Go Time – Episode #274

Diversity at conferences

with Ronna Steinberg & Kaylyn Gibilterra

All Episodes

Go conferences are not as diverse as we’d like them to be. There are initiatives in place to improve this situation. Among other roles, Ronna Steinberg is the Head of Diversity at GopherCon Europe. In this episode we’ll learn more about the goal, the process and the problems, and how can each one of us help make this better.



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1 00:00 It's Go Time!
2 00:44 Welcoming our guests
3 09:49 The diversity problem at confs
4 13:41 Welcoming environments
5 26:57 On diversity scholarships
6 46:50 Sponsor: Changelog News
7 48:38 Roundtables & de-rails
8 1:02:12 Recommendations
9 1:09:40 It's time for Unpopular Opinions!
10 1:10:01 Ronna's unpop
11 1:11:49 Kaylyn's unpop
12 1:13:22 Natalie's unpop
13 1:13:49 Kris' unpop
14 1:17:10 Gotta Go!
15 1:17:26 Next time on Go Time


📝 Edit Transcript


Play the audio to listen along while you enjoy the transcript. 🎧

Hello, everyone who is joining us live, or listening to this recording later on. We are happy you are here to listen, and maybe join, participate on Slack if you’re actually joining us live, on the topic of diversity at conferences. I’m here with Kris Branchville. Hey, Kris.

Hey, Natalie. How’s it going?

Good. It’s been a while.

Yeah, it’s been a very long time, and so excited to be back.

I’m happy to co-host with you. We are joined by two guests from two Go conferences. Rona from GopherCon Europe, and Kaylyn from GopherCon… GopherCon. In the US. [laughter] How are you both doing?

Really good. I guess I’ll go first; I’m super-excited to be on. I haven’t actually done any sort of podcasting since all of COVID, so I feel like I’m like rebirthing right now, to come back and join again.

It’s really cool. Well, we’re excited to rebirth with you. [laughter] Ronna, you’ve been on the podcast several times in the last few years…

Yeah, I think so. My first time I got the Unpopular Opinion Hall of Fame, I got into that… Which is not a thing, but… You know, things are never a thing until they become a thing, so I do think they are a thing. [laughs] It’s a thing, right?

Oh, it’s most definitely a thing. It’s most definitely a thing.

Matt put me in the Hall of Fame… And I tried to maintain the title… We’ll see how I do.

So Ronna, you’re introducing yourself saying that “After 20 years in tech, you know that people are the sum of opportunities that they’ve been given.” It’s a very cool thing to say.

I am the sum of opportunities that I have been given.

Well, we’ll be interested to hear about the opportunities you’re given, but you are a Gopher, before anything, you are a Google developer expert for Go, you are an organizer, THE organizer of Women Who Go in Berlin…

Well, not the – because now I have a co-organizer…


So [unintelligible 00:02:49.10] Women Who Go.

Yeah, congratulations. That’s huge. [laughs]

And you are heading the diversity scholarships at GopherCon Europe for five…

How long has GopherCon Europe been going on? [laughter]

I know that answer…

You should know. [laughs]

That’s how well I’m doing in job interviews.

So yeah, [unintelligible 00:03:15.22]

“Tell me about yourself…” [laughter]

That’s wonderful…

Kaylyn, you are the GopherCon US chair, and you are participating at the Recurse Center, developing a suite of programmatically-generated 3D products covering astronomical data and astrological storytelling.

Yeah, yeah, it’s like a whole mouthful, the whole way through it. I’ve never figured out a different way to describe it… But the TL;DR for that is I’m printing a lot of space things, and it turns out you can programmatically generate 3D prints; there’s a tool called Open SCAD, and that’s kind of the only way I think you could do a lot of astronomy type pictures and prints and models of different nebulae, and solar type stuff… So that is what I’ve been working on. But yeah, the title is… Incredible. It makes me feel cool.

And no explanation necessary. [laughter]

Just like a long pause while everyone thinks it over for a bit, and then you get the…

It’s amazing.

You’re also in the meetups businesses.

Yeah, I did – so prior to Go, I did Women Who Code down in DC, and that was probably my biggest community organizing group. I was the founder back in 2013, or 2014. The years thing - I’m like, I don’t know; I’ve no idea how long a meeting has been… I did that for three or four years, and then came into Go, and have done more tech conferences, and speaking, and stuff like that… Which has been fantastic, and I have learned and loved a lot.

And you worked at Capital One on distributed systems and banking applications.

Yeah. Tons of – if people want to talk about banking and distributed system… And mostly just like working with Go, with medium to large-sized organizations. That was probably one of the highlights of what I did there. It was really fun.

Yeah, I think you two are subject matter experts… So what are the efforts that are happening out there at conferences for making diversity better, both on the attendees front, both on the speakers front, maybe other fronts… You can share from the conferences that you’re working with, or from other conferences in Go that you have attended… All the answers are interesting.

Yeah. I can start a little, but maybe we’ll go back and forth a bit. So I specifically joined the GopherCon Chairs team focusing on diversity, but especially a look at neurodiversity, and how we can bring more of that into the conference, both in speakers and attendees… And it was funny - one of the organizers, Heather, we had worked with a little, I had spoken previously, I did a little bit of MC-ing, and at some point I must have said to her “Oh, sorry for that impulsive thought I just said. I have ADD”, and she was like “What? Really?” And then for the next few months was like “Hey, do you want to help us organize? Let’s figure it out–” She was like “I’ve got some ideas about how to make this more friendly, how to make this more diverse in that mindset, too.”
[06:15] So that’s a lot of what we’re looking at this year, both in how we can bring it in for attendees to be more comfortable, and maybe just learn while they’re at our conferences. We are looking at a few other conferences… I’ve got like a shortlist of some of my faves that I use for inspiration… But just really trying to think through how to add that additional sector of diversity into the conference space of GopherCon, which was fun. A few years ago, I would not have thought I would have been focused on this, because I did not realize… [laughs] But yeah, it’s been cool to go through it all now.

This is so cool. I am so interested in connecting with you after to find out more.

Viceversa, too.

So a funny story… Natalie organizes GopherCon Europe, and year one of GopherCon Europe, which was in Iceland…

Where Kaylyn spoke…

True! True. [laughter]

It was a long time ago now…

It was a while ago… It was a minute, yeah.

I think by now we all counted… This was six years ago. [laughter]

I mean, on the one hand, it’s like depressing, and on the other hand, it’s amazing… And I can’t decide… So I’m just gonna go with “Time passed.” But yeah, Natalie reached out to me and she asked – this was I think the first time that I interviewed here, at GoTime, I told the story… So she reached out to me, and we used to message each other on Facebook, of all places. She reached out to me, and that’s the medium where I got the big question, like “Do you want to organize the diversity scholarship for GopherCon Europe?” And I had no idea what that entailed, so I said immediately yes, because I always say yes to things I don’t understand… [laughs] It’s a problem…
And yeah, I had no idea what’s going to happen. I am glad to say that after a year I improved a little bit my skill set or understanding of how to do this… And yeah, but it feels like every time it’s a different story. And that was obviously also before the pandemic hit, and it kind of changed the whole situation for us. But we’re bringing people to the conference again this year, hopefully, if they all get their visas in time, which is a big problem… And I’m going to have sleepless nights again… And it’s going to be amazing. I’ll probably be very grumpy during the conference, as I usually am… Everything has to be perfect. [laughs] It’s part of –

Maybe that’s just part of being a conference organizer, is just like “Oh, we’re finally here, and – oh, there’s so many things that I wanted to do that aren’t done yet, and I’ve gotta finish clobbering everything together”, but everybody else is like “This is amazing” and you’re like “Everything’s on fire.”

