Diversity and awareness of privilege

I came across If you were hacking since age 8, it means you were privileged on geekfeminism.org, and I went, “Hmm. They’re right.” I started very early, and the extra years of practice and immersion and love meant that I could run rings around my classmates by the time we got to high school. I also had great role models in my parents, who raised us to follow our passions and not let people’s gender stereotypes get in the way.

This reminds me of the first session we took in a women’s leadership course. During the discussion, I said that I didn’t relate to many of the challenges described in the video, which had been produced a number of years ago. But I’ve been lucky. The challenge, then, is to help more people experience this.

I also enjoy the privilege of working in a mostly-balanced workplace. I feel normal at IBM. I’m not the only woman, not the only immigrant, not the only newbie, not the only Filipino, and definitely not the only geek. I’m surrounded by role models who show me that so many things are possible in both the managerial and professional career paths (and that people don’t have to be confined to one or the other). Sure, there are still some aspects missing from our mix, but it’s cool.

This accepted diversity means that instead of fighting to prove my worth as a human being, I can focus on the fights where I want to make a real difference, like helping people connect, collaborate, and do their best from wherever.

Instead of renouncing this privilege, then, I can do two things. I can use it as a springboard to work on the next challenges. I can be aware of the circumstances that brought me to this point, and help people bridge the gaps instead of thinking that because it was easy for me, it should be easy for most people.

And then there are little tweaks along the way that I can do to help make things even more equitable… These things are worth working on.

  • Victor Calvert

    While I wasn’t really hacking much until 13 or so, we’ve always had computer equipment around, a home network, and so on…and my first word was “Printer”, which gives you an idea of how involved we’ve been over the years. (I’m coming up on 26.)

    I do agree that there’s a strong degree of privilege associated with technical endeavors, CS and engineering among them, but part of it is that they aren’t exactly easy (even if you’re good with math, logic, and such), so the early exposure helps develop enough interest to carry you through the hard parts…being introduced to computers in university years (or even a year or two prior) is probably because you need it to write a paper, not for fun, which just reinforces the point: interest in computer science and related fields would be expected to be strongly linked to the age at which you are first introduced to a computer (and, to a degree, on what you do with it), which is always going to be closely associated with being from a reasonably-affluent family.