Being asked to keynote code4lib was a literal dream come true for me. I shared some of the diversity and inclusion work we’re doing at Mozilla, called out whiteness and racism in libraries and shared some personal stuff.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve cried while giving a talk, but this was the first time the tears weren’t about trauma. I was overwhelmed with the feeling of what is possible when you are loved and supported by friends and community. I had some of my dearest library friends sitting in the front row holding space for me.
In my 20s and 30s my work was often fuelled by anger and I was all about burning systems down. Now that I’m in my 40s I’m exploring what it means to be fuelled by love and interdependence. I’m exploring what it means to have privilege and responsibility, and the type of work it takes to build the systems that are liberatory. It’s a new kind of vulnerability that is terrifying, yet incredibly freeing.
Here’s my original deck. I deviated a bit from the slides a bit in the actual talk.
blah blah blah: diversity and inclusion
I want to acknowledge that we are on the occupied territory of the Tamyen Ohlone (?) My research and daily work are about power dynamics, so for me it’s essential to acknowledge some of the fundamental truths of colonization, land theft, and the resilience of Indigenous people.
I am so excited and delighted to be invited here. Some of my favourite people in libraries are in this room and it’s such an honor to be invited to give this talk.
Finding the right title is something that I’m not very good at. I’m going to mostly talk about my work at Mozilla but I’m going to take some detours and blah blah blah.
bit.ly/tara-c4l has the links from this talk that I’m going to reference.
Hello! I’m Tara…
I was born in Vancouver and grew up in a logging town called Prince George. Prince George is 800km north of Vancouver. Growing up most towns in a 10 hour radius didn’t have a McDonald’s and Prince George, population 75,000, had 4. This is Mr. PG, the town mascot. 8m tall, originally made of wood, he rotted and the replacement is built to last out of fibreglass and sheet metal.
My mom is Japanese-Canadian and my dad is white, of Scottish and Irish ancestry. I’ve lived in 7 different countries including Scotland and Japan–partly to learn about the world but I think I was also looking for a sense of belonging and home. Being mixed race and queer means I’ve spent most of my life feeling like I don’t belong and that I don’t fit. This has also given me a first hand, personal view of group dynamics–I see things that many people do not.
Before Mozilla I was a librarian for 12 years working mostly in post-secondary institutions. People often ask me about my odd career path from libraries to doing diversity and inclusion work in the tech sector. I was active in the code4lib and Access communities where I helped make our conferences safer and more inclusive. For the last 5 years of my librarian career I managed an accessibility organization that served students with print disabilities. I’m still very passionate about accessibility and universal design.
A year and a half ago I joined Mozilla’s Diversity and Inclusion team. As the Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Partner I’m the data person on our team. I’ve been building out our infrastructure so we can measure progress on key diversity and inclusion metrics. I partner with different organizations on specific strategies for cultural inclusion. I’ve led projects on trans inclusion and continue to advocate for accessibility.
These are two questions that have guided my work.
In most social situations, I think it’s always important to observe:
- Who is in the room?
- Who is at the table?
- Who speaks a lot?
- Who has social capital?
- Who feels welcome?
- Whose ideas are respected and centered by default?
I think even more telling to note:
- Who is missing?
- Who is sitting on the margins?
- Who doesn’t feel welcome?
- Who has to fight to have their viewpoints heard and respected?
I invite you to look around this room and answer these questions for yourself.
For the last year and a half I’ve been trying to find the answers to these questions at Mozilla.
Who here is familiar with Mozilla?
Mozilla has 1200 staff and 10,000 volunteer community members worldwide. Our mission is to ensure the Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. The way we do this is with open source products, like the Firefox web browser, that give people more control over their lives online and shape the future of the internet for the public good. If you’re not using Firefox I suggest you give it a try as it’s fast and we don’t do creepy things with your data.
Mozilla is a company that has one shareholder, the not-for-profit Mozilla Foundation.
The Foundation does awesome work on policy, publishes the Internet Health Report, hosts MozFest in London, and offers fellowships to 26 technologists, activists, and scientists from more than 10 countries.