I mean, okay, so Natalie is the organizer; I am just doing the diversity scholarships. I do like that she changed my title from – because I think the first title that she gave me was Head of Diversity Committee, which was nice, and I stuck to it… And now I’m the Head of Diversity, so I guess that means that my –

That’s a promotion, right?

Yeah, my responsibilities extended a bit, and need to discuss… [laughter] But it’s always nice to find out like this.

So what is the problem with diversity at conferences?


Not at any specific conference. Go conferences in general.

[09:55] It’s a great question. So I’m going to take this one. So first is – first things first, we have to start with the attendees. So most people who work professionally in the industry are from a very homogenic, predominantly white, predominantly male population; particularly from also upper-middle class etc. Like, they have the education, a bunch of stuff that allows them to get the right job, get an education budget, go to conferences, and sort of enjoy the perks of also socializing. So we start there. And then because of this, I think we also see that most of the speakers are from that same communities… Because they kind of inspire each other. And people who really can’t afford to join conferences – and conferences are not cheap. People who can’t afford to go to conferences are not going to end up being speakers. And if the first time that you’re ever going to attend the conference is as a speaker, that’s tough; that’s very tough. That’s not an easy experience to have.

Also, I’m pretty sure that with the butterflies you are not going to learn much, so… You will just be waiting to turn. And I do see that happening once in a while. But it is a very, very big undertaking. And there is more, but I do think that what it really boils down to is money. That’s why we have meetups that can be very diverse, but then the conferences are not.

So Kris promised to make the most controversial comments of this, so I’m going to start out with something that might be a little controversial and see if they can top it later… But this is more a thought that I’ve had over the last couple years, where I ended up in an organization where there’s actually quite a few really strong women engineers; really strong meaning like running the infrastructure, the people you call if things go down, the ones that have a lot of the answers for how to move the project forward, day to day. And this was kind of new for me, primarily because I hadn’t really worked with many women before that point, so I don’t have a massive data set… But it made me start to think around – I noticed that when these women would want to go to a conference, they would very quickly start to think, “Well, what’s going to happen when I’m gone? Like if I take a week off – I already wanted to take vacation some other week, and now I’m going off on this conference, and this project really relies on me.” So it becomes this headache that they may or may not be thinking about; like, they may not need to think about it that way, but they are. So that is something that I’ve had sort of in the back of my mind, ruminating, just around “How much does that impact attendance?”

So Ronna, exactly like what you said about the meetups being more diverse, the conferences not - is there that level of how do they step away? How do we make that easier for them to step away? And maybe the controversial piece is it has made me wonder if women are more critical to their projects, and that’s the reason they’re not going to these conferences that aren’t essential. And maybe they are finding ways to learn it without being there… Which could be okay, which could be not a problem, but I also think it would challenge me to start to ask that question of “Well, how do we make it more convincing? How do we make it more worth their time? How do we make it so that teams know?” Or if you’ve noticed this on your teams, how do you make it so they have support, so that they could take that time off and it wouldn’t be as disruptive? I don’t have a ton of data on it, but I have started to wonder if that impacts minorities attending conferences more than I would have realized a few years ago.

[13:41] Yeah, I think that that’s a really good point, actually… One of the things I hadn’t really thought of, of like that flow… And I think I would add to that. I think a big chunk of the problem is that the conference environment itself is not particularly welcoming if you are someone who is not a cis, white, straight, able-bodied man. There’s a lot of people that tend to be very clicky, and they tend to be very normative spaces… And I think actually - and I guess is like kind of my first controversial point… I do not really like diversity scholarships, specifically as a method of trying to solve the inclusion problem. I also don’t like how we named diversity scholarships. I guess I can tackle that second thing first, of - I understand the wanting to get people from underrepresented communities to conferences, but I feel like the scholarship part makes it seem like we’re tying in underrepresented people with economically-disadvantaged people, and I don’t like how those things get conflated together. So I think it does get conflated together in people’s minds, and I’ve seen this at places I’ve worked as well, where it’s like “Oh, we have a whole bunch of new grads, and most of them are women.” And now the thought is “Oh, if I see a woman who’s an engineer, I think she is junior because of that.” And I think there’s a little bit of that that’s prone to happen at conferences, of like - you see someone who’s black, or a woman, or someone that you think would get a diversity scholarship, and you’re like “Oh, that person might have gotten here through that realm.”

And whether that’s – the net positive of them being there might outweigh that bias that comes in, but that is a thing that kind of just irks me a little bit at the end of the day… And I also think that for too many conferences the diversity scholarships are the primary focus of making conferences more inclusive. And I think that and trying to get more diverse speakers, or making the speaker pool more diverse, and getting more people from underrepresented backgrounds up on stage - I think that puts a lot of focus on like these really smaller groups of people, right? Because with a diversity of scholarship it’s only going to be a handful of people; the number of speakers - there’s only gonna be a handful of people, and that takes a lot of energy away from efforts to say, “Well, how do we make the bulk of people that are going to be attending feel more included and really pull in more of those underrepresented groups?”

I think a really good example of this is something that’s really simple, that I think people don’t think about very often… But it’s bathrooms. And at basically most conferences out there, even though most conferences, as we’ve just said, are dominated by men - 75%, 80% men in a lot of cases - we still have very, very gendered bathrooms, which logistically makes no sense, because then you have enormous lines for the men’s room and the women’s room are just completely empty.

It’s one of my favorite things, though. I love it. [laughs]

You’re saying like it’s a problem, and I just don’t understand… I just don’t understand! You know, my favorite thing is taking a photo. My favorite thing.

Yeah, they are just like completely empty.

And also, it smells really nice inside. I mean, it’s fantastic.

And it is a little bit of karma to men, who are usually – it’s usually the other way around, so it’s that… But I think one of the issues at the end of the day is that for certain parts of the queer community, especially for non-binary people, now you’ve stuck them in this position of “Well, I’m not a man, I’m not a woman. I’ll guess I’ll go use the family bathroom.” So it’s like logistically sort of annoying, and you’ve now kind of excluded this group of people.

