The Red Lines Page

October 24, 2016

I woke up to unconscious bias

Filed under: Uncategorized — Peter A @ 4:56 pm

twitterYou know what they say: every generation has an odd family member that the other relatives talk about behind their back. And if you say that your family doesn’t do that, well, the bad news is that it’s you they’re talking about.

The joke is that you don’t know what you don’t know. We all make assumptions, and assumptions have biases.

Say that again

Outside of my day job, I like to tweet stuff. It’s not a work blog, and more of an odd combo of lame jokes (see above), news items I find noteworthy, and exchanges between me and others. Those other tweeps (yeah, that’s the term, get over it) are a variety of friends and colleagues in IT, technical communication, and various media fandoms that I enjoy. And a whole crowd of others who like to listen in; I’m not all that choosy.

If I see something that amuses or interests me, I will share it on Twitter. Or if it’s already on Twitter, I may forward it (adding my own comment) or retweet it unchanged as I first saw it. If I do the former, it appears with my Twitter name on the tweet when it pops up in other people’s timeline; if I do the latter, the original person’s name appears.

The other month, my wife pointed out to me: “You don’t often just retweet women.” And she was right. It wasn’t something I’d done consciously, but a combination of:

  1. What I’d chosen to share
  2. How I’d chosen to share it
  3. Who I’d chosen to follow

The third one was a bit of an eye-opener. Because if I don’t follow a diverse range of people, it’s less likely that I’ll spot and retweet their stuff. Like any social media, and social sharing, Twitter can be a bit of an echo chamber of people Just Like You.

Obviously I want my Twitter experience to be more like a convivial gathering at my local, rather than a bar-clearing brawl. But I hadn’t thought, before my wife pointed it out to me, that I’d been so selective about who I followed… or perhaps I mean, not selective enough.

wocintechAlly up

This came to mind again when I read this terrific post on Etsy’s Code as Craft blog by Toria Gibbs and Ian Malpass. It’s an eight-minute read full of interesting stuff, including:

  • How software engineers communicate to themselves, and others, about craftsmanship
  • Diversity in recruitment, retention, and role models
  • Unconscious bias

The post is called Being an Effective Ally to Women and Non-Binary People. I like it because it’s written like a human being, not like an Open University lecture. And it contains some “no excuses” resources about (for example) photos of women in IT that you can use, for free, in your business presentations rather than perhaps perpetuating the stock set of picture of men we may have been using previously.

Worth a read now. Or if you’re busy, worth bookmarking. Consider this my social sharing.

Photo credit: #WOCinTech Chat

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