DiversITy is the key to eliminating bias in coding and technology.

Start with the kids!

Voice

10.12.2020

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Torgeir Waterhouse
Photos courtesy of Teach the Kids to Code.

In my daily work, I see gender patterns and bias related to security, ethics, privacy and simply how technology functions. To overcome these challenges, one measure is to teach the kids to code—the rest of us need to learn the true meaning of diversity. 

At the non-profit organization Lær Kidsa Koding (Teach the Kids to Code) we believe that diversITy is about offering equal opportunities to everybody. I believe beyond a doubt, that we cannot have a well-functioning society without constantly striving for diversITy.

 Unfortunately, there are many different concepts of diversity consists of.  

Our approach to diversity is well embedded in our programs at Lær Kidsa Koding (Teach the Kids to Code). While we surround ourselves with technology and seek to increase diversity, who is developing and building the products and solutions for the users?

Some excellent examples of this: 

Why do console controllers typically fit better in a man’s hand, who’s thumbs also can reach the other side of that smartphone screen? Additionally, we’ve realized that AI and skin color is an actual issue, and what’s up with tech companies opting for non-universal design when it should be universal to facilitate diversITy? 

Be Aware of Uniformity 

We need awareness. If we get careless with diversity, we’ll simply fall back into uniformity. It is not always easy. It is not difficult in the sense that we are fighting off bigots. However, it is difficult to understand the root of problem and how to tackle and overcome the fundamental issues regarding bias.  

I feel confident that our movement and activities are way more diverse at the entry level of the coding scene for kids in Norway now than it was before we started in April of 2013.  

Photos courtesy of Teach the Kids to Code.

One of my key take-aways from my years in the tech industry, is that there is a real risk of introducing uniformity in our quest for diversity. Unfortunately, we see people and initiatives on a crusade in the fight for righteous choices, that have tended to make it more difficult for the people they are trying to help.

Girls Just Want to Code 

Although there have been several attempts to address gender issues, I’m constantly in a state of disbelief over projects where the struggle for diversITy results in pink makeup, balloons and beyond. There is a valid argument to be made that pink is more of a uniform preference than it is diverse, and it facilitates stereotypes and uniform preferences rather than diversITy.

Confusing uniformity for diversITy might beg the question, what’s really the agenda? 

I imagine it must be quite the experience to see how so-called diversITy initiatives are falling over themselves in stereotyping on their way to diversITy. And why? To please the crowd, follow the orders of a leader, or make sure they are on top of the latest trend. 

The girl or the woman that is going to make a difference in the world will do so because of her drive and her abilities, not simply because she is a girl, and most definitely not because she prefers to wear pink, haute couture, or a suit. •