I remember I was talking to someone who’s an organizer of (I think) HashiConf, and they mentioned to me that one of the things they put in for when they’re looking for a venue is “Can we make all the bathrooms gender-neutral?” And if they can’t, they say, “Oh, this is a deal-breaker. We’re not going to do this.” And I think more conferences should try doing that sort of thing, and I think putting more energy into that sort of focus will wind up being way more inclusive for people, and kind of signal, especially in this case, the queer community, that “Hey, this conference is a welcome space for you. Your gender identity doesn’t line up with man or woman. That’s perfectly fine. Use whatever bathroom you like.”

[18:13] And you know, maybe leave a couple to be inclusive of the people that are like “Look, I really don’t want to be in a bathroom with people who I perceive to be this other gender from me”, which is like - okay… I mean, there’s also the family bathrooms that they can use, those single-stall sort of things… So you maybe have like one or two of the bathrooms that are for people that really, really want to have like a men’s room or a women’s room. But you make all the rest of them ones that are for anybody. So it’s like “Just go and use the bathroom.” And I think for the most part, nobody’s really going to care.

But that’s like a logistically-challenging thing to do. It takes more effort for you to have conversations with venues, figure out how to message that properly, how to label that properly, how to let everybody know the alternatives… And I think there’s a ton of opportunities like that, but I think the bulk of diversity and inclusion energy usually goes into these kind of shinier and flashier things of “Oh, look, we’ve got more speakers up on stage” or “Oh, look, we got to fly in some people who wouldn’t be here otherwise.”

I have so much to say… You said a bunch of things, and I can understand how this is what this will be perceived as. But women are perceived as juniors because they are statistically stuck in junior positions. So to quote my own presentation on the topic, “Women are stuck in that position because they’re not promoted, promoted very slowly, or end up leaving tech altogether”, which makes them – and there was a survey that was created by HackerRank, that checked what’s the likelihood of a woman to be in a junior position, and it was incredibly high. We’re talking 70%, 80%, something like that. And it has to do also with a huge retention problem. So in that, I don’t actually think that we’re going to change anything by bringing a bunch of women into a conference, and people are going to say, “Oh, look at them; they got a scholarship, that’s why they’re here. They’re probably juniors, because they got a scholarship to come here.”

The other thing that I wanted to say - and then we have the people who could be seniors, and then we need to think about how they spend their money. And I kind of noticed that around me… So when I look at the women around me, when I look at – not just women, also immigrants from India, from Africa, who came to Germany, what they choose to invest their education budget on is German lessons and courses, sort of professional courses that will get them to that next position, next job, get them the recognition that they need desperately at work… So they’re not likely to show up to a conference. That’s just how reality works for them.

So again, I don’t think that we’re actually changing the perception of about people just by giving them scholarships. Possibly, but this is not something that I’m going to lose sleep over.

So then we have the scholarship itself, right? I mean, you didn’t say it, but I’m just going to say it - tokenism, right? Like, “Oh, you’re here, and you got this because you are this, this and that.” I walked into – really, for 20-something years I’ve been walking into rooms full of men… [laughs] And a very specific, by the way, type.

[22:01] At the end of the day, if there is no meritocracy, not really, and people are not there based on merit, then they did get those jobs, they did get into the room because they are tokens. We are not the tokens. We have never been the tokens. My dear… I mean, we have to let go of this idea at some point.

And regarding the speakers - so this is something that I forgot to say earlier, and I do think that it has – it’s something that I’ve been bringing up a lot with people who organize scholarships. I think Natalie heard me also… Scholarship – sorry, conferences. I think Natalie has heard me say that a bunch of times… By the way, Natalie, jump into the discussion whenever you feel like it. I know that you have a lot of opinions; I have a phone full of them… Even Facebook.

Not just Facebook.

Even Facebook… But generally, what I noticed - through Women Who Go, people who apply to submit a talk to conferences, they often submit talks that are very specific to what they do… Because to be very successful, and be a woman in this industry, you’re probably a unicorn; you’re probably pretty unique. And that means that you have your own ideas and thoughts about what’s interesting. And that’s probably what you – like, they do some niche stuff, and they try to submit it, and then they get rejected. Why? Because “Ah, it’s not mainstream enough, not many people know it, people don’t understand it very well…” So it’s very hard to have them submit talks, have them accepted, and be authentic. And I don’t know necessarily – I can’t say I know necessarily how we can address that, but I think it should be on people’s minds.

Natalie, do you have like more from those texts that you want to add in there, but I also have a lot of thoughts, too. [laughter]

Please, do share.

This is so cool… I’ve thought a lot about – Ronna, you were saying about how you were bringing up what you’re submitting, is it getting accepted, are people interested in it… It made me think a little to my point earlier about “Are the women in roles where they’re working a lot, and so then they don’t come?” I think I’ve also seen there’s less inherent interest from women in kind of advocating for what they’ve done, or sharing it. I’ve noticed when I’ve had mentoring conversations that a lot of it can be on “Well, here’s why you might want to”, whereas I think with men, they’ve already sort of understood that. They’re like “Of course. I want to share this, and I want to make sure people know what happened.” And that might be a thing that is inherently causing women to self-select out, because for whatever reason they just aren’t catching that this could be valuable for them… And I liked your points there, around it’s more than just tokenism, it’s more than – like, there are stats about how they are more junior, but if we start to look past and understand why they are more junior, you then realize that it’s not necessarily about experience, but maybe about leveling. And I loved all of that.

Kris, I want to hear more of your thoughts. The one I really liked was – just the bathroom example alone, you were like “I’ve got a few more.” I started writing notes. Hopefully, you guys can’t hear me scratching with my pen… But that’s such a good one. And it actually reminded me of one of my favorite conferences - now I’ve got to go to Hashi Corp; that just jumped high up on my list. But there’s this one called Bang Bang Con that’s pretty small. It’s kind of local, I think, in New York and San Francisco. I’m not sure if they’ve expanded… But they always did gender-neutral bathrooms, and they really created this magical environment for – it’s not just a programming conference, it’s like “Come and share what you love about computing right now. Anything, just holistically”, and it worked really well… Another reason it’s on my mind right now is that it works so well for neurodivergent minds as well, because it essentially was coded for it. “Tell me your hyper fixation. Tell me about this weird thing you built with your project. Just come in, just share that joy with the rest of the group.”

[26:16] And that conference was probably one of the most diverse that I saw, both around like men and women. People of color I think was a little lower, but higher than I think I’ve seen at GopherCon so far… And the queer population was just – I mean, it felt so friendly. You went in and were like “Okay, cool. We’re all here, we’re all hanging out. This is just such a good time to learn about programming.”

And so I think, weirdly, your gender-neutral bathrooms was something I’ve kind of forgot about being in COVID, away from events so much… I’m like “That’s right.” But I think it weirdly correlates, in my personal experience, as having helped create incredibly welcoming spots for everybody. So I thought that was really cool to call out.

