Bad Voltage Diversity Report

Hello there,

I have been a Bad Voltage listener since episode 1 and I really enjoy the show. While I was listening to your interview with Guy Martin on episode 28, I thought about how the interviewees are almost always men.

I did a quick fact check and present the unofficial Bad Voltage diversity report:

  • 100% of the presenters are mal (Shocker! I know, right?)
  • In the first 28 episodes there have been 19 interviewees (one of which returned later as a guest host), 2 female and 17 male.
  • All but one of the guests were white.

I assembled this data by going through the show notes and googleing the guests, so I’m not 100% sure about the ethnicity part.

TL;DR: So far the guests on Bad Voltage have been predominantly white males.

Now, why do I post this here? I just want to point it out and officially file a bug report. Maybe in the future you guys can keep an eye on diversity when choosing guests. For example there are so many interesting women in open source.

Thanks for sharing this, @NiklasMM.

We have a pretty simple policy on Bad Voltage when it comes to guests: we pick people based on one criteria - if they are interesting, not based on their gender or skin color.

There is no inherent “we try to pick white men” thing going on, and likewise, when we have invited women on the show, we haven’t invited them on because they are women…we invited them on because they are interesting.

Now, of course, I am sure there are plenty of non-white-make guests we could bring on, and we are always open to suggestions!

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I realize this of course (I think you even explained that on the show). I want to emphasize that this is not meant as an accusation.

It’s just that I hate being part of these straight-white-male heavy communities (tech, opensource, etc) and want to make as much effort to change that as I can. I think you are in a good position to contribute to this as well and want to encourage you to do so :slight_smile:

This is where I disagree in the equality debate. I don’t believe the focus should be on numbers, it should be on equality of access, participation, and opportunity.

All communities have some sort of majority. What is most important in my mind is that we focus on ensuring that everyone is welcome.

I know we have this in the Bad Voltage community. Our community is very welcome to everyone, irrespective of gender or race and if I ever see any examples of discrimination it will be shut down immediately.

As such, the fact we are a largely male community doesn’t bother me. What would bother me is if women felt they were not welcome here.

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I enjoy the level of respect shown in this community. I have been shown much patience here, especially since I really don’t fit in a technical way. A lot of what is discussed here is babble to me, especially this Systemd thing. Never have I have been given the feeling that, since I don’t comprehend what is discussed, that I’m not welcome. And I thank the community for that. I say this thinking that, if I feel welcome here, then there is no reason anyone would not.

However, speaking only for myself, I wish someone would tell me when I’m being an insufferable twit, like a friend would do so in person.

I couldn’t agree more. A lot of tech, and open source in particular, is very male dominated, predominantly white and there are very few open homosexuals involved. It’s not surprising that the majority of guests are male and white. What matters here is that the presenters try to get the best guests they can.

If one of them happens to be a black lesbian then great as long she is on the show because she brings something important to conversation but we shouldn’t be looking to choose guests on a quota basis it will just lead to poorer quality pod-casts.

That said, if you can think of someone that the presenters should be talking to I’m sure they are open to suggestions irrespective of gender, race or sexual orientation.

Your point is well taken. I’d point out that we’ve had two gueat presenters, one of whom was Leslie Hawthorn, and that I keep trying to get Jane Jensen on to talk about Gabriel Knight and keep failing, but we could probably do a bit better here than we are doing and I’ll beat it in mind.

Not sure what you mean by “here”. If you refer to this forum, then you may be right, but believing that women generally feel welcome in the technology world is dramatically unrealistic. However, since the community is predominantly male, it is understandable, why people think it is a minor issue: There are few women in the first place, even less who publicly address their problems, so nobody thinks it’s a big deal.

If you go through the trouble of researching the topic you can find numerous examples of women who have had experiences, e.g. on tech conferences, you would not believe possible in the 21st century: From discriminatory advertising and sexist t-shirts to sexual harassment and assault. The geekfeminism wiki has a timeline of such incidents with way to many entries.