At the start of our D&I journey at Mozilla we did a bunch of focus groups with Mozillians. We heard about many diversity dimensions in our findings and they have shaped the way we define diversity. Diversity is all the things that make us who we are…it is our specific, unique, beautiful mix of people.
In the top right hand corner there’s MoFo and MoCo. MoCo is our internal shorthand for the Mozilla Corporation. We call people who work for the Foundation MoFos.
So, then, what is inclusion? We believe inclusion is getting our specific mix of people to work well together, to invite voices forward, to speak boldly but respectfully, and listen intently. Inclusion is about how each of us wants to be treated.
How diversity makes us smarter
For groups that value innovation and new ideas, diversity is key. There’s plenty of social science research that demonstrates this but one of my favourite articles is by Dr. Katherine Phillips, Professor of Leadership and Ethics at Columbia Business School. Her article How Diversity Makes Us Smarter in Scientific American is an accessible summary of some of the key research in this area.
Dr. Phillips says that diverse groups tend to outperform homogeneous ones. When we’re around people like us, whether it’s people who are the same race, gender, have the same political viewpoints as us, it leads us to think we all hold the same information and share the same perspective. When we hear dissent from someone who is different from us, it provokes more thought than when it comes from someone who looks like us. Diversity jolts us into cognitive action in ways that homogeneity does not. Simply by being in the presence of someone who is not like you, you will be more diligent and open-minded. You will work harder on explaining your rationale and anticipating alternatives than you would have otherwise.
There’s a couple of other important points in Dr. Phillips’ article. While diverse groups performed better than homogeneous groups, they also had more conflict and enjoyed working together less. As someone works in D&I this means that as we build more diverse teams we also need to also build people’s skills on giving and receiving feedback and communicating when there’s conflict.
Mozilla’s mission is to ensure the Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all–how can we do that if we don’t have everyone at the table building the tools to do this? It’s not just about diversity, people need to feel that they can bring their whole selves to the table and that difference will be accepted and valued. This is the inclusion piece.
Quote from Mitchell Baker, Mozilla Chairwoman
Being explicit about how we work together, both the behaviors we want to see and those we don’t tolerate, is foundational for inclusion at Mozilla.
This quote is from Mitchell Baker, our Chairwoman.
Mozilla’s mission is to build the Internet as a global public resource, open and accessible to all. ‘Open and accessible to all’ implies a deep commitment to inclusion, and to building inclusive practices. As part of this commitment we describe a set of ‘behaviors of inclusion’ that we aspire to. These are set out in Mozilla’s Community Participation Guidelines.
Community Participation Guidelines (CPG)
The CPG is the Code of Conduct at Mozilla. It outlines both behaviours we want to see and behaviours that are unacceptable.
One of the expected behaviours is: Be Direct but Professional.
We are likely to have some discussions about if and when criticism is respectful and when it’s not. We must be able to speak directly when we disagree and when we think we need to improve. We cannot withhold hard truths. Doing so respectfully is hard, doing so when others don’t seem to be listening is harder, and hearing such comments when one is the recipient can be even harder still. We need to be honest and direct, as well as respectful.
I love that this is written in plain English. Recently I found myself dragging my feet on having a hard conversation with someone I care about at work. When I was writing this talk I heard myself saying “We cannot withhold hard truths. We need to be honest and direct, as well as respectful.” This was the nudge I needed to have this conversation.
The CPG also outlines behaviours that are not tolerated. These include:
- threats of violence
- personal attacks
- derogatory language
- disruptive behaviour (like heckling speakers)
- and unwelcome sexual attention or physical contact.
This includes touching a person without permission, including sensitive areas such as their hair, pregnant stomach, mobility device (wheelchair, scooter, etc) or tattoos. This also includes physically blocking or intimidating another person. Physical contact or simulated physical contact (such as emojis like “kiss”) without affirmative consent is not acceptable.
I love that the CPG includes these concrete examples–some of them, like the emoji, I hadn’t thought about before.