Yeah. I think too, Ronna, to your point, the Speaker problem is interesting, because I think a big part of why there aren’t more women, or frankly, black, brown, whatever, people speaking has a lot to do with the fact that they’re not in the audience either. So I think there’s a thing that happens when you when you go to a conference and you’re in that space and you’re experiencing it, you’re like “Oh, this is awesome.” But then you also get to talk to the speakers, and all of a sudden you realize, “Oh, these are just normal people. These are people that are just like me, they could be my coworkers. They’re not really anything special.” So I think there’s a lot of that in people’s minds, of like “Oh my God, to be a conference speaker you’ve got to be like way, way amazing, way fantastic”, all of that. So I think that’s a big chunk of why a lot of people don’t even bother applying. They think it’s like “With all those people out there that are great at this, I’m never gonna get through.”

But I also think that there’s this really interesting problem that I’ve – it’s like a theory I’ve had for the past at least six or seven years about why is it that it’s so hard to crack the diversity problem… And I think a big chunk of it is that inadvertently, people tend to look at marginalized groups and turn them into monoliths. They tend to look at them and see “Oh, well, we just need women on stage. We just need black people. We just need neuro-spicy (as I like to call it) people. We just need queer people.” We just need these different groups of people to come to our conference, not really understanding that these groups of people are huge, huge diversities within them.

One of the things that always kind of annoyed me about, in the US, the 2008 election with Barack Obama, is that there was – all of these people saw it all over news when he was running, and when it looked like he was going to win, and all of these people were saying, “This is fantastic, because all of these little black girls and boys who are growing up now see this, and now they know that they too can be precedent.” And I remember hearing that and just thinking, “Why do you think that I ever thought I couldn’t be precedent?” And I realized that that is part of the kind of separation that exists within these types of communities. It’s like, yeah, there’s a lot of people like me who are like “No, no, no, I can be the first. I don’t know why you think I wouldn’t be able to be the first. There was always a first. We had the first president. Why can’t I be the first black person, or the first queer president, or the first whatever?”

And I think a lot of the time - this also goes into a little bit about why I have irks with diversity scholarships, is that when you’re trying to build more inclusive spaces, the people you need to kind of pave the way are those people that were already like “Nah, I can be the first”, because those are the people that a) build coalitions of communities behind them, and then kind of already know about their community, and are willing to build the bridge so that you can help make your space more inclusive. That’s what I’ve done essentially everywhere I go; I’ve managed to build up communities, and I try to communicate with people. I’m one of the rare black people that talks to white people about racism.

[30:03] Even that last GopherCon, I had for like an hour or two a little table at the Google booth, where there were like five or six white folks that I was just telling about “This is what it’s like to be black in tech.” And those conversations don’t happen, usually. And you need one of those community-builder people to go and do that work.

And back to why I don’t like the diversity scholarships as much… Community builders aren’t generally the type of people who are going to necessarily go after those scholarships. They’re going to be the people that are like “Oh, no, no, I can find my way; I can do it.” But they’re like “Is this worth my community organizing energy? Is this conference going to be worth my reputation, and going to be worth me endorsing it?” So when they go into these spaces, and then they see “Oh, no, no, no. This place - this is a mess already. There’s all these problems.” And when they do get involved, and they organize for a little bit, and there’s all of these little micro-aggressions and all the stuff that’s happening, they are saying, “Oh, no, no, this isn’t a safe space for my people.” Then those people are gonna go back to their communities and be like “Nah. This ain’t it, fam. Let’s go find another one. Let’s go and do it.”

So you crucially need to seek out those people and bring them in, and then really listen to them, and be like “Oh, what is it that your community needs to feel included here?” And then those people will build up the kind of, “Oh, yes, this is what we have. Let’s bring the whole crew through, basically. Now it’s all good.” And those communities as well will start to do things like build up “Okay, let’s sponsor” or “Let’s tell people, like, no; like, all y’all, go submit to this conference, go submit a talk.” That’s how you’ll get your way. That’s how you get upstage. Don’t go for the diversity scholarship, go for this other thing.

So once again, I’m not saying diversity scholarships are bad, I’m saying we should also be focusing on finding those community builders, and bringing them into the sphere, and crucially, crucially, listening to them… Which has been the hardest thing. Every time I go into one of these spaces, every time – because I’ve done a lot of organizing, I’ve built tons of energies in my past at companies… The main problem I always run into is actually being heard by people that say they want diversity, but aren’t really ready for what that means.

So a lot of this work is we’ve got to get all of the organizers, all of the people that are in power ready for what it means to be an inclusive conference, an inclusive space. So that’s like other energy that - not that we should take away from the diversity scholarships, but we need to be doing that along with those diversity scholarships, and along with these other efforts, because they are super-crucial.

I’m, so inspired… I’m like “Yes!” Kris, you’ve solved it. I’m with you. No, I just love the “and”. I’m picturing - right, how do we get the community builders in; and I think you’re so on the nose, that the organizers are gonna say “I’ll figure out how to get there if I really want to.” But if we say “No, we need you here, so we want you to come here, AND we also have scholarships that 1) we would love you to help us recommend who to be bringing in, who might need it… Like, if you’ve got contacts, you can solve some of this for us.” And then just those in need, finding a way to get them there. But I think that community organizer tip is fantastic.

Part of me is like “Wait–” I know in GopherCon a few years ago we would do the pre-conference, we would bring in people who have contributed to the Go language, and do some pretty great day-long sessions with them, and getting feedback, how do we make it easier etc. I don’t think we’ve ever done something with organizers of technical groups… And especially if that means like Go groups, but also outside of Go groups; I think like just groups that are tangential, maybe like DevOps, maybe other sorts of similar organizers, and bringing them in and saying, “How do we get you in this room, and how do we get you in this conference?” But I think that’s such a huge opportunity. I feel like – I’m like “Okay. Okay. I love that.” I don’t know, I can’t speak for everybody, but I’m like I’m jazzed. I think that’s cool.

[34:08] So at GopherCon Europe what we do - we actually have multiple criterias, and one of them is community organizers, but we have multiple criteria. I’m not going to explain the entire thing, because that would open it up to cheating, and stuff like that…

But the criteria based on which the committee ranks applications - what we try to do in the end is sort of… So to change the makeup – I think we can all agree that to change the makeup of the community, especially the Go community, but the industry, we’re going to have to bring new people in. Because right now, it’s not diverse. So we’re going to have to bring new people in, and we’re going to have to create opportunities for people to also grow. So that means that – and I think it’s kind of like implicit then that scholarships, or our scholarships at least, they go to people in different stages in their life. So we have seniors, and we have people who are beginners. We try to sort of bring a mix, a good mix of people to really create these kind of opportunities that people need. Obviously, 10 people here, 10 people there, that’s not going to dramatically change the industry.

What I try not to do is to sort of create this kind of pressure on people that essentially says, “Okay, we’re going to invest this in you, but you’re going to pay us back.” I said this before – well, I wrote this before, and then Natalie read it out loud, that “I am the sum of all the opportunities that were given to me.” I’ve been around this industry for a while now, and I feel kind of ancient in that.

