Why Diversity And Inclusion In Tech Matters

This post is taken from the following Twitter thread.

Woahhhkayyyy tech makers, founders, workers, and investors. We need to have a chat about diversity.

Diversity in tech matters because companies need to be representative of the people they’re trying to serve. It’s scary when rooms of people that look/think/believe/act similarly build the tech that everyone relies on.

Narrow perspectives build narrow solutions. Exposure to diversity in teams changes our perspective, challenges our convictions and biases, and increases our tolerance. It makes empathy and emotional labour job requirements, not nice-to-haves.

When you listen to someone’s experience that’s different than yours, like really, truly listen, it’s hard *not* to empathize with them. Diverse teams force us to listen and strengthen that old empathy muscle that so many of us are deficient in.

If you’re a founder, you need to prove that different types of people thrive in your culture. I may not be a white man, but do I have to act like one to fit in? If so, you still have a diversity problem.

Because although I may be welcome even though I look different my style of working, learning, and communicating isn’t valued.

That’s also (one of the reasons) meritocracy is a bullshit excuse for not having more diversity. If I have to act like a white man to be hired, listened to, respected, and promoted…. you don’t actually care about diversity. So guess what, I’m going to leave or not apply.

If you think you’ve created a welcoming environment because you don’t explicitly say racist/sexist things or make overtly inappropriate advances or comments… No. Fixing this isn’t just about the absence of certain behaviours, it’s also about action.

We all need to step up and do the emotional labour required to address biases and imbalances, including systemic racism and sexism, in tech culture.

“She knows she’s welcome” to contribute/join us for drinks/grab a donut from the box. Does she?? Did you ask her? Did you ask her what she thought/wanted/preferred or did you assume she’d agree with the default?

(Sidebar: defaults aren’t neutral. Not in assuming how people work, not in assuming how people experience the world, and not when designing your product—what’s the default option in your dropdown menus? etc.)

“I don’t do [insert commonly know to be bad behaviour here] so I’m fine” isn’t enough. Do better.

In order to have diverse teams, tech companies need to get better at accommodating neurodiversity and people with disabilities, and we need to examine and dismantle systemic racism and sexism so that more BIPOC and women enter and stay in tech. Again, this takes empathy and emotional labour—which GUESS WHAT!!—minorities and BIPOC (the people we don’t see enough of on team pages) have in spades because *they have to to survive in this world*.

Imagine if more founders/managers took the time to ask “How do you work best?” Instead of holding meetings where you tell staff “Alright we’re in a growth phase we’re all going to need to pitch in a little extra for a bit here, nights and weekends…”

Imagine if you started that meeting with “Alright we’re in a growth phase, how can I help you make the most of your time? What do you need? What’s getting in the way? Where can I help?”

You know what that tells employees. Oh shit! You see me. You want to help me, even if my needs are different than yours and different than the person sitting beside me. You’re willing to put my needs before company objectives because you know that this company is only as strong as the people behind it.

(Sidebar: A “season” is a couple of weeks or months. If you’re asking people to work overtime for longer than that it’s not a season, it’s a lifestyle. That’s your company culture. You can’t show up every 3 months and say “keep pushing we’re almost there!!” because it becomes a) meaningless and b) I lose trust in your ability to quantify scope of work.)

Startups are often built by “engineering brains”, and anyone joining often has to take on those qualities to be able to keep up and be heard.

This is part of why I think we see a lot of turnover in marketing and customer experience roles at startups, especially first hires in these roles.

These