The CPG also includes information about consequences of unacceptable behaviours and information on how to report. It is open licensed under a CC-BY-SA license.
The work we all do has a ripple effect in the world. Mozillians in Brazil used our CPG as the base of their open letter to a JS conference to call out a transphobic incident. And last fall the SQLite community adopted our CPG as their code of conduct.
At Mozilla we’ve been examining our hiring process, learning more about unconscious bias and leveraging these learnings to hire the best people. We’ve been inspired by the work that happened in orchestras.
In the 1970s, top orchestras in the US were only 5% women. At that time there were lots of reasons given for this including:
- “women have smaller techniques than men,”
- “women more temperamental and more likely to demand special attention or treatment,” and that
- “the more women, the poorer the sound.”
One conductor said bluntly: “I just don’t think women should be in an orchestra.” (Goldin and Rouse, p 719)
By 2000, orchestras were up to almost 30% women. The main driver for this change was the introduction of “blind auditions”, where the musicians literally auditioned behind a curtain so that the panel couldn’t see them. They were only assessing candidates based on how they sounded. They found that even with the curtain that there were other telltale signs, like the click clack of women’s high heels. They either added a carpet or got women to take their shoes off and had a man make clomp clomp clomp noises with his shoes. Now most US orchestras are 40-50% women, though there are very few women who are conductors or who play in the brass section. They call this The Brass Ceiling.
At Mozilla our version of the blind audition is a tool called HackerRank. This enables hiring managers to evaluate candidates based on their code, not their name, perceived gender or race, or the university that they graduated from.
HackerRank at Mozilla
We started using HackerRank to select candidates for our internships in 2015. There was big, measurable improvement.
Over 4 years the intern cohort shifted:
- From 6% women, to 43% women
- From 7 colleges to 41 colleges. This was the biggest increase in diversity! You can probably make an educated guess about which colleges were in the original 7 that we were recruiting interns from. Smart and talented people can come from a variety of educational institutions, even code academies.
- From 54 to 75% of the 2018 cohort were women and/or People of Color
Open source is “startlingly white and male”
In an article in Wired titled Diversity in Open Source Is Even Worse Than in Tech Overall Klint Finley writes:
“the open source development community remains startlingly white and male—even by the tech industry’s dismal standards.”
I had a lot of imposter syndrome throughout the application process for Mozilla. I was just a librarian at a college in Canada that no one had heard of. Who did I think I was applying to work for Mozilla?
There were 3 sentences in the job posting that made me apply:
- You demonstrate a history of working in a collaborative and open manner—whether that be in open source projects or simply openly discussing projects and questions.
- You should apply even if you don’t feel that your credentials are a 100% match with the position description.
- We are looking for relevant skills and experience, not a checklist that exactly matches the position itself.
Of course this was by design. Knowing that open source skews white and male, requiring open source experience would limit the people who would choose to apply, and likely some excellent candidates would self select out. The key experience is open collaboration, not open source experience.
We also use a tool called Textio to make sure that our job postings use balanced language. Thankfully we don’t post job ads for code ninjas and rockstar developers anymore.
How diverse are libraries? Who is missing? Who does not feel included?
Librarianship: startlingly white
We know that librarianship is a profession that is predominantly female, but there’s not much data about the racial makeup of librarians in Canada and the US.
In Canada there was one study done by the Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians of, not surprisingly academic librarians. They collected about 1700 names and email addresses by looking at college and university websites. From the 1700 emails they received about 900 responses. 91% of respondents were white. Only 2% of respondents identified as Indigenous–First Nations, Metis or Inuit.
According to ALA’s Diversity Counts report in 2009-10, 88% of credentialed librarians in the US are white.
According to ALISE: Library and Information Science Education Statistical Report in 2015, 79% of students at ALA accredited universities in the US are white. This means that the pipeline for future librarians is only slightly more diverse than the workforce.
The sparse or non-existent data tells a story by what’s missing. We measure what we care about. I hope that our library associations or researchers will take on this important work. We need to know what our baseline is and we need to be able to track change over time.