I used to think that I was very talented. And the truth is that I’m okay. Probably maybe slightly above average, I don’t know; on my good days. And my bad days are horrifying. Don’t get me started. And the truth is that so many things would not have happened the way they did if certain things that have happened to my friends, or have happened to me, or certain things that happened for me didn’t happen. There’s so many small things. I didn’t even sign up to study computer science, and I was accidentally accepted. I don’t know, there was a problem with my registration. Apparently, I submitted that I apply to both math and computer science. I didn’t even plan to do this with my life. And then my mother saw that I was accepted, and then she was like “Oh, my daughter’s going to study computer science.” And that was it.

There’s so many big things like that, that have happened to me. The truth is that - you know, we talk about privilege, but I think people talk about privilege sometimes as luck, and other times as “You’re being spoiled.” And I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. What I don’t want to create is this sort of – I want to spread the luck around. I don’t think that it should be just one. I just really wish that more people were as lucky, and then we will see how far they can get. And that’s essentially what I’m trying to do; I’m trying to be very pragmatic here.

[37:58] I’ve gotta say, I hear the discussions around inclusion, I do. I understand that communication and sending the right messages is very important… But I also just want to spend money on underrepresented groups, until they don’t need it anymore. And very pragmatically, to just spend the money where it’s going to be useful, and it’s going to make somebody’s lives different, or better… Or not; there are flops out there, this can happen. Somebody can be very passionate today about Go and about the industry, and leave tomorrow, and that’s okay. They don’t owe us anything.

Yeah, and I think that that’s why I’m also on board with diversity scholarships. I’m like “Yeah, we have money to give to people, to get them here, who wouldn’t otherwise be able to get here? Absolutely!” I don’t think that they’re a bad idea because of the idea themselves. I think the issue is, as I said, we have to do them AND these other things at the end of the day. I think it’s great – like, yes, let’s transition those underrepresented communities into represented ones, and then move on to other underrepresented communities. And I think a big chunk of that is - okay, we have the funds, so that we can bring members of these underrepresented communities in, but then we also have to… You know, it’s not just bringing them in, it’s also making sure that they want to stay.

I think a big problem with women especially, but I think also people of color in tech is that we have – and one of the reasons why there’s so many junior people of those backgrounds, is that they’re excited, they come in the door, and then they just get crushed, day after day after day after day after day. And then once they hit that decade mark, let’s say 30, they’re “I’m gonna go farm instead of this…”

“Anything. Anything is better than this. Anything.” Nothing, nothing is better than this!

Yeah, it’s absolutely soul-crushing. I mean, for me too; like, I am definitely a unicorn in this industry. I am from both parents second-generation software engineer, which is really rare for an industry that – like, we’re on the third, maybe fourth generation… So it’s crazy. But also, because of that, I have a lot of – I guess the technical term for it is generational trauma, but a lot of… Like, before I got my first job, my dad said to me “Watch out for racism at the jobs when you enter this space.” And my God, was he just so right, in that I do not think that I have had a single job where I haven’t faced some pretty severe form of racism, or heterosexism, or something like that, in like just trying to exist in that space, things that – it’s so normalized within tech, it’s so normalized in these spaces that I’m just like “Oh, I guess this is it.” And then I go talk to my black friends that aren’t in tech, and they’re like “You sound like you’re in the most toxic place in the world. What?! Get out friend, get out. This is ridiculous. Why are you putting up with this?” And I was like “Oh, this is just how it is. That’s just how life exists.”

So I’m happy that we can get people in, but if we don’t fix those underlying problems that make it so challenging for people to exist, then those people are gonna come in, and then they’re just gonna go right back out. And that revolving door problem is like the consistent thing that we really, really, really need to solve. I think we’ve done a really good job with getting people in the door. Once again, things like diversity scholarships, new grad programs… It’s great that we do have so many junior engineers who are women; that shows promise. But why aren’t they becoming senior? What is preventing them? And I think a lot of the time we frame it as “Oh, well, they’ve been held back.” And I think that does a disservice to marginalized communities, because I think way more often it’s “We decided to leave.” And I think that narrative is not the one that is talked about a lot, because it’s not something that a lot of people are comfortable with, thinking that it’s like “Oh, it’s not us holding them back. It’s them looking at this, looking at all the money they get paid, and all of these other perks, and saying “I’d rather than make a third or a quarter of the money to not deal with you.” And that’s a very difficult thing for someone in power to deal with and have to actually face… But that’s the reality of it. There’s just tons and tons of people that are like “Yeah, I did software engineering, and just - I’m not putting up with that. I have too much self-respect for that.”

[42:44] So yes, it is partly the system holds people back, but the system also chews people up and spits them out, and then makes it so that they just want to leave. And I think our conferences tend to be a little bit of an extension of this space, where we haven’t made it – we haven’t countered that, right? Because that’s the status quo. And if you want to make it inclusive, you want to make it diverse, you have to push against the status quo.

I heard a really great analogy for – this is specifically racism, but it’s really any -ism. You know, all of these -isms are like people-movers in the airport, where you’re getting to push forward toward the status quo, and like the system as it runs… And if you want to be anti that, if you want to build more diverse and inclusive spaces, you have to not just stop walking along with it, you have to turn around, and you have to start walking the other direction. But not just sort of walking; you have to walk fast enough to overcome the people-mover. And then even when you’re doing that, you’re still in place. So you’ve got to put in even more effort to start making progress back toward where you want to go. So it’s it takes a huge amount of effort to do that, and I think we just have to all recognize that - yeah, that huge amount of effort isn’t just one or two initiatives that we have. It has to be all of these things; it has to diversity scholarships, gender-neutral bathrooms, non-normative spaces in general, at conferences, places where people can have tough conversations.

When I was at GopherCon I was having talks with people about racism - it was extremely informative for them, because they had no idea what black people face in the industry. When I told them even like a little bit of the things that I face, the things I think of “Yeah, that’s just a daily thing. I just brush it off”, they were just like “I can’t believe you go through that. I can’t believe people throughout the tech industry–” This isn’t like “Oh, this is a certain corner.” This is at the big companies; it’s – everywhere you have to deal with this. And I think because so many people don’t know about these things, that’s part of the problem, and conferences are an ideal place to share this sort of stuff, and to have these types of experiences. But once again, if we don’t think about it as a space to do that, if the organizers aren’t trying to make it a space to do that, then it doesn’t become a space to do that. And I think conferences are a rare place where that could actually happen, and that would help with the diversity. If it becomes less about sitting in a theater, watching someone give a talk, and more about “This is where you network, this is where you talk, this is where you share, this is where you learn, this is where you strategize”, that would really help boost the diversity of these spaces. Because now it is that “Let’s go build a community together.” Now it is “I’m gonna go find people to join my network, so I can lean on them, so when I’m looking for a job, I can say “Hey, where are you at? Oh, I’m gonna go join you. We’re gonna help fix that place there, make things better there.”
So I think like when it comes to like fixing the diversity problem, or the inclusion problem, it should be that kind of moral, like “We don’t like that these conferences are like 80% cis, white, straight men, and 10% Asian men. We don’t like this.” But also, it should be these other things. We want to attack this from many different angles, and I think the more of those angles that we have, and the more approaches we can take for this, the more likely it is we will be able to actually solve this problem, as much as you can solve it. It’s not a solvable thing. There will never be a point at which we’re like “Yeah, we’ve got enough diversity here.” It’s an infinite game, it’s an infinite battle; we will always be trying to get more diverse, to include more people, of even more different backgrounds, and different combinations of backgrounds.

