I’ve always shied away from writing about race because I want to be recognized for my passion instead of my skin color or where I come from. That’s become completely unavoidable as race moves to the forefront of one of the most important topics about the future of technology: inclusion.
I’m reminded of a blog post I wrote to Susan Mernit a few years ago. Susan pointed out the lack of women on an “elite bloggers” list. I argued that the list wasn’t about gender, but I missed the bigger picture Susan was painting: a picture of inclusion. She was talking about real inclusion; the kind that acknowledges everyone sitting at the table.
Inclusion in Social Media
AT&T’s 28 Days events highlight’s the month of February as more than a reflection of the past, but a reminder to leverage what was gained in the stories shared during Black History month. These lessons learned provide footprints into a future. A future inclusive of those in our own backyard, as well as around the globe, without ignoring the special ways and days that everyone honors their rich diversity.
Social media can work in the same way without ignoring where people come from and allowing them to voice where they feel things should (or shouldn’t) be going.
In the keynote I gave at the 28 days event in Durham, NC, I spoke about how to leverage social media to participate in conversations that impact everyone’s future, but aren’t always accessible to everyone. By doing so, opportunities arise to get others to listen to what you have to say.
Empowering Others to be Included
While some people might jump at the chance to join these conversation, others may not. How can you voice your opinion if you don’t understand the tools you’re using? How can you voice your opinion when the environment you’re in doesn’t reflect you?
These were some of the concerns I encountered from parents during a STE(A)M panel I spoke on at Black Girls Code‘s Robot Expo at the Georgia Tech Research Institute. Not all of the parents had degrees in STEM related fields or careers at IBM, Microsoft and Google. Their kids aren’t necessarily growing up in those types of environments either. Neither did I.
So what’s a parent to do? With a panel of four brilliant black women and one cool dude, we shared tech resources available locally and online for parents to expose their kids to and learn along with them. We not only wanted them to be confident with technology, but actively add their voices to create changes that make the tech industry more inclusive and reflective of who they are and where they come from. Online resources included Codecademy, Khan Academy, edX, YouTube EDU, Coursera and Udacity.
Inclusive New Beginnings
I like to remind people that they don’t need to be an expert in technology. There’s a huge opportunity right now to simply enjoy learning from others. In doing so, we can create a future that continuously reflects the places we all come from.
I have a new understanding of how my background influences the uniqueness that I bring to any table. This awareness inspired a sense of duty in me to extend my insights and opportunities to others just like me. With a little push, I’m doing just that inside of an innovative, inclusive, and incredibly fun platform called A Third Place.