Either call people out if you believe they are racists or antifeminists or let the work speak for itself. If there are more white men submitting designs for a contest chances are they will get more rewards. We shouldn't mix sex, gender or color with work.
a very very interesting article to be sure...and for my opinion, I'd probably side with Tor L....my tendency would be to let the work speak for itself...I'm actually not all that interested in the ethnicity or sex of the designer....The work alone is what is being judged.
Hmm...the misconception that the tech community is a 100% pure meritoracy is a part of the problem. In the article, Allison shares a rather lengthy list of female designers and gives pertinent examples of designers who have worked on high profile products. But I'm betting that most of those names are unknown to most designers. In our industry (or any other) simply letting the work speak for itself is not enough, because that's not how it works.
Look at many of the names in the nominee list. I'm guessing you know most of them. Why is that? Why do we hear the same 100 names over and over on podcasts and articles? Because those people have been made "names" or Stars, if you will, by repeated exposure, and by other high profile people vouching for them.
Here are some other analogies, so you can better grasp what I'm saying.
In hip-hop, if one person from a city becomes a star, they do not say, let people's work speak for itself. No. They go back and vouch for other people, and give them notoriety. Dre vouched for Eminem and made him legitimate at his level, and then Em went and made 50 Cent and D12 stars as well.
In wrestling, how do you take a jobber with talent and make them a main eventer? You have them work with bigger names and show they are on that level, You give them exposure.
In the mob, you vouch for someone to get them into the power structure, and help them make a name.
My point is, the talent in our industry is incredibly deep. You can find people worthy of more exposure all over the place. But the same 100 or so people appear on podcasts and blog writeups, because stars sell sponsorships, conference tickets, downloads, and page views .
If Stars like Allison are willing to go out of their way to elevate already deserving people and make a few stars that aren't white, straight, and male, who's to say that other design stars cannot do that either?
This is an industry of marketing and self-promotion, not just design skills, don't let anyone tell you differently.
I wish I could like this infinite times. Great response to the article and the other posts in here, John.
Thanks Cat. That means a lot. I've thought about this very subject a lot, and I've come to many of the same conclusions.
No problem, as do I. I just finally thought them up and shared them lol (see latest post in this thread).
You flippin' nailed it, John. Thanks for the support.
No problem, Allison. Your post was a perfect presentation of how even stellar people on big name projects get overlooked for whatever reason. I see some people out in the podcast and blogging community making the effort to bring people from different backgrounds to the forefront, even if it coasts them views/downloads. I truly believe that spotlighting talents with diverse backgrounds is the best thing for our industry to keep it relevant and thriving.
Absolutely. Just that lack of exposure is a big part of why we have misconceptions around numbers, ability, and so on.
I completely agree with the message of the article, I just have a huge problem with the phrase 'people of color'. I'm a white guy and it offends me, it was something I was taught not to say when I was 7 years old and it gives me the weirdest feeling to see someone actually saying or writing it.
If my best friend, Herb, from Nigeria is 'of color', what does that make me? Neutral? Normal? Regular? It insinuates that I, by being white, am the one who is correct and he's wrong. And what constitutes colour, being black? Chinese? Anything but white?
Anyway, I of course agree with the article, but the words 'people of color' make me feel really angry and I wish Allison had chosen something different to get the message across.
Zander, I totally see where you’re coming from. However and at least in the states from what I learned and know from my friends — there is a mixture that is used. In some areas of the states "people of color" is offensive, while in others it isn't. The same way "african-american" is offensive to some and not to others.
I really think it all depends but I can see where you're coming from but also understand why Allison chose to say that.
I understand what you mean. I come from the south of the UK where there is really no racism or tension at all - and despite the regular British awkwardness people are very open about their race and culture, and the idea of calling someone 'colored' or a 'person of color' is just weird.
So maybe I was being slightly ignorant in thinking it was a phrase that would also be looked upon badly, especially in somewhere like SF(which as far as I'm aware is a city that prides itself on its diversity and acceptance), but it doesn't matter too much now as what's written is written and it's just opinions anyway :)
I come from the south of the UK where there is really no racism or tension at all
Wow! So you mean to say that - in the three years since I left the South of the UK for sunnier climes (well, Manchester if I'm honest) - you have managed to eradicate all forms of racism? Well done you!