[46:12] So I guess to summarize, it’s going to be a fight where we have to bring together lots of different solutions to problems, and we need to make sure that we’re getting the best bang for our buck when it comes to a lot of these. And once again, I think we’ve got a couple of those good ones. I don’t like diversity scholarships, but I don’t like them because they’re not good. I don’t like them because that’s where so much of the effort goes, and it’s time to – let’s expand. We’ve got this running really smoothly? Good. Keep that running. Let’s move on to the next big thing we’ve got to boot up, get that running, then move on to the next one.

Break: [46:52]

Well, for me, one takeaway is - we have a table, like a roundtable session… But this is a really good segue to my second question… But I wanted to say first thank you, because we have on the first day of GopherCon Europe the roundtable session, where we have 5-10 tables on all sorts of topics. And if anybody wants to own the table on any topic that resonates with, Kris, what you were saying, we would love to have that.

Yeah, same plug for GopherCon US. Like, for real though. I mean, just on the plug to have those discussions, but also, ours is on the last day, the community day… But what we’re looking at are having little meetups for different groups, with some funding, and the ability, of course, where - you know, intersectionality you could have between them. But if there is anybody listening to this who is interested in community building or are already doing it, we would love to hear from, you about any of the topics - race, gender, neurodivergency, queerness… I don’t know, something about just like corporate leadership would be interesting to me, because I think we’re really, especially in 2023, having a lot of harder conversations in the tech industry about how are things being run, and is it even working. Just kind of period. Like, are we producing the results we thought we would be producing? Are we solving the problems we thought we would be solving? And I think there’s more to uncover there in terms of “Are we letting all voices being heard, and is that actually what’s causing us to not solve some of these challenges?”, that I hope we uncover throughout the rest of the year. But yeah, same plug. And if you want to do both, one in the US, one in Europe, that’d be – I mean, that’d be awesome. Then we can get some consistency. It’d be very cool.

[50:21] I have to say to this - so Kris, you’re not going to be surprised, by the way, but what I’m going to say is that the black community in tech is not researched. It’s not researched. And women in tech are researched, but the truth is that most of the numbers that we rely on are 20 years old, and therefore don’t actually tell the story of the industry today. So it’s very, very hard to actually tell how we produce results, and what’s going to actually produce results… And everybody just wants results, which is fantastic… But the truth is that there isn’t enough data, which is kind of like why I kind of like attempts that have been made over the past few years to correct this situation. One such attempt - but unfortunately, I just checked online, and I didn’t see any after 2019… So Hacker in Canada Women’s Report, where they surveyed thousands of women just in tech to sort of tell where they are, why they’re leaving etc. And what was interesting about their results from the 2018 survey was that – so the leading reason people are leaving tech was for lack of career growth. Almost 30%.

People weren’t given the ability to choose to multiple choice. So they were able to choose more than one option, which gives us a better understanding of what’s going on. Surprisingly, work/life balance came in six; so family, stuff like that, which is what people assume is the leading reason why women leave tech, only came in six. And again, it’s multiple choice, so they could – if so many people had left… Now, people did know going into tech how much work/life balance they were going to have, apparently. So lack of career growth, poor management, low salary growth… There is another for fourth, and then fifth, “Bored, or not challenged in my role.” I find that offensive. On my worst days, I can find people’s challenges… Like, really, I don’t understand how that can happen. This industry has a few challenges, and if there are none, then getting to the bottom of why there is no diversity in tech is a worthy enough challenge for anyone; if you’re looking for something, collect data and try to analyze it. That would be amazing.

Anyways… But yeah, I always use the women’s survey and data that exists about women, and try to assume that it’s true to some degree to other communities, because we don’t really have much going on for us. You are a unicorn, Kris. People like you don’t exist. And therefore, there’s really very little data. And also your experiences - it’s very, very hard to create a full story from them. My experiences, my personal experiences - oh yeah, everything is fun and games. You didn’t have to try hard to get into computer science; you didn’t want it even, and then you just got in. Like, how cool for you! Stuff like that. I mean, I wish everybody was lucky… But it’s not like that.

[54:15] So yeah, if we wanted to take this on, I think it requires collecting data… And if we can create this kind of initiative where we start gathering data ourselves, I’d be so happy. I think unicorns are not – everybody deserves to be heard, and to be understood, and to be researched… And that goes also to the queer community, and the LGBTQ community, and neurodiverse community. And I loved what you said in the beginning - it would be really nice to try and coordinate over this, and come up with real… Even figure out if we are actually bringing results, right? That would be something.

I will say, I think maybe this is the place where we disagree, because I generally don’t like using data for these types of problems, mostly because – I think there’s this great… I think it was Google’s latest diversity statistics, they had this one little quip that basically said “Oh, it’s really annoying that intersectional people exist, because it made our stats harder to run.” And I’m very much paraphrasing, and there’s a little bit of salt in there from me, but it basically sort of said that thing, of like “It’s really difficult when you actually want to consider intersectional people.” Like myself - I’m both black, and queer, and a gender minority, and all of this other stuff. So it’s like “Oh, there’s a whole bunch of things”, and it’s like “Oh, well, where do you put me in the buckets?” And I think that can be a very challenging thing with data.

But I think the other part of it is that – I think this is less of a thing for other communities. I for sure know what to think for the black community. From interactions with other people of color, I think it’s a people of color community thing in general, and I think it happens with the queer community as well, where there’s kind of chosen leaders, and there is a lot of – people within the community talk to each other, but they don’t talk to anybody outside their community, which makes data collection kind of challenging in that way… Because if you ask the same question, but it’s coming from two different people, you will get two different answers.

And this is part of what makes racism so entrenched in tech, is that - you know, I’ve talked to plenty of people who are white and consider themselves allies, and one of the things that they always say to me is like “I know black people in tech, and I’ve never heard any of this.” And I’m like “Yeah, because the black folk don’t talk to white folk about this stuff.” Like, one of the things you’re told when you’re growing up as a black kid in America - and I think for other racial minorities it’s similar in other countries - is like “You don’t talk to the majority folk about your experience. You just don’t. If they ask you something, just go along with it.” Especially in America, that’s how you stay alive. That’s how you keep a career going. That’s how you’re like “Oh, I can actually exist in these spaces.” For a ton of black people, and I’ve met so many of them over the my career. And it’s also what makes me kind of a unicorn, is that I don’t do things like code switch. Like, I am me. At work, at home, there’s like one version of me. But that is unheard of for most black people. I don’t think I’ve ever met another black person that doesn’t code-switch, that doesn’t say, “This is who I am at work. Very professional. I talk in this way, I use my English, I have all of these things”, and then they go home and it’s like I’m speaking in AAVE I’m with my people, I talk about how crazy things are at work, and what this one person did to me, and how kind of racist it was, but it’s like I can’t do anything about it, because blah, blah, blah…” So I think like the problems with trying to go off of data for this is that I think it becomes too easy for us to kind of massage that data into what we want to hear, instead of just hearing.

