Every so often, in any industry that is dominated by men, someone, usually a man, will raise a pertinent question:
Where are all the women in this industry?
There are two variables in that sentence: “the women” and “this industry”. Replace them appropriately and you get a number of similar questions, usually asked by the dominant voice of the community.
- Where are all the black people in technology?
- Where are all the women in engineering?
- Where are all the Hispanic women in web design?
- Where are all the women in hip hop?
I could go on and, in fact, I ask you to submit your own in the comments below.
The point of this isn’t to repeat what these questions are asking. I’d like to answer them all in one fell swoop:
They are here.
They are! We’re just not looking in the right place. Within any community, there are sub communities, also known as cliques, tribes, clubs, circles and so on. These sub communities exist to offer something missing or overlooked by the community at large. While a member of a club may participate in the community as a whole, it’s not the case that anyone in the community is part of every club. Often, whenever this type question is asked, it’s almost as if an ostrich stuck its head out from the ground and realized something or someone was missing.
Chances are, if you know one minority in your community, he or she knows others like him or herself: knows where they are, where they eat lunch, what they do on the weekends and how they feel about the community at large. This isn’t to say that every minorty has these connections. In fact, I confess, I would ask these questions often when I first entered web design in 2003. As a young, black, nerdy woman, I needed a community of similar people to share my journey with. I was following who I considered to be the greats in web design and development. People like Molly H, David Shea, Greg Storey, Dan Cederholm, Derek Powazek were stacked in my blogroll on every iteration of my personal webspace. In reality, the community I looked for were doing their own thing and building their own networks. There were talents in every race, creed and class who created their own communities that flew beyond my radar. But I said, I was young and, might I add, narrow minded.
Thankfully, the Internet has grown in leaps and bounds and more and more people like me have access to community-creating tools. I can see that asking these types of questions may not necessarily pull minority groups into the community at large. What do they have to gain from that if their networks are already thriving the way they are?
The answer to this question, then, is still “They are here.” We’ve just got to widen our radars a bit to include them in the conversations we have about them.