It was a sold out event with a free but separate registration (for booking, budgets, and accounting). I attended last year as well.

As I began writing up this report, I noticed the title of the event does not include the word diversity. According to the wayback machine, the main title was the same last year but it felt like the word diversity was included in most of the promotion of the event. Last year did have "A Conversation" as part of the title and incorporated much discussion on the definitions and differences in diversity, inclusion, and equity. This year the title was simply Inclusion in Open Source & Technology [1] and the presentations had a lot more actionable examples of how a project, organization, team, or individual can be more inclusive.

I really like the format of this event. They have a series of short talks which this year were basically people's stories of how they felt included or actions they thought there should be more of so others feel more included. Later there is a Q&A session for everyone to further explore these topics and suggestions.

This year also included a screening of the second episode of the Chasing Grace Project and a Q&A with the producer. I cannot seem to remember which event I was at when I had the opportunity to screen the first episode. I am looking forward to the complete series being available to a wider audience.

Last year I remember feeling a mix of depression and optimism. There were a lots of examples showing how those paying attention have expanded the types of diversity beyond gender and race and how many opportunities do exist. There were also a lot of stats showing how slow the progress is happening and where it is even going backwards. In many ways I felt like I was hearing the same things I've heard all my life and that is a tiring thought.

This year was, at least for me, a lot more positive. I think mostly because the discussions were not so much around statistics and abstract items which still need to be done, but rather a lot of examples of activities that have helped and could help:

  • The young high school student asked for more everyday roles models like parents and teachers sponsoring club activities. Representation at the C-level is important but not as important has having someone in room learning technology along side the students.
  • The older but not ready to retire gentleman reminding people that having had to change technologies so many times, older people bring a lot of experience and can still learn new things - sometimes even learning faster. Most of us also accept (even enjoy) being managed by more youthful enthusiasm as long as we are not just dismissed as a dinosaur. 
  • The consultants that help D&I committees  proactively create company communities and both networking and educational opportunities. 
  • The examples of how to reach out of your comfort bubble, grow your own network, and be an ally.
I came away reminded that I am where I am and still an Open Source consultant and educator because the of the welcoming and supportive people I have gotten to work with. People who treat other people as people. People who can work as part of a team. People who want to do the right thing and give the right people the credit they deserve. These people were rarely official mentors and many have never thought of themselves as an ally but by being good humans, they were an ally to me.

The little things matter. They matter when they produce the thousand paper cuts that drive people away. They matter when they appear from an ally and encourage inclusion.


[1] Note: at the time of writing the URL for this event was for the current year. At some time in the future it may be replaced with the next year details. I do not know if it will be archived. I was able to submit the page to the wayback machine.

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