[58:16] No, we don’t want to –

I know that we don’t want to do this.

No, no, we don’t want to do that. What we want, Kris – so tell me, because the metric exists out there, that is going to allow us to decide if we have changed things for the better. It exists. We can tell if the makeup of the Go community has changed. We can tell if there are more people of underrepresented groups in senior positions, and leadership. And not just leadership, by the way. When I looked into it, one of the things that surprised me was like how low the glass ceiling actually is. It’s in the most junior leadership positions. We’re talking team lead, tech lead. That’s it, that’s the glass ceiling. It’s very, very hard to become head of our – I don’t know… It’s really whatever – companies come up today with very crazy titles, too; say a manager of managers. To become a manager of managers - very hard in tech.

I agree, yeah.

Yeah. But the metric exists, so we don’t have to tell ourselves stories to convince ourselves that we’re doing something good. That’s not what it’s about at all. The idea is actually to collect data that doesn’t tell a story; that will tell us whether we changed something, and we made something a little bit better. I mean, to me it’s a very worthy cause…

I’m not saying we shouldn’t collect data. I think collecting data can be useful. I’m just saying we need to be very careful with the data that we collect. Because I’ve run into this many, many, many times, where it’s like “Oh, well, I get that you’re talking to literally every single black person that works here, but our data shows…” And it’s just like, no, that’s not how this works. It’s like, yes, your data might show something, but what were the methods used? Maybe we are agreeing a bit here…

And who asked, what did they ask, how did they asked it? Yeah, those are [unintelligible 01:00:28.13] Yeah.

I realize I might have sounded like I’m against collecting data. I’m not against collecting data, I just want us to be very, very careful about how we collect data, and understanding too that that intersectionality gets real challenging, but also, the existence of passing gets really challenging, because – I mean, this is for every single group, right? Lots of queer people can pass for straight, neurodivergent people can fat pass for neurotypical, black people can pass for white… So it’s like there’s all of these things of just like, oh, well, do we really know how many of these people are at these higher levels? And how do we know? It has to be self-identification most of the time. So there’s a lot of tricky things around all of these.

But you are right, we should be collecting data, if we’re doing it in a very well-intentioned way, which I think if you’re running the data efforts, I think that we’d be great here. My worry is putting this data in the hands of people who might get a little too – I mean, like the Google diversity stats, or like really any company’s diversity stats, where it’s kind of just like… Big yikes. “No, we’re doing great with women now”, and it’s like “Have you talked to any of the women in your company? Because I don’t, I don’t think so…”

[01:01:54.10] This really sounds to me like a new episode, which is my favorite way of finishing episodes… So yeah, yeah. There will be a part two. Thank you for this interesting derail. I want to finish with one question before we jump to the unpopular opinion. So a round of recommendations; if you can each one give like one or two recommendations for people… Yes, from the diversity scholarships, who happen to or maybe attend this for the first time, as first-time members kind of, of the community. So this time wearing not your conference organizer hat how can you do better, but actually as a person who’s attending this for the first time, and maybe because you’ve got budget, maybe because you got invited to a scholarship, what’s the one thing you should do to make sure you don’t go in and out, but stay on the other side of this rotating door?

Get a job. And if you already have a job, get a better job.

In the conference that might be a bit much, but maybe do you mean something like speak to everybody, or like what’s a concrete tip that you can give?

Okay, I’ve got one… I would say to challenge somebody who’s new to both speak to one speaker who they think like they resonate with. For whatever that reason is, but just talk to them, and specifically bring up why you resonate with their talk, or them as a person etc. And then one person who’s not a speaker, but seems to be like a community person, seems to be well-connected at the conference, and I would just put that challenge to be like “Just push yourself, go talk to two people of those types of categories, and see, hopefully, if you get a connection of sorts from that.”
I to give a quick story - didn’t even connect, but one of the first GopherCons I made the very dumb mistake of ending up at a Google’s conference in San Francisco… What’s their yearly conference?

Yeah. I went there thinking I was gonna get the Go content, and I showed up, it was like “What in the Java is like happening right now?” And I tweeted something about it, and Dave Cheney actually liked it; and we had not met, but for years I was like “Somebody cool liked my tweet.” And that stuck with me so hard, to the point where I felt like I did know him, even though I definitely did not, and it encouraged me to go the next year, and things like that. But I’ve found that often if you do – like, you might hit somebody at a bad time, they’re stressed, whatever, but it’s kind of a numbers game; if you talk to people that seem to be having a good time, most likely you’re going to find somebody you actually genuinely connect with, and that can really help in the future events.

It’s a great tip.

Yeah, I have one, too. I would say - obviously, if you’re there for work and you have a requirement that you have to bring back some knowledge, be on the lower end of this; but I would say spend as much time as reasonable doing the hallway track. I think a lot of people go to conferences to be like “Oh, I’m gonna go watch all the talks.” For basically every modern conference, those talks will be up online after the conference.

Yeah, for like most of them.

I think all Go conferences do that.

Yeah. So I think spending more time in the hallway track - which is basically hanging out in the dining den, or whatever area; literally, sometimes in the hallway, and just chatting with the people that are there can be hugely valuable. Because I think a lot of the time those are the people who are - well a) probably more established in the community, kind of like “Okay, yeah, I’ve seen most of this type of content before. I’m not really interested in a whole bunch of these talks. I’m just hanging out on the hallway.” But I think that also helps you kind of develop relationships that you might not otherwise be able to… Because there’s usually always like a couple of people that are hanging out on the hallway… I know at the last GopherCon I was hanging out on the hallway a lot, Bill Kennedy was hanging out on the hallway… There were tons of people that were just doing the hallway track, and since they’re such a small number of people there, that’s your opportunity, as Caitlyn mentioned, to kind of talk to these people that are like “Oh, wow, that person’s amazing. I’m not gonna be able to talk to them.”

[01:05:48.06] I remember doing this at the first GopherCon that I went to, and I was so excited. It was like only a couple years into using Go… And I met Rob Pike and a bunch of the original Go team members through that, and I got dinner with them. It was super-awesome. I’m like “Oh, these people are really chill. And they’re not like these gods of whatever; they’re just normal people.” And it was just like really illuminating being able to just hang out with those people. And the hallway track is absolutely a place where you have a higher chance and opportunity to do that.

So as long as – you can usually find a talk or two where you’re like “I don’t know if I’m really interested in the two talks that are happening now, or whatever”, and take that opportunity to just like go hang out in the hallway, go explore, go just strike up a conversation with somebody.

Yeah. If we are in the business of recommending people to talk to, find Ron Evans; whatever you do, find the person with the Go bot. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you will know it when you see it. That’s okay.