As a content warning, in the next few slides I’m going to talk about how institutions choose to uncritically adhere to standards in ways that are racist and violent. I will be quoting racial slurs that refer to Japanese and Vietnamese people.
Before I get into those hard examples I want to introduce you to my grandparents: Eddie Kiyoshi Nakata and Sue Sueko Nakata. They used their English names, Eddie and Sue, to try and fit in. Growing up we would drive 10 hours to visit them in the Okanagan, the area of BC that’s known for fruit and wine. They were farmers from the 40s and were able to buy their own small orchard in 1964. They mostly grew stone fruit like peaches, cherries, plums and apricots. I reckon I get my love of early mornings, comfort in daily routines and strong work ethic from them. They lived a frugal lifestyle and were generous with their grandkids. After Grade 8 my Grandma left school and trained to be a seamstress. Until her 80s she sewed most of her clothes from remnants, so when I mend someone’s clothes with her sewing supplies I honour her memory.
Someone on social media tagged me on a post from Library and Archives Canada announcing a bunch of content from Japanese-Canadian internment had been digitized by Landscapes of Injustice, a research project at the University of Victoria.
I’m not sure if most of you know that similar to what happened in the US, Japanese-Canadians were forcibly moved away from the coast, and interned by the government during WWII. In 1942 the Canadian government uprooted over 21,000 Japanese Canadians from coastal British Columbia and began the forced sale of Japanese-Canadian property and businesses to pay for their internment. This policy was not rooted in national safety, but in racism and fear.
I recently learned that my family was not interned. This was because they were already living inland, away from coast.
Here’s one of the 180 photos that Landscapes of Injustice digitized. This lives in digital collections of Library and Archives Canada.
The title for this photo is “On the coast the T.B. rate amongst the Japs was fairly high, but moved to the drier atmosphere inland and given a moer (sic) varied diet, they are much healthier.”
Seeing the racial slur “Japs” was a punch in the gut for me. Once I got over that I noticed that the tone was pretty fucked up and told me more about the person taking the photo and how they viewed Japanese-Canadians than the people in the photo. Internment wasn’t a benevolent act done for the health of “those people”. I hate how the passive voice “the Japs were moved” glosses over who moved them and why. I also noticed the typo.
I’m curious about the people in this photo–who are they? What were their stories? What did they do before they were interned? Did they take on English names like my grandparents? Who are these people’s grandkids? Did they move back to the coast after internment ended? Do I know them? Do they also think that canned peaches taste like sunshine?
I know that faithfully transcribing the words on the item is standard practice. However, this is an act of institutional violence and racism. We need to do better. I want my national library to do better.
WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK is this title?
When I’m outraged, I’m not the most eloquent or diplomatic. I quickly tweeted “i’m happy that these photos of the Japanese-Canadian internment have been digitized, but WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK is this title?”
I was impressed that the research project replied and said they would look into it. They did, which I appreciated. Library and Archives Canada did not reply and took down the initial blog post that I saw on social media.
Linking back to the stats I shared about libraries being so white, I can’t help but think that there were no Japanese-Canadians involved in this process. Throughout the whole process of digitizing this item didn’t anyone say “Hey, this seems messed up. Can’t we do better?”
Another example of racist metadata: Vietnam Center & Archive
Of course, this isn’t the only example of standards causing harm. Mark Matienzo shared this tweet with me.
OMG, attending a talk by Professor Long T. Bui talk about the Vietnam War and refugee memory. Apparently the biggest archive (that’s not the National Archive) is the Vietnam Center & Archive at Texas Tech.
When he tried to look for materials on their catalog for Vietnamese or South Vietnamese, he couldn’t find anything. When he asked the librarian what’s going on, he was told that he has to use the term “gooks.”
We all know that that’s a racist term, so why would an archive use that term? He was actually told that the archive is neutral (!), and they have to use the term or titles given to photographs/materials given by the donors, most of whom are American soldiers.
I know so many librarians who buy into the myth that libraries are neutral. This is one good example that it isn’t. You are centering a specific POV/experience. By using such a term only as the access point, you are preventing access to these materials by specific populations.
Much like I would be flipping tables if I required to use “Japs” as a search term to look for images of my family, I imagine Vietnamese-Americans would feel the same way. Jade Alburo makes an excellent point–who is the user presumed to be? Whose worldview is left out?
Stacy Allison-Cassin on Indigenous Knowledge & Infrastructure in the Open
At last year’s OpenCon, Stacy Allison-Cassin addresses this in her talk on Indigenous Knowledge & Infrastructure in the Open. She says that “Because colonial terminology is so integrated into the systems and platforms we use, it can go unnoticed, by most. But it is vitally important to stop referring to people with names they do not call themselves.”
While I shared examples of racist slurs against Japanese-Canadians and Vietnamese people, I know libraries and archives do this to Black and Indigenous people too.
People you should know
Here are 3 amazing Indigenous knowledge workers and thought leaders who inspire me.
Last November I was invited to keynote the National Digital Forum in New Zealand and learned so much from people who are doing good work in Aotearoa. I highly recommend you listen to the recordings of these keynotes.
Professor Kukutai specializes in Māori and indigenous demographic research and is a founding member of the Māori Data Sovereignty Network.
Shaun Angeles Penangke is the Men’s Collection Researcher at the Strehlow Research Centre in Alice Springs, Australia. He manages a highly restricted collection of Central Australian Aboriginal men’s cultural heritage material consisting of sacred artifacts, archival documents, genealogies, and a digitized catalogue of ceremonial film and song recordings.
Tuaratini is a professional storyteller who shared her wisdom on collecting, preserving and accessing cultural heritage collections in culturally appropriate and ethical ways.
Librarianship has a whiteness problem
On January 21st Jessamyn West tweeted: “There is something wrong at the Library of Congress. This tweet should not have happened. Librarianship has a whiteness problem. #MLKDay”. Jessamyn is referring to the Library of Congress tweeting “Today in History: Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson born.” The Confederate Army was the side that was fighting to keep slavery, right?
LoC on MLK Day
Like, how do you even send both these tweets on the same day? It became obvious that the tweets were scheduled and I’m assuming that no one was monitoring that LoC Twitter account either.
Much like the racist Gucci sweater and Katy Perry’s blackface inspired shoes, I wonder how diverse LoC’s social media team is? if there are People of Colour do their colleagues listen when they raise legitimate concerns about bad decisions?
At ALA Midwinter…
This exclusion and violence is not just in our collections. It shows up as racist microaggressions in the workplace. It’s also looks like an ALA counselor, who is a white man, verbally assaulting April Hathcock, who is a Black woman and also a member of ALA council, in front of the council forum. None of the people present said or did anything to intervene. Librarianship is hostile to PoC. Our profession needs to do better and it can’t be on the PoC to fix this.
Our actual standards on acceptable behaviour aren’t what is outlined in our CoCs, but rather the shitty behaviour we’re willing to put up with without doing anything. That’s actually where the bar is set.
I invite you to think about what you are going to do the next time you witness something like this.
One of my colleagues says, “We don’t say things like that here” or the “That’s not OK, you need to stop.” I think these are both excellent responses for many uncomfortable situations where you see racist, sexist or transphobic behaviour.
Should the MLIS/MLS be a requirement for all librarian jobs? (No.)
I want to link back to key criteria for jobs and how we hire. We need to interrogate all our assumptions about what is necessary to be a librarian.
If we go back to the arguments around diversity and innovation, working to make our workplaces more diverse is something that libraries must do to survive and be relevant. Also, there’s additional arguments about reflecting the diversity of our user groups and society.
Seeing the lack of racial diversity in the library school student data, which is our pipeline, we need to to rethink the MLIS/MLS as a requirement for all librarian jobs. We need to articulate the core competencies for what is important in libraries now and broaden our view of whose qualifications are relevant. We need to recruit from a more diverse pool of candidates. I’m not talking about lowering the bar, rather being more critical of what libraries need, which might raise the bar.