But those incidents are only the tip of the iceberg. The basis to all of this are the stereotypes, prejudices and biases we all carry around with us and cause us to be unwelcoming towards women even without any intention to do so. I found this great article about ways men are unintentionally sexist, I don’t think there is any man in the tech community who is not at least guilty of one of them.

If you are still not convinced, I encourage you to watch this talk given by Naomi Ceder, a trans-gender Python programmer, at EuroPython 2014. I sat in this talk (probably the only talk there that ended with standing ovations) and found it to be very eye opening. This experience is what first got me interested in the topic.

If you are male, reading this can easily come across as an accusation to which the natural reflex is to be defensive. Please try to be open minded about the topic and help make the tech community a little more open.

And finally, as a suggestion for a future guest, I would like to propose you contact the people over at the Ada Initiative, who are doing great work to support and connect women in open source.

Cheers
Niklas

I think you’re missing the point here.

This is not a problem here as far as I know. The majority are white males because that’s what they happened to be. Nobody is being excluded. If you’re saying that we have to make an extra effort to attract a more uniform demographic, this is discriminatory in itself. We’re people with common interests here, and we’re not identified by anything else. Imposing a quota on how many of each group should be here forces us to think about qualities like race and gender, things that really don’t affect your chances of fitting in in this community.

Women are discriminated against constantly in tech, and it is a serious problem that needs addressing, but this idea that a certain percentage of a community needs to belong to a certain demographic is a weak attempt to address the symptom rather than the cause.

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This is my view too. I want the Bad Voltage community be a place where gender, race, (dis)ability, and other distinguishing attributes do nothing but bring value and experience to a discussion. As I mentioned earlier, my #1 goal is to ensure that the community is as opening and welcoming to anyone…and if we tend to have more of a certain demographic than another, that is invariably just the luck of the draw.

When I say “here” I am referring to the Bad Voltage community. Your original post was about diversity in the Bad Voltage community, and my response points to it.

Of course, there are wider challenges in the technology world when it comes to women being involved in different communities, but this is highly dependent on the specific community. Some communities are far more open than others.

Believe me, I am aware of the problem: I have fielded discussions at CLS on the topic and handled these challenges within the context of he Ubuntu community. There is no doubt that there is a problem in some parts of the Open Source community, but not all parts.

OK, this is where I disagree. There is this meme that is forming around this topic that all of us are prejudiced to women unintentionally, as if we all (particularly hetero-sexual white men) have an in-built sexism that rears its ugly head subconsciously.

I think this is nonsense.

As I said, I am not denying there is sexism in Open Source. I have seen it. I have seen the way some women are treated…from people not considering the contributions of women to be as important, to sexist jokes, sexually orientated advances, and in some cases outright hatred to some women. This is fucking awful, and entirely unacceptable.

But the people responsible for this awful behavior are the minority. I have been working in Open Source now for 14 years, and I have met thousands of people, contributors, and participants. The vast majority of men are polite, respectful, and dignified, not just towards women, but to anyone. To suggest that we are all tainted by this brush of sexism is inaccurate and does nothing but inflame the topic.

The problem with this debate, is that it has become a place populated by extremes…from those who believe that every woman in the community has an awful experience and the vast majority of men are the problem (which is incorrect on both counts) to that all of these women are just a bunch of prissy wall-flowers that need to deal with it, and that these examples of sexism are either non-existent or entirely exaggerated (which is also entirely incorrect). This is what makes this topic such a mine-field for so many people…it is difficult to take a balanced view (that the problem exists in parts of our community) without either being labeled a “social justice warrior” or a “misogynist”.

I agree that some men are going to be defensive, and you may interpret my feedback as defensive. It is not defensive, I just disagree. Again, I agree that a significant problem exists, but I don’t believe it has infected the majority of our community or that most of us are the problem.

There are many things we need to do to solve the problem. We need leaders to provide a better example of conduct, we need to encourage communities to be more open and inclusive, we need to not tolerate bad behavior that is rude and disrespectful to people.

