Towards improving community diversity

Yes! I think this is one of the best ways, not just for diversity, but for growing the community in general.

If you’re in the position to hire a lecturer for a programming course, then you can. Just hire somebody who’s already a role model!

I was really excited to see that Grant Sanderson, one of my favorite youtubers, is giving an on-line lecture series in Julia as part of an MIT course. This is probably the best thing that has happened to the language since dot broadcasting. I’m sure many of his millions of subscribers see him as a role model, and will want to try out Julia just because they saw him use it. (An many of those people will be from a minority of some kind.)

But wouldn’t it be really cool if, next year, MIT would also hire a popular female (or otherwise underrepresented in tech) youtuber to give a few lectures in that course? Maybe Dianna Cowern or Mayuko Inoue.

I think that seeing somebody do something affects our perception of who can do that thing much more than reading about it. That’s just the way our brains are wired.

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You are talking about attracting existing role models to Julia. I was talking about “growing” role models in the community. But yes I don’t disagree with you.

Just to expand on this a little, what I mean here is that promoting diversity in Julia is no different conceptually from expanding to a new market in the business world. Imagine you started a business in Japan. Most of your customers turned out to be Japanese (surprise!) but now you want to attract more foreign customers who are a minority in Japan. To do that, it may make sense to have targeted marketing campaigns. For example, sponsor events in predominantly foreigner-inhabited neighbourhoods. Empower local foreign communities or start a new one. Translate your promotion material to multiple foreign languages. Customize your product and ads to appeal to the local norms and culture of the groups of people you are targeting. Attract and highlight community role models using your product and have them promote the product, etc. In our case, we are selling Julia education and adoption. We may not be getting paid directly, but in the long-term it pays off to have more users and adoption so in a way we are “selling” something. And just like with business, an inferior product with excellent marketing (e.g. Python or R) is usually more successful than a superior product with poor market reach (e.g. Julia).

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The two main problems with “growing” role models are:

  1. As you point out, becoming a role-model depends on a lot of factors, so in order to get a few role models, you need to start with a lot of people. But, by definition, the community contains too few people from underrepresented groups.

  2. When somebody grows into a role-model position within a community, their main audience is within that community, which, again, does not include enough people from the underrepresented groups.

Hence, the process will be very slow, unless it can be short-circuited by bringing in people from the outside who are already role models to people in those groups.

As you say, this is a marketing task.

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Should we, as a first step, try to increase the ratio of females? (question directly triggered by the logos)
Should we stay with general diversity?
Should we be focused on specific goals or should we stay general?
Should we start spotting issues where the community (we) is exclusive or not inclusive enough?
Is lack of exclusiveness already inclusive enough?
Is it too early to ask this?

Replying to @PetrKryslUCSD and @apo383.
I think something can be turn me off from a community without making you quit it, right? Not sure, English as Second Language speaker here.
Anyway, I will reword it as “What makes you uncomfortable in the Julia community?”

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Perhaps with Logan our Community Manager at the helm some more progress could be made this time around.

I am happy to help with this. The important thing to note is my role (in almost all cases) is to just support those leading the projects. If this initative is something people in the Julia community want to push forward on, they can do so without me involved. I am merely here to help if/when there are hurdles in place as well as help connect folks working on the same ideas. With that said, if there are blockers, hurdles, or folks looking to work together on this, please ping me as I am happy to help!

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It’s also worth noting that we have an awesome working group specifically for Diversity and Inclusion initiatives. If anyone here is interested in being active contributors on this front, please ping me offline (via slack or email) and I will send you an invite to the Slack workspace.

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Strongly agree with what @Per has said about role models, and the MIT course taught by popular tech minority would be amazing!
Hey @logankilpatrick what’s your slack username? Do you think we should move this discussion to the Diversity and Inclusion initiatives ?

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I’d still suggest to make that more neutral or constructive, and not to presume there is discomfort. Most people are probably enthusiastic about Julia and could suggest good ideas. If the survey telegraphs a specific (and less positive) agenda, that could potentially cut down on constructive suggestions from those with no issues with the community. As an analogy, you would get very different answers from asking ask how to improve relations between police and community, as opposed to how to reduce police brutality. Examples of more neutral language:

  • Is there anything that makes you uncomfortable
  • Please suggest ways to improve inclusivity
  • What would increase interest among diverse groups

That said, thanks for your efforts on this.