What a witty comment you've got going on there. Smart stuff.
Oh, my mistake. You were referring to your particular bubble rather than the whole of the South of the UK? My sincere apologies. I thought for a moment that you were making a sweeping generalisation.
I jest. Sorry. Couldn't resist.
But on a serious note, you are entitled to your opinion. If you've been lucky enough to have not experienced racism in your lifetime then that is a positive thing.
Unfortunately others are not in such a fortunate position and still experience discrimination based on race, gender, sexuality, disability, social status... etc.
I don't believe that any corner of the World can honestly claim that racism or discrimination doesn't exist there in some form.
With regards to how people choose to refer to themselves in ethnic terms, I've always felt that they should use whatever term they are most comfortable with.
There is nothing derogatory about the use of the term "people of color" in the context of Allison's article and she makes a very valid point: the Net Awards should be more representative of our industry.
People is color is not offensive in any context, and many PoC (myself included) strongly prefer this term to non-white or minority, which both have problematic implications. You're thinking of colored, which is a racial slur and never, ever acceptable to use.
Can you explain why people of color is not offensive but colored is?
In my experience "People of color" still acknowledges that we are in fact people and the context in which I've always heard "colored" implied we were somehow tainted. It wasn't just a descriptor, but an indicator of lower quality like damaged goods.
Sure! Colored has a history of being used to oppress people who are not white. People of color, on the other hand, is a political designation in which people of color have ownership.
Nope, I'm not thinking of 'colored', please don't put words in my mouth. It's up to me what I find offensive, and, as I said in my previous comment, the term 'people of color', just like 'colored', makes me feel uneasy.
I gave an extremely valid reason as to why I find it offensive, so I don't really understand your point or why you're trying to antagonise me?
But to stress my point, I do agree with the article, this is just my own opinion on something that hit a nerve.
I'm not trying to antagonize you at all. I understand people of color sees less usage outside the United States, which may be why we're disagreeing. In my experience, it's very common to use this designation in discussions around race. I don't mean to invalidate your feelings, I just don't think it's an inherently offensive term.
That's fair enough, but I'm sure you can see how:
You're thinking of colored, which is a racial slur and never, ever acceptable to use.
... would sound somewhat patronising. Anyway, I'm not gonna try and force any change in opinion, but I just wanted to voice one more side to my argument...
How does calling someone coloured not equate to calling someone a 'person of colour', when if you exchanged it for any other adjective they'd have the same implications. For example, what's the difference between calling someone 'tall' and a 'person of height' or a 'tall person'..? There isn't one.
And I understand that you validate 'people of colour' by it being a political designation, but I don't think that means it's right. For example, group an aboriginal Australian man as 'African American' is not right. I'm using this example because it was something I was told by someone in that exact position at a bar over Christmas.
We'll agree to disagree, though. :)
Oh! I'm so sorry. Condescension was not my intention. And yes, I'll agree to that. :-)
When Allison first messaged to ask me if it was alright that she included me in the post, I read the article and instantly said yes. Allison is a good friend of mine and we agree on a lot of things from design, to this heavy one. After saying yes, we chatted for a bit and I was thinking about how I’d be included in a very heavy blog post about women and people of color and the lack of in the net awards / tech industry and became curious. I wondered whether or not it would look bad, wondered if it would make climbing to the top as a female even harder, and was wondering if a lot of the male population in the industry would no longer care about my business or what I had to say as someone in the industry.
Now don’t get me wrong, I was gladly including myself in the article and damn proud to be, because much like many other men and women alike, I’ve worked hard to get where I am — but I was still curious. If they felt that way, then it's their prerogative. But then, I became annoyed. I was angry at the fact that this was even an issue or had to be a thought in my brain at all. The one thing that bothers me is the fact that I HAVE to worry about this as a female. And when I do, I wonder why? What is the purpose?
No, I dont think all men in the tech world feel this way — absolutely not. In fact, there are so many who support this issue, but I would love to know and hear from the people who aren't in favor. Honestly, I just want to know why there is a problem with women climbing to the top. It is truly genuine curiosity at this point. Because as it stands, we're left solely with assumptions and realistically, that’s never wise to go on.
And by no means am I asking you to solve this big ass gap in the industry, but if you could point me in the direction of someone who can answer my questions, I’m more than willing to help them solve it.