But we also need to remember what makes Open Source so beautiful in the first place…Open Source has succeeded because we are a community driven in majority by good people with good intentions and contributions. All societies have problems…crime, drugs etc…but they are typically isolated and can be dealt with in key ways. This is the problem we face and we need to deal with it directly, while also remembering it is a largely isolated problem.

Given the skewed share of participation of some groups (like women), maybe inclduing people representing these groups would be inherently interesting.

Demonstrating that the community is open for anybody would perhaps also reduce perceived barriers of entrance and so facilitate interesting input from people who otherwise may not get involved in the community.

Unfortunately, that does not mean there are no implicit biases in recognising contributions that don’t fit into established patterns.

Also, to some extent the participation and underrepresentation of e.g. women in technology is a result of gender roles and clichés in society at large, which lead them not to engage and develop interest in it. Such roles need to be changed gradually, but that process has to start somewhere - for example by giving a platform for role models. So there would be a point to actively try to provide these examples in a forum like Bad Voltage.

To be clear, we are more than happy to include a diverse range of guests on the show…I honestly don’t think any of us on the BV team really “see” gender/race when we choose guests…we really couldn’t care less about the gender or race of the guest, we care about whether their work and perspectives are interesting.

As such, we are happy to include a diverse range of guests, we are just not willing to compromise on quality to achieve that diversity. In other words, I don’t want to invite a boring guest on the show just because she is a woman. Likewise, I don’t want to not invite someone on because they are a hetero white male.

Thus, to get the diversity on the show up, we really need you folks to suggest interesting/fun guests! :smile: Get your suggestions in!

well, I recently saw an interesting presentation by Ruth Suehle, who works for Red Hat, on open hardware and maker-culture and the tensions between both.

And Karen Sandler is awesome and has intresting things to say about a number of issues.

(Both of them would perhaps also be an interesting counterpoint to the Samsung chat on the last episode)

Maybe we could bring this conversation to a happier place by listing some of our favorite non majority hackers. Is anyone familiar with sigflup? One of the best on the sega genesis demoscene in my own opinion.

Cool! The only female demoscene artist I heard of was Lluvia, back in the late 90s. She was a musician, member of Bomb! and TPOLM, and did pretty great stuff!

Didn’t know about TPOLM. Very nice stuff. There goes my afternoon.

Whatever. I totally do.

If I have a choice between two possible guests on the show: a man and a woman… I choose the woman. Bryan loves him the ladies.

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I agree with @jonobacon on this. I look at it much like the American Declaration of Independence. The stated inalienable rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You are not guaranteed to be happy…A fact that many seem to forget in this narcissistic society.

This is how it should be. I mean, I am a black man (“I come from a predominantly black family” --Eddie Murphy), and if I am honest, most of my family worked/works in the medical field. Dad ran a medical lab, then later, both parents worked for a drug company…Brother is a nurse, sister and other brother are pharmacists. None of them are the demographic for shows like this. It is a matter of interest. Trying to incentivize attendance to bring different genders/races/disabilities in because they are different is a completely different from providing the opportunity to become involved.

By the same token (see what I did there? :smiley:), we have to be careful not to be sexist, racist, etc. However, the other side of the coin applies. However, they say you can’t be given an offense, you have to take offense. There is so much “manufactured outrage” out there. Whether it is on a technical subject (cough systemd cough) or a social issue, people seem to enjoy being offended.

Interviewing or including someone because they are some minority seems as if it could be just a little bit racist or sexist. Having them on because they have an interesting story does not. But asking “what caused you, as a black man, to pick up Linux” or “how did you, as a female, get into technology” seems just as racist/sexist as attempting to exclude a group. It smacks of tokenism.

As a minority, I really find this is a fascinating discussion. I can see both sides of the issue, probably from a slightly different perspective.

Interestingly, the reason I am in technology today is primarily because of Spock and Scotty from Star Trek and Barney Collier from the original Mission: Impossible. He was the guy that was building these intricate electronic gadgets while the rest of the IM team was pretending to be other people.

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