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I changed two questions to match your suggestions, thanks for the feedback!
@logankilpatrick do you think it would be possible to use Julia’s main communication channels (like the mailing list) to help spread this survey?

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Let’s chat offline about this. My Slack name is just LoganKilpatrick

Of course no one should feel pressured to do this, but if someone from an underrepresented group wants to share their experience and make suggestions, they should be welcome to do so.

Frankly, even well-meaning people from outside these groups who want to improve things frequently have no clear idea how to start.

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Hi, and welcome to the community.

I’ve read about half the discussion, like 20+ replies (all male?) and I hate to be one more male voice here (I’m certainly not from any underrepresented group, except possibly if you consider a small island country, Iceland, very few speak the language).

I’m all for more participation in the Julia community, independent of gender or other differences. I don’t really know what happens at R-Ladies (or similar groups, e.g. for Python), or black programmer groups etc. I’m not sure I would be let in.

Since you bring up R, I think it’s fair to mention applications of R, and maybe there are groups independent of languages (and gender, or not), e.g. for “economic research”:

While R is still a good choice, Julia is the language the authors now tend to pick for new projects and generally recommend.

They/he, Jón Daníelsson (I’m a bit curious how known he is, in Iceland he is), seem to be changing their tune, from the 2018 blog post and his 2019 tweet: “Still like R best. Beats Matlab, Python and Julia.” Seemingly this is his personal blog:

I am porting my main risk library from R to Julia, so may end up using her for regular work, like updating extremerisk.org daily, especially if the startup times improve.

I’ve also used the word “her” for Julia; since, I try to avoid that, and “it” (that seems strange). Is this something that irks people, whatever their gender? Or even against some rule?

I would no longer say the Julia community is small. I do know of some women in it, but it’s fair to say, not too many. It’s not my place to say if too few for such a group, or not. I guess they could start small. I am however a big proponent of using languages together, e.g. calling R or Python if needed (you can also call Julia from those languages), so maybe you can (also) influence other groups to discuss Julia too?

I definitely use “it” to refer to the language, clearly seems to be the most natural for me. To the extent I have noticed what anyone else says, I believe they also say “it”. That would be the same for any language, BTW, spoken, written, read, signed, or programmed.

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In particular, do not sexualize the term “Julia” or any other aspects of the project. While “Julia” is a female name in many parts of the world, the programming language is not a person and does not have a gender.

If using her is already against this rule I don’t know.

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This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.

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I am not quite sure how that is relevant to the present discussion.

It was closed for precisely the reason Stefan listed in the final message: it had turned into a discussion that no longer talked about how we as a community can improve, but rather became a discussion about the underrepresented groups themselves with generalizations that were off-topic and inhospitable.

It’s not about censorship or exclusion; rather, this simply isn’t the place to debate such things. Let’s please keep the topic focused on actions our community can take. Just as before, generalizations about particular underrepresented groups aren’t welcome and the official diversity statement isn’t up for debate.

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In parts I understand that, but sometimes to find proper actions it needs a broader discussion. I understand that some stated opinions should not be presented public on official Julia services like discourse as it may be missunderstood as something the Julia community endorses. So this would imply to discuss this in a private thread.

But I also see, as others do, that not so much real actions are proposed. In my opinion we are quite clear on what we would like to achieve, that is, we would be happy if the community diversity would increase steadily. But I am also quite sure that we are quite unclear about what the real problems are and what we really want to talk about. And that’s the reason, IMO, that there is not so much progress.

In a situation like this, it is very likely that discussions are not so focused and questions or opinions appear, where somebody thinks this should not appear anymore. We should be aware of this, but we should not close or shutdown those late contributions, because we don’t know where we are in this process, or better, actually, we know that we are still at the beginning of the process. Be restrictive in what is allowed and what not in such a discussion does more harm than some political incorrect contributions. Actually in my opinion it contradicts the substance of the discussion and therefor makes it useless.

I propose a solution to my arguments:

  • create a public but closed summary topic “Diversity” or any better title
  • It is the current summary and some current state information (e.g.) about a non-public discussion area (if possible)
  • on request every user (no guests) can be invited as participant to this non-public discussion area
  • in the non-public discussion area every opinion is allowed, of course some rules must still apply
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