In May 2021, I thought «hey, I really need to write an article on how you need two women in your org, not just one». This was for an esports organisation, in a field where we were struggling to reach 5-6% women, the organisation itself having fewer than 10 people. Having one woman was pretty progressive and cool at the time; and here I was, thinking «I can’t do this alone». And then I burned out and quit the game and never wrote the blog post.
I still think it has merit, though, for many fields and many types of «minorities» of the field. So here’s what I wish I would have explained at the time.
I have my issues
I have bad takes, okay? Everyone does, and I know I do too. I’m not going to put them in writing, but I know I have some beliefs that make me go «oof, I probably should educate myself on that».
Just because I was a woman, just because I am and call myself a feminist, doesn’t mean that I hold the Truth. It’s too easy to have one woman on the team going «oh we should do this», and then do it, and then if there’s criticism, go «but our woman said we could». And that also applies to good-faith mistakes. A colleague of mine once wanted to be more inclusive and used the term womxn instead of women – I’m glad someone told her it’s not a great idea before it hit the presses and caused issues for her and for the organisation.
I can’t speak for all women
I can (well, could, at the time) speak for women, maybe, but I definitely can’t speak for women of color, poor women, heterosexual women, right-wing women, women who are sex workers, trans women… Okay, you get the point. Being « a woman » does not allow me to speak for all women. Having two women on the team still won’t allow for that, but at least, a second input will allow to fix some glaring mistakes.
Having two (or more!) of each «minority» allows you to mix and match – so that you don’t have one black disabled trans lesbian in your cishet white men’s organization as the solo Diversity Person, and more importantly, you don’t have a cishet white men’s organization in the first place. This will make it easier to get input that takes intersectionality into account: two women with very different experiences will agree on some things and disagree on the others. You’re more likely to go right when they agree.
Building a critical mass
I think this is really the most important thing: once you have a diverse organisation in place, you will solve some frequent issues just by virtue of having enough people who don’t benefit from the usual «cishet middle class white male» standard.
Countless studies show how women tend to save themselves when in a heavily male-dominated field, either by downplaying sexism or by taking an active part in sexist discrimination inside their group. Don’t let that happen. Don’t make women, or any other minority group, compete for a single spot on your team: show that you will hire all of those who have something valuable to bring to the table, keeping into mind fairness and the safety of us all.
And if you can’t name two women in your field that have enough experience to fill these roles? Hire a smart woman who’s willing to learn and train her. You’ll have just as good a team member, and a nice loyalty bonus on top.
Further reading (in French)
- « De la banalisation des violences de genre en école d’ingénieur·e·s », Cahiers du Genre, 2019/1 (n° 66), p. 109-128. DOI : 10.3917/cdge.066.0109. URL : https://www.cairn.info/revue-cahiers-du-genre-2019-1-page-109.htm
- MENNESSON Christine, « Être une femme dans un sport « masculin ». Modes de socialisation et construction des dispositions sexuees », Sociétés contemporaines, 2004/3 (no 55), p. 69-90. DOI : 10.3917/soco.055.0069. URL : https://www-cairn-info.wikipedialibrary.idm.oclc.org/revue-societes-contemporaines-2004-3-page-69.htm