For a second I really thought you were about to say “Find me.” [laughter] I was like “Nice…”

I can always hang! Though I’ve gotta say that when –

I think you’re attending less conferences than Ron though…

Yeah, also – no, but I can hang a bit, but I mean, especially at GopherCon Europe, where so many people are coming in, and I am very anxious to keep everybody safe, and to get everybody from one place to another, and all that stuff… I might be very a stressed-out person, a very anxious person; I might not be all that much fun to hang with… But we can try; if you can manage to communicate with me…

I’ll find you, Ronna. I’ll find you. [laughter]

I mean, I do want to provide this fair warning. But yeah, I was thinking also – I really loved the idea of like challenging people to talk to one speaker. I think it’s awesome; in the hallway track. On our side - I think it’s really cool, we all went in the social direction. But I actually had this thought that maybe - a lot of people come in and they may have never done Go, or even seen Go in their lives, or they’re very new to Go… Brush over the material; it’s gonna make a whole lot of difference, and you can absorb so much more, and understand so much more… Because we get – I think like 50%, maybe more, that are [unintelligible 01:08:26.20]

I’ll propose my tip as well… Speak with all the companies that are set up there with a booth, and are looking to hire. You don’t have to look for a job. It’s even cool if your company there is with a booth. This is a very unstressful way of kind of evaluating the professional ground in the sense of maybe having a kind of unofficial interview in the form of a 10-15 minute conversation with somebody, just to see if you’re still on top of things… Ask their salary range… Ask openly things you would be very awkwarded out asking in an interview you really care about. And at best, you might find a better job, at worst you’re not making into their candidate pool this year. They just don’t sign you up. But there’s very little to lose from such a situation, and it’s the same benefits you get from getting a connection with somebody, with a speaker, with a community person; you’re also getting this on the professional level as well, because most companies there are also - maybe for presence, but definitely also for hiring, and that’s a very safe, in some way, environment, and a very uncommitting way of going about that. And that was not my unpopular opinion, but…

Jingle: [01:09:40.03]

Okay, who wants to share their unpopular opinion?

I can go. This one is my controversial one.

I am of the opinion… So a long time ago, somebody told me that there is no such thing as unconscious bias. There is cognitive bias. The word unconscious does not belong there. And then I looked into it, and I found out that it’s very interesting that we’re using the term “unconscious bias” to sort of determine that we’re not aware of things that we do. But the truth is that we have awareness. We know, we have a lot of control over what we do. Mistakes are made, everybody makes mistakes. That’s not what this is about; this goes beyond that. So my opinion is that research this, and hopefully, you will come to agree with me that the term “unconscious bias” should be abolished and erased from our vocabulary, since it doesn’t actually mean what we think it means.

Cognitive biases are something that we use to interpret the world. It is a healthy mechanism, and we’re very much also aware of what we’re doing. We can develop awareness. We shouldn’t let people get away with behavior, or cognitive biases, particularly stereotyping.

So to summarize that to a tweet that we can make a poll about, would this be “There’s no such thing as uncon–” Or how would you phrase that?

“There is no such thing as unconscious bias. Look it up.”


Oh, no… Mine’s not about tech. Is that fine?

Oh, that’s fine. This is an unpopular opinion, not an unpopular tech opinion.

Okay. I still don’t know… Can you like not tag me? I don’t know, I might deny later that I said this, but… I think TikTok is the most unbiased news that we have available to us… That’s my opinion.


Don’t @ me. But I would probably – I would discuss it.

Spicy. I guess it depends on which TikTok you’re on…

Yes, it does…

Because there’s some TikToks that I’m just like “No, no, no, no. I don’t want to be anywhere near that TikTok. Bring me back to my TikTok.”

Yeah. Yes, yes, yes. But I think you can find the most unbiased news on TikTok.

I don’t know if that’s unpopular. It’s probably unpopular with people that are Gen Z, or millennials… Or I guess the millennials who are on TikTok. I think there’s a lot of millennials who are like “TikTok? What’s that? Some kind of clock app?” And we’re like “Well, we do call it the clock app sometimes…”

I don’t have [unintelligible 01:13:06.07]

Wait, you need to hear my unpopular opinion first… Your main language is not the one you know most words in, but the one where you are most witty, or funny, or smart, or feeling fat.

I’m so happy you said that. I made a joke in German last week…

You have to disagree with me…!

No, it’s not that I agree with you, but I made a joke in German last week, and I have never been so proud of myself in my life.

Congratulations on your first language. [laughs]

[01:13:49.21] I have an unpopular opinion…

Okay, this is – let me frame it to be the most spicy, because I know when I explain it, it probably won’t be that unpopular… But I’m just gonna say “You can never have enough money.” It doesn’t matter if you have a billion, two billion, ten billion, a hundred billion dollars… You can never have enough money.

That is an unpopular opinion…?

Elon Musk agrees. Promote on Twitter…

Okay? So there’s a spicy – now let me explain it.

No, let’s just end it. Let’s just end it here.

We could. We could. No, so the reason I say this is one of my friends gave me a really interesting definition of - how do I say this nicely…? One of my friends gave me a very – it can allude to what this is, but one of my friends gave me a very interesting definition of how to look at a certain mindset in the political sphere, of like saying, “Oh, well we want everything to stop. And that’s like looking at the world and saying “The amount of harm that’s in the world is enough.” Right? Like “I’m okay with this amount of harm. We don’t need to make anything better. We don’t need to like give more people rights, or make it so people live healthier lifestyles, or better lifestyles.” And that kind of sat with me for a while, because I’m like “This is a very interesting way of thinking about this political ideology.” And I kind of flipped that on its head and I said, “Is there an amount of money that I could have, that would be enough?” And I came to the conclusion that the answer to that has to be no, because if I said yes to that, then there would be an amount of money I could have, where I could have done enough good in the world, and fixed enough harms in the world, that it’s like “Okay, we’re good. We’re done. We don’t need to fix any more harms. We don’t need to make anything better.” So it’s like, is there an amount of money that I could have, or anybody could have, where they would be able to definitely say “We’ve made everything better?” And I think the answer to that is no. I don’t think that there is an amount of money you could have where you could fix all the problems, and make everybody better… Because that’s an impossibility. There will always be some group that could benefit from more money being used to help make their lives better, their lifestyle, whatever it is; give them more rights, perhaps.

So yeah, that’s kind of the definition of a really roundabout way of just being like “Yeah, there isn’t an amount–” Now, most people that get tons and tons and tons and tons of money will not be using it to help make the world better… But that is less of a problem with them having so much money, and more of a problem with how they’re using it. So yeah, I think that there is never an amount of money that is enough money, because you can always do more; you can always help make things better for some group of people with more money.

Let’s make that take 1.5. That’ll be like our next session, like - not part two, but like “We should talk about this.” [laughter]

This is so worth my time… [laughter]

Ronna, we’re glad to be worthy. Thank you.

The rest of this was not worth her time… [laughter] Just right now…

Thank you all for joining. That was really interesting and really inspiring. Definitely see you in part two.

Yeah, I’m excited.


Our transcripts are open source on GitHub. Improvements are welcome. 💚

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