Around 1976 the feminist movement in the Netherlands was pretty strong. I was 18 at the time. There were the Dolle Mina’s, a Dutch feminist group which campaigned for equal rights for women. The group actively promoted the ‘Baas in eigen buik’ principle aquivalent to the pro-choice movement. The term is hard to translate, but comes close to ‘Boss in own tummy’ and seems to have a US equivalent called ‘Women on Waves’. At that time I was proudly wearing a female power button sympathising with this movement. It did not go much further than that, but I always had a strong sense of sympathy towards that movement, for anything rebelious or minorities. Not to much has changed.
It seems unbelievable this is already some 40 years ago. There is still the need to pro-actively deal with the rights of women and of minorities. There will always be minorities that need to be supported. With the advent of the internet the world only got smaller and it became easier to communicate with many different people. We have many collaborative tools at our disposal, but we are sometimes blind to the cultural richness around us or we just do not know how to really include the full extent of the world around us.
Being inclusive and diverse will enable your project to move forward in ways you did not think were possible before and will give you more fun in working together. Chances that your project will start dealing with other aspects of your community are high. A very developer focused community like the TYPO3 project needs TLC (Tenderness Love and Care) in many different areas.
For the TYPO3 community this seems even more important carrying the motto ‘Inspiring People To Share’. I sometimes dream of how we could transport this feeling not only pertaining to software.
So TYPO3 is a pretty much white male developer oriented community. Diversity has been buzzing around the community for the past years, but it seems difficult to achieve. When I addressed the issue with someone a few years ago the reaction was: ‘There are no girls’. This perception pretty much describes the problem. 50% of the population are girls.
In the past years things have changed and awareness on the topic has grown. There are people in our community that talk about diversity at events and the TYPO3 Community Working Group (CWG) has diversity high on its agenda.
From within CWG we initiated a hangout with Ashe Dryden to get some input on how to increase diversity, be inclusive and at the same time spread TYPO3. Ashe is an activist from the US and spends the majority of her time educating people about the lack of diversity in tech. Ashe is working on a book called ‘The Diverse Team' subtitled 'Healthy Companies, Progressive Practices’. It is as yet unpublished, but you can support Ashe.
There are a number of characteristics that define a community. In our conversation with Ashe we touched on how to get out of these stereotypical definitions. Outreach is the keyword to get out of any predicament. In order for outreach to be most effective, actively approaching people is imperative. More focus could be shifted to people in areas where the community is not so well spread. And I do not only mean geographically. Asking people with expertise in a certain area, besides the typical core topics, to talk at conferences and event, also helps spread a community.
The biggest takeaway I got from hanging out with Ashe is that in order to have more diversity you need outreach. Outreach itself does not mean showing you are open, but being open. Publishing articles and asking people for feedback only works for a minority. Outreach is very much connecting to people and asking them to join your project or a specific task. Enabling people to act on behalf of your project is very powerful.
The article on typo3.org contains some more specific info on the hangout: http://typo3.org/news/article/the-community-working-group-hangs-out-with-ashe-dryden/
Being inclusive and achieving more diversity is not done overnight and requires a new mindset. Culture isn’t dictated, but lived. Changing a culture requires constant tiny adjustments. It’s not just about showing people you’re open, but actively encouraging positive, wanted behaviour; it’s about injecting those thoughts and beliefs into discussions and events to make people aware of what is expected. It’s about modelling expected behaviour.