We need to stop talking about cultural fit on our hiring committees. Culture fit means that we’re perpetuating a monoculture of people who look just like us and think just like us–this isn’t what we need to be relevant now, or in the future.
In addition to rethinking our hiring pool, we need to build in additional scaffolding so that people from underrepresented backgrounds in libraries can imagine a future for themselves in libraries, where there’s mentorship and a promotion path is clear. As diversity and inclusion are intertwined we need to work to change the culture of libraries so that people of colour can bring their full selves to work and that that difference would be valued. This will mean some hard and necessary conversations about our culture and whiteness.
Developing a culture of consent
I’m going to shift gears and talk about consent now. In 2015 I proposed that at this conference we ask speakers for permission to livestream their talks and that we use coloured lanyards as a visual shorthand to communicate people’s desire to be in photos online. Red meant absolutely no photos, green meant photos are fine, and yellow meant you needed to ask.
Some of the initial comments from men who had been in the community longer than me bummed me out.
These comments included:
- “I enjoy taking candid photos of people at the conference and no one seems to mind.”
- “My old Hippy soul cringes at unnecessary paperwork. A consent form means nothing. Situations change. Even a well-intended agreement sometimes needs to be reneged on.”
I was able to get enough support to get this off the ground. Shoutout to Ranti Junus, who helped me pull together a consent form and talk to all of the speakers. Thankfully things have changed a lot and this is now standard practice here at code4lib and many other conferences have followed suit.
Consent and digitization ethics
Consent is something that’s really important to me as a feminist. I want to take a quick detour and share a personal story.
In Spring 2016, I came out in my professional life as former sex worker at code4lib NYS. I want to thank Christina Harlow, Francis Kayiwa and John Fink for their love, support and friendship. They are the kind of friends who literally show up and hold space in the front row.
So, I know what it’s like to have content about myself online that I didn’t consent to. In my case, it’s a newspaper article that appeared in a major Canadian newspaper that identifies me as a sex worker and a librarian. For most of my career I’d been terrified that my employer or my colleagues would find this out. We live in a judgmental society where there are many negative stereotypes about sex workers. I was worried that this would undermine my professional reputation.
I think that we would all agree that open access to information is a good thing. However, over the last couple of years I’ve come to realize that this isn’t an absolute and that there are some times where it’s not appropriate or ethical for information to be open to all.
In 2016 I learned that Reveal Digital, a nonprofit that works with libraries, digitized On Our Backs, a lesbian porn magazine that ran from 1984-2004. For a brief moment I was really excited — porn that was nostalgic for me was online! Then I quickly thought about friends who appeared in this magazine before the internet existed. I was worried that this kind of exposure could be personally or professionally harmful for them. There are ethical issues with digitizing collections like this. Consenting to a porn shoot that would be in a queer magazine with a limited print run is a different thing to consenting to have your porn shoot be available online.
For a year I kept digging and researching this topic. I found the contributor contracts at Cornell’s Rare Book and Manuscripts Collection, learned a lot more about US copyright law, and most importantly I talked to queer women who modeled for On Our Backs to hear what they had to say.
Quote from On Our Backs model
This is a quote from one of the models from an email to me.
She writes: “People can cut up my body and make a collage. My professional and personal life can be high jacked. These are uses I never intended and still don’t want.”
I was successful in getting this collection taken down from Reveal Digital’s collection by publicly questioning the ethics of digitization projects like this and amplifying the voices of models who appeared in On Our Backs. I learned that 10 days ago Reveal Digital is now part of ITHAKA, that also owns JSTOR and Artstor.
I have favor to ask you all–especially those of you who work at research institutions, especially ones with partnerships with Revel Digital or ITHAKA. Can you keep an eye on these folks and what they’re digitizing? Can we all hold them accountable together?
Inclusive event planning
Back to red lanyards! When I came to Mozilla I was delighted to see that we had a way to opt out of photos, even during work events.
