For the past month and a half, I’ve been working on a special project with my two close friends, Jacky Alciné and Catt Small.
On June 7, 2016, we’ll be launching Good for PoC (People of Color). Good for PoC is an online database that helps people of color find safe and inclusive tech companies to work for. Think of Good for PoC as the friend you go to when trying to learn more about a company during your job search.
Why did this come about?
In March 2016, I publicly shared my own experience of racism and discrimination in tech. Jacky and Catt also heard similar stories and have stories of their own. We wondered how we could help fellow PoC navigate tech companies prone to discrimination. An impassioned chat and a few clicks later, we set up a Google survey, bought a domain and Good for PoC was born.
Instead of waiting for a broken system to change, we decided to create something to call our own.
How we define “safe”
“Safe” is knowing your job won’t be in jeopardy because of your skin color or looks. Members of the company don’t go out of their way to covertly damage your reputation. An example of feeling unsafe at work may include a coworker taking credit for your work. Perhaps management speaks ill of you or picks favorites, despite your stellar performance.
How we define “inclusive”
“Inclusive” is knowing you’re a welcome member of a community. Though you work 40 hour weeks, you feel no anguish being around your coworkers. In fact, coworkers invite you to non-work events of their own volition. (Whether you take part or not, they’re thinking of you which means you’re not invisible.) Your presence is appreciated when participating in onsite/offsite or job-related or non job-related activities.
How we source data
People of color fill out an anonymous survey about their company. The results help fellow people of color new to tech or looking for a tech job learn about a potential employer.
The survey results are empowering. Too often we forget that when a company hires us, we’re also hiring them. You deserve license to hire a good company while armed with as much information as possible.
To curious companies and allies
It’s important for you to understand how you can help and when you’re causing harm. We currently don’t have plans to list “bad” companies–that’s too easy. However, as the database grows and if your company isn’t on the list, concern is of warrant.
Why? Because the words “diversity” and “inclusion” are so overused, they’re rendered useless. Companies, including your own, love the “d” and “i” words, but fail to create safe environments for the marginalized.
When I speak to you or read articles about companies like yours, I hear this:
- “There’s a pipeline issue”
- “We should start from high school–there are no candidates available now”
- “We’ve been looking and we can’t seem to find any people of color”
- “We don’t have the time, but we’re working on it”
- “We don’t want to lower our standards/quality of work”
Please allow me to debunk each of these excuses. And please allow me to politely remind you that excuses are tools of the incompetent. Excuses don’t affect change, action does.
Excuse #1: “There’s a pipeline issue”
There’s no “pipeline” issue (unless you meant the school to prison pipeline). You’re looking in the wrong places. Many companies use a specific source for finding candidates–“top” universities. Let’s dig into those numbers.
Yale’s incoming fall 2015 freshman class contained 5,505 students. 72% of the student population admitted was white. 21% were Asian, 10% were Black, and another 10% were Hispanic. 2% were American Indian/Native Alaskan and 1% were Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander.
Harvard’s numbers are similar. 52.8% of the incoming fall 2015 freshman class was white. 21.1% were Asian and 11.6% were Black. 13% were Hispanic/Latino and 1.5% were Native American/Pacific Islander.
Using “top” schools as a way to find candidates is narrow-minded. Try searching outside of this source, but don’t blame the “pipeline.”
Excuse #2: “We should start from high school–there are no candidates available now”
I believe that youth of color are important, especially as we continue to mold this industry. It’s saddening that companies don’t see the breadth of adult talent before them.
You do not need to “wait” until high school students “grow up” to find diverse talent. My network consists of hundreds of talented people of color. The talent already exists.
Excuse #3: “We’ve been searching and we can’t seem to find any people of color”
Your network is limited. If you only connect with people who make you feel comfortable–why would you go out of your way to meet new people? Expanding your existing network is hard. Most people don’t want to do the work and that’s why your search turns up nothing.
If you’re a white person and only have one/a few Black/Latino friends, ask yourself why that is. Is it because they “talk white”? Is it because they’re “not like other Black/Latino” people?
Had I written this article in Jamaican patois or African-American Vernacular English, would you have read it?
These biases exist and until addressed, you won’t find employees of color. Work on acknowledging and conquering your biases. Otherwise, you’ll continue to pass up talent because they don’t match your biased expectations.
Excuse #4: “We don’t have the time, but we’re thinking about it”
Someone told me the other day that he “doesn’t have time” to look for candidates of color. “If we get them, great, but we don’t go out of our way because we’re busy growing our company.”
Time doesn’t appear out of thin air. You make time for the things you deem important. In this case, hiring diverse candidates isn’t of value to you and never will be. “Diversity” and “inclusion” are meaningless to your company and you’re better off finding “synergy” with an “innovative” “rockstar”/“ninja” “unicorn.”
Excuse #5: We don’t want to lower our standards/quality of work
Translation: “Adding people of color to our team will result in a lower quality of work and standards for our company. This is because people of color aren’t [insert foolishness here]. We’re not racist. Statistics prove it.”
I love this sentiment because blatant racism is much easier to run away from. While I don’t agree with these sentiments, I’m grateful to those who refuse to pretend they want me or any other people of color around.
Awareness is important. So is action.
I don’t share these excuses to scare you, but to make you aware. These sentiments and biases make it difficult for people of color to thrive in tech. Just like humans, no company is perfect. We are all still learning. Use the knowledge we share to make your company a better place.
As a person of color, don’t tell me that you “know you can do better.” I am tired of that line. You and every other company in tech can do better. Show me. Show us.
Don’t pat yourself on the shoulder for your 1% increase in employees of color. Keep going. Try even harder. Show us that you care.
And when you start showing us real results, we’ll acknowledge that your company is truly Good for PoC.
PS: Whether you’re a person of color or an ally, I encourage to RSVP for the Good for PoC NYC Launch Event happening on June 7, 2016.