I wondered whether or not it would look bad, wondered if it would make climbing to the top as a female even harder ...
Yeah, that's why I wanted to give you the opportunity to opt out. Women who challenge the status quo are often marked as incendiary and can suffer irreparable damage to career and reputation.
In many ways, I did not want to write this post. I feared the repercussions and waffled like nobody's business. More than ten (!) people helped me review it, and I was still sweating bullets when I deployed.
I'm extremely grateful for the positive response so far. Says a lot about our community.
This is difficult for some people to understand, especially if they are in the insulated parts of our industry. Why SHOULD you (or anyone else) have to worry about blowback just because you're putting your name in an article like this? The fact that this is still even an issue says we still have work to do.
I'm brown and I don't feel marginalized in this industry at all.
Good! I'm very happy to hear that. I suspect this is because you're universally lovable—but don't forget Asian people, even brown ones, benefit from positive stereotypes that they're naturally good with technology. :-)
Could you elaborate on this point a bit? There very well may be something that I'm missing, but it seems contradicted by your post; if Asian people benefit from that stereotype, why aren't they better represented in awards such as this?
Totally. I don't have a perfect answer, but I'll share my thoughts.
If we look at top technology companies in Silicon Valley, we'll see Asians making up 25%–50%, sometimes even more, of employees with a technical job (engineer, front-end, design). During the hiring process and in the workplace, we "benefit" from stereotypes that we're diligent, inherently good with rigorous/technical tasks, and willing take on above-average workloads. This is often referred to as being the model minority.
These stereotypes can be injurious in other contexts, but Asians are getting good technology jobs. They aren't barred by negative stereotypes around their work ethic. They get to produce some of the best work in our industry.
You raise a really important question. Why, then, is there this BIG disparity between who is doing the work and who gets recognized?
Recognition favors the people who are most visible. Culturally, many Asian people are raised to respect authority, know their place in a hierarchy, and work as part of a collective. That means not drawing attention to themselves or their own work. This isn't all Asian people—Pasquale and I are more individualistic, for example—but it represents many of those who might otherwise get a lot of attention.
There is, however, also an institutional component to this, which is what I was discussing in the article. Privilege is often misunderstood; it's not about hardship, but rather how society facilitates you. Our systems, unchecked, always favor those with privilege.
Thanks for clarifying! That makes a lot of sense. Ultimately, I think a meritocratic process for things like this is good to aspire to, but it's easy to see that it doesn't exist in practice or the representation of minorities* would much more closely reflect their representation in the community as a whole.
Anyway, great post (and great design too!). Please write more, I'd be very interested in reading what you have to say :)
*In your conversation with Zander at the top of the discussion you mentioned that the word "minority" has "problematic implications" — is there a better catchall term for marginalized and/or underrepresented groups?
You totally get it.
I find myself using "marginalized" the most to describe social exclusion broadly. The meaning of "minority" is all tied up in social power and is often confused with being about the numbers.
Thank you for looking for respectful language! It's common for people to dismiss these terms as "politically correct", rather than honoring them.
Thank you for this article, Allison. I wrote an article similar to this back when I was trying to break into advertising years ago. All I wanted to know was where were the people who looked like me. A simple question, nothing incendiary, nothing accusatory.
I had to shut down the comments after pages of accusations of "playing the race card", semantic arguments only designed to derail the discussion, and appeals to the myth of meritocracy. There was no substantive discussion of any of my points, just complete rejection. I had one well-known creative director flat out tell me, "if there were good black art directors out there, I'd see their work."
When I switched from advertising to tech, I noticed the same thing, but decided to just keep my mouth shut and my head down. So thank you, for putting into words what I felt more eloquently than I could.
This is the thing, right? Thoughtful, responsible discussions around race require participants to check their privilege and be good listeners.
Without that, it devolves into (usually) white participants angrily reacting to their perspective being challenged. Invalidating experiences, silencing, discrediting, taking issue with tone, and somehow making it all about them. That reaction is very consistent. Just what you described.
For the first time in their life, those people are feeling otherized. Meanwhile, you've been black (or in my case, Asian/female) this whole time!
Anyway, I'm so sorry that happened. If you ever decide to write again, I'll stand with you. :-) Thanks for the support and sharing your experience.
Great article Allison
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Martin Luther King, Jr.