When I realised we could do something about diversity in tech

  • Isaline Mülhauser

I shared what matters to me with my colleagues and found fellow conspirators! Collaboration is a state of mind.

NB: The header picture was taken at the last Django Girls event in Lausanne.

Educational and diversity related events

Last year, I took over all sponsoring requests for Liip for a while, not just the ones for the Romandie. I learnt a lot about prioritization, because such coordination was time-consuming. It also gave me an interesting overview of events about innovations, technologies, self-management and agility in Switzerland.

Obviously, there is a correlation between our principles at Liip and the types of event we sponsor. For example, we have a very sweet spot for diversity and education related events. We participated from Django girls, to Railgirls Summer of Code, Girls in Tech, Jugend Hackt, PowerCoders and Webprofessionals.

In terms of communication, I realised that, in comparison with the number of events we sponsor, the media coverage was relatively low. From 2016 to 2017, we often acted as some sort of underground supporter.

Talking about diversity at the coffee table

To me, integration and diversity have always been interesting subjects. However I never related these subjects to the tech field or to Liip. As I started to be better informed about diversity and education in tech, I talked more about these subjects in my professional environment.

For example, I entered our internal slack channel #diversity. There, I discovered that many colleagues within Liip shared my interests, and many of them had already taken actions! It gave me the confidence to start taking actions within Liip, too.

At this point, I wished people outside Liip knew more, on one hand about Liip’s commitment to support educational initiative, and on the other hand, of Liipers' interests in this subject. Reasons to apply in a company for me are people caring about diversity and talk about it. Maybe we could start a virtual circle? We talk more about diversity on our digital channels, to becoming more diverse?

Team work about language

Before I started working in marketing, I was a bookworm, which turned into a linguistic freak at university. Language is essential, it shapes who we are and how we think, because we think in a language. In other words, the language we use defines on how we see the world. For example, when we say a ‘fireman’ and a ‘Krankenschwester’, we define the gender we are expecting in these jobs.

On our last website I often felt frustrated to see an old sentence going ‘For the sake of simplicity and easier reading, only the masculine form has been used for the individual categories of people’. In my opinion, such sentences are not be fitting for several reasons. For example, it separates the world into genders and creates a dichotomy between masculine and feminine. As if you have to fit into one of these categories. Because it's harder to identify with a company that doesn't appeal to me and doesn't bother to adapt its language.

At the same time as I experienced the interest and commitment of my colleagues, a team was doing a project for our new website. Between my personal belief, my colleagues' motivation and the timely opportunity, we started a project to modify the language on our website.

We compared several websites and texts to gather ideas. Everyone provided examples and their personal best practice cases. Changing thoroughly the language on a website requires a strategy, guidelines and time. We achieved a first step by starting the conversation, raising awareness within the company and setting up a scratch of guideline.

What matters here is how awesome my colleagues have been! We've been holding workshops to find solutions for each language. It was a great feeling to receive ideas and read feedback.

A video project that shines

My objective was that people outside Liip knew about the companies commitments to support educational initiatives, and on the other had, of the Liipers' interest in this subject.

I broadly discussed the idea to create a video about diversity with Tatjana, one of my colleagues, and she took over the project. From there on, the project started to shine.
It became way more than what I had dreamt of!

Listen to the video, it's worth it :)

I am very thankful for Tatjana's coordination of the video project and for Rae, Michelle, Léo, Thereza, Mannar and Stefanie for participating and making it happen.

Next steps like a hummingbird

Liip, is culturally and socially involved and stands for state of the art work conditions. It means that diversity is not an option, but a principle. In terms of marketing, that means that in our strategy, we are using inclusive language on all our channels (incl. pictorial language) and we support cultural and educational events.

I stopped working in the field of sponsoring within Liip. However I’m happy to say that my colleagues who took over the sponsoring activities planning to carry on the sponsorship of educational initiatives.

The first step we took concerning the language on our website is an interesting one, but there is still lots to do. However each step matters.

We achieved one small step, just like the help of the little hummingbird. Do you know the legend of the hummingbird? I think it is a native american legend, which was told by Pierre Rabhi, a controversial French author:

One day, says the legend, there was a huge wildfire. All terrified animals, aghast, watched helplessly the disaster. Only the little hummingbird was busy fetching a few drops with his beak to throw into the fire. After a moment, the armadillo, annoyed by this ridiculous agitation, said: "Hummingbird, you are crazy, because of these drops of water the fire will not extinguish!" The hummingbird answered : "I know, but I'm doing what I can."

On a personal level, I will remember sharing what matters to me in my working life. And I encourage you to do the same. You might discover some fellow conspirators. You never know what will happen, maybe a part of your private interest might become part of your work?

Interesting stuff to click on

Thanks to Fabio, here is an article about diversity and the roles of women in job interviews.

Thanks to Caroline, here is an article about the influence of how we talk (example: use of pronouns, pause) and how it affects relationships. The article is partly based on differences in the language men and women are using.

Lukas leads diversity initiatives for the Symfony community. He currently works on a Code of Conduct and enforcement process that will hopefully be finalised and adopted very soon. CoC are useful tools for integration, because they define behaviours that are destructive to underrepresented groups in tech. Read The complex reality of adopting a meaningfuls code of conduct for more info on the subject.

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