The Code Manfiesto

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post venting my frustrations with the current state of the tech industry, specifically related to how women are treated in the field. It wasn’t terribly rational. I was complaining, and I had no solutions to offer on the matter.

I’ve had a lot of good conversations about the issue since. I’ve spoken with people who agree, who kind of agree, and a few who completely disagree. It’s forced me to sit down and analyze my thoughts. To really solidify what I saw as the problem, and possible ways of approaching it. In short, I’ve learned a lot.

First: I would like to address the things I said about women’s outreach programs. I originally found such groups/classes/etc patronizing and exclusionary. Turns out, they are neither. From what I’ve learned, these groups aren’t “PHP for women and women only” more like “PHP for people who aren’t misogynistic jerks”. There might be a bit of a messaging disconnect there. They’re aiming to create a safe, welcoming place for women to exist in our industry. I think that’s great.

This isn’t a women’s issue. It’s an everyone issue.

Second: This isn’t a women’s issue. It’s a minorities issue. Really, it’s an everyone issue. I had the pleasure of speaking with an Italian developer who’s felt and seen treatment similar to what I’ve experienced, simply because English isn’t his native language.

Here’s where I ended up: The industry I work in now is not the industry that I want to work in. I love what I do for a living. I love a great many of the people I’ve met while doing that thing that I love to do. I don’t love being treated like an outsider. I don’t love feeling like I don’t, or can’t have a voice. I don’t love seeing other people treated like that.

I want to work in an industry that is welcoming and empowering. I want people outside our industry to look in and see a place where people, all people, regardless of their demographics, are able to do great things. A place that is supportive and helpful. The more people we have doing what we do, the more brains we have in the room, solving the problems that we’re solving, the better off we’re all going to be.

For all we know, there’s a girl who’s written the code to solve the same problem you’ve been beating your head against your keyboard over for months. Except, it’s sitting on her hard drive somewhere, because she’s too scared of being judged, or she doesn’t feel confident enough to share it. Empower that girl. In short, empower all the people.

There’s no overnight fix for this. There is no switch we can flip and correct it, no algorithm that can be written to magically make everyone get along. We do have the power to fix it, though. Each of us, incrementally, iteratively. People have power. A giant organism can be changed, simply by transforming each of the tiny molecules that make up that organism. Similarly, our community as a whole can be changed, if each of us vows to change it. It will take time, but it’s something well worth undertaking.

To this end, I came up with the Code Manifesto. It is simply a list of values. If each of us committed ourselves to upholding these values, the space in which we work would be a better place to be. The list is in no way comprehensive. It is very much a work in progress, and I’d love to see input from the community. It’s on github, and pull requests are welcome. Add to it, modify it, make it something that each of us can stand for and be proud to represent.

I had the amazing opportunity to give a lightening talk at Laracon in NYC last week. I chose to talk about the Manifesto, what it is, and what brought it on.

This was my first conference, and my first time talking in front of that many people. It was, hands down, one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, and also one of the most gratifying. I stood on a brightly lit stage, in front of roughly 280 of my peers and explained how and why I felt things are broken. And also what I think we can do to fix them.

I spoke for about fifteen minutes. My voice broke a few times. My palms were sweating, and I was really worried that the things I was saying were silly. But I stood up there, and I said what I came to say.

And then they clapped, and all the fear melted away. Stepping off that stage I felt high. Maybe higher than I’ve ever felt. Sliding back into my chair afterwards and seeing the response on twitter brought a tear to my eye. A few of them, to be honest.

For the next day and a half people came up to me as I walked around the conference to thank me, to tell me that they agree. They wanted to talk about the issues we’re all facing, and discuss what we can do to fix them. Men and women alike were talking about it. They were on board. It was, and still is, surreal. But it gives me hope. Hope that people not only see the problem, but that they want to fix it.

It gives me hope that this can be fixed.