Opinions Are Like Belly Buttons…

“Opinions are like belly buttons, everyone has it but they don’t really matter.”

I got that from a YouTube-er that I admire.

Earlier today another person I follow online – and whom I still admire – shared their experience in the design and technology space. At this point I may have given this thing way too much energy and should probably let it rest – but I can’t. I decided to share my experience within the design industry and I’d like to believe mine matters – especially when you are addressing women in design and technology – that are black, which you can’t seem to find.

This was my response, and for some reason it was canned/blocked/deleted something – but ok.

I’d like to share my experience. For some reason my comment wasn’t loading publicly from my other channel so I decided to repost. Again this is my experience I’ve since read a few other comments and I see that we can’t force things. If it’s not a diverse community or people aren’t in the network then yes there will be a gap – here’s what I wrote before.

Hi Charli, This might be opening a can of worms….. but as always I love your transparency and I’d like to share my experience. I saw when you asked about women in tech on twitter. Now that I think about it I do know women of color in tech – just not in the specific area of tech and design. As you know I am a designer (packaging and product design for anyone else reading), and I think I can share some of my experience being in the design industry. I went back and listened to your video to address the points you’ve made.

0:15 seconds you speak about being lucky about not being discriminated against through out your career – my first encounter with discrimination in design was on campus in class. The instructor (a white male) decided to change dates for a final and my flight was already scheduled to return home from school. I’m a black woman and you know what he said? “see me after class in the parking lot” as though to want to fight me. Originally I thought the professor was joking….. it wasn’t until someone else got offended and pulled me aside that I was swayed to think differently. Discrimination happens not only because of gender but because of color, ethnicity, HAIR – this is the world we live in, some people have yet to experience it but it does happen, some people are blind to it and some people just aren’t aware of it. In my first design job I was working as a production artist creating artwork for packaging products. One day I wore my hair in an afro, the next day I was let go. When I called to find out why I wasn’t given a realistic reason.

0:35 – I agree there is a gender gap. My background – industrial design – I haven’t seen many women in the field, let alone black women. During my studies there were three black men in the college of design. THREE!!!! One my graduating year and two black men two years ahead of me. I went back one year to visit and there was only one black person in the class. Just so you know, I went to a technology based college – if they wanted to open the doors for an opportunity of diversity for design and technology they surely have the platform to do so. While I was in university I was lucky if there was another woman in the class, let alone a black one. There was a total of three of us – but one person transferred out after one year. Additionally, the costs of university are ridiculous, in my experience I had to work multiple campus jobs to afford the tools I needed to get through the years for projects – there were resources I didn’t have access to of knowledge of because of my “lack of privilege”. This Lack of privilege comes more from systemic oppression considering finances, tools and resources – let alone the knowledge these things even exist. In order to see the different faces in technology and design people need to go into the black communities and teach there. Point blank period. I became aware of the choices in design due to after school programs in high school that no longer exist due to “budget cuts”. These are things that are readily available to schools in non-urban/black communities. I’ve faced subtle discrimination time and time again from my hair, how I speak – its not expected for a black woman to speak proper English if your from Newark – and the smart (but really disrespectful) comments that come from male coworkers. I’ve faced people not knowing how to even teach what they know and continue to face learning curves. I have to find ways and opportunities to reach out and ask for help. I believe if people are willing to learn there needs to be opportunities for that even in the work place. Confidence also plays a huge factor. I’ll admit I still struggle with that. When I started at the company I am in now I was one of seven designers. Two of us are black, I am the only black woman in the office. Black designers both male and female form their own communities to connect. Just search black designers in tech.

At the end of the day you can’t knock people for their experiences, we need to learn to

  1. agree to disagree.
  2. really listen to what people are saying and not take offense. Sometimes people just want to express their experiences or be heard. Nothing more and nothing less.

I believe in transparency – but when it comes to the world wide web there’s no real such thing. We project the person we’d like to be seen as. So block/hide/remove my comment when the first sentence is you’re looking to see other peoples experiences – yet when its not as you hoped to be all rainbows and butterflies – this is the issue that I have. Yes there are very few women in technology and design, but there are even less that are black and women. I don’t believe my comment was trolling, or offensive. I’ve learned to teach from the scar and not from the wound.

Ultimately, I now understand why its important to share your experiences because people that look like you, that have been through similar situations – they need to see you in spaces they’d like to be in.

If you are looking for black women in tech check this out. And if you are looking for black women in design – hi my name is Keshna, let’s chat.

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