Brianna Mark, our Senior Event Planner writes:
Like many of the people who use Firefox, our employees value being able to choose — with clarity and confidence — what information they share with whom…
Like with our work, Mozilla’s values don’t necessarily tell us what to do but rather remind us of how we should do it. Making red lanyards available to our employees and their families as part of our semi-annual events is a small but tangible manifestation of just what we mean
I love how we keep iterating on our culture. At our last All Hands, Brianna added pronoun stickers for people to add to their name badges. This is something we can all do to make our culture more inclusive.
So, I’ve mentioned All Hands a few times now. All Hands is our twice yearly meeting where we all come together in person. Mozilla staff are in 16 countries and 40% of our workforce is remote. All Hands is critical part of building the connective tissue that allows us to work well together the rest of the year.
This past summer All Hands was in SF. The big event is the plenary session where our leaders talk about where we’re at and where we’re going. Imagine 1200 of us in this giant hotel ballroom.
San Francisco All Hands – Lauren’s talk
In between each of the executive presentations, regular staff were interspersed reading thank you emails from our users and sharing other short snippets.
This was the short snippet between the Chief Marketing Officer and the Chief People Officer.
Hi. My name is Lauren Niolet. I work on lifecycle marketing out of my home in North Carolina. I recently sent a letter to Jascha, who you just met, and I’m going to share it with all of you now.
Jascha, you might recall a conversation we briefly had at Austin All Hands about some interesting changes in my life. But just to put a label on it, I’m transitioning my gender presentation to female. This has been a lifelong time coming. While I wouldn’t say changing genders is anything close to the easiest thing I’ve ever done, this ongoing process has already been one of the best. I’ve been asking colleagues, one or two at a time, to start calling me Lauren, and referring to me with feminine pronouns. I’d like for you to do the same. Don’t worry about slip ups. I forget at least once a day and it’s my name.
Like any self-respecting marketer, I’m working with HR on a go-to-market strategy to take this news big. That is, by the way, highfalutin’ talk for an email to all of marketing. But I’m writing to give you an early heads up.
I do want to mention that your personal and professional commitment to making Mozilla marketing a safe space that values all people was a huge factor in my decision to begin transition. As a member of the group that worked on team norms, I’m very aware that things here weren’t perfect. But I also know that after I began living authentically, I would feel respected and protected at Mozilla. And the work I do would be more important than my pronouns.
You should know how much of an incredible impact your commitment to these values can have on one individual life. Thank you just doesn’t seem to capture it.
Lauren moved me to tears–and I wasn’t the only one in the audience who was crying. I have deep admiration for her courage.
There was also an amazing feeling in the room. After the loud cheers I could feel people’s careful attention in how they were leaning forward and listening with care and attention.
I wrote guidelines to support staff who are transitioning their gender at work. Initially I intended for it to be a simple list of places where one would need to update usernames and gender markers, but it became more comprehensive to give context to understanding gender more broadly, for managers to understand their responsibilities, and for all staff to understand how they can make Mozilla a more welcoming and inclusive place. I heard from managers that they wanted to do the right thing and were worried they might make a mistake and hurt someone. So, I organized some training to help our staff level up their knowledge and comfort in being inclusive of trans and non-binary colleagues. 180 people RSVPed to attend the sessions, and over the recordings have been viewed 300 times. Mozillians care and want to learn more and do better.
Taking a stand on inclusion is not something we just do internally, but increasingly this is how we are showing up in the world. In the face legislative and administrative attempts to further marginalize trans and non-binary people in the US, Mozilla publicly affirmed our commitment to diversity, inclusion and fostering a supportive work environment along with 55 other major companies.
Dear future self…
I want you to think of something bite sized that you can do to make your workplace or software project more inclusive. You can think of this as a act of microinclusion, if you will.
You’re going to write your future self a postcard. On the back of your postcard, I’d like you to write your commitment on the left hand side. On the right hand side I want you to write your mailing address: this can be your work address or your home address. The local organizers will be sending these out over the next few months.
In case you want to put your postcard in an envelope, there are some at the registration desk. There are boxes by the door, please drop off your postcard during the break.
We all have a role to play in culture–how do you want to show up?