Shawn Wildermuth

Author, Teacher, and Filmmaker
.NET Foundation Board Member

On Inclusion

On Inclusion

I am fully aware at how this post may come across. I am a white male. A cis white male. A straight, cis, white male software developer. I am aware that talking about diversity and inclusion may come across as 'white savior syndrome' or at least tone deaf. Let's hope I can do better.

It's true that I spent much of the past five years working on a film on the subject, but that doesn't make me an expert. For me, the real tragedy is that I benefited from the lack of inclusion and diversity in software development. There is no getting around it. As someone without a degree, I benefited by looking the part. I am out of central casting for the road company of "Jurassic Park: The Musical".

I am lucky that I benefited from the lack of inclusion. I can't change that. But what I can do is be honest about it. "Hello World" wouldn't be the film it is without having to come to terms with that privilege.

We talk about opening doors for under-served communities, but I think we could do more. Am I talking about funding or foundations? No. I am talking about something more personal. The truth, for me, was that I needed to acknowledge my own bias in order to combat it. My reality is that there is little that can change the little reptilian part of my brain that sees cargo shorts and beards as what software developers look like. I have to let that happen in my brain...acknowledge it...and not let it impair my decision making.

The numbers are daunting. While women only make up about 20-25% of tech jobs (less in software development), the real tragedy is that less than half that is made up of black and Latinx developers (of both genders). That astounded me. How are we not including these important and capable developers from these communities?

My epiphany moment was when I realized that I had never noticed the lack of diversity. I don't think that I believed that women, black or Latinx developers were not qualified and excellent. I think the real problem was that I assumed women, black and Latinx developers weren't coders. That's my shame to carry.

There is a new generation of amazing developers from these communities. They are speaking at events, talking on Twitter, presenting code on GitHub. That's all great. Having models for the people still in school is crucial to changing the culture. But I want to think about it a little differently.

The speakers, writers, maintainers and leaders are a small part of our community. We get more credit than we often deserve. The 95% of developers that are building the world of software sometimes get written off; or at least taken for granted.

This is where I would like us to make the strides. If we can fill the untold number of open positions for software developers by matching people from these under-served communities, it would represent a virtuous cycle for software development.

As I say in the film, I'd like software developers to look themselves in the mirror and make a commitment to themselves to fight against their own bias and privilege every day. I expect some type of backlash, but I am not fragile and can withstand it. So can you.

Stand up. Speak up. Bear witness.

For more information on the film, please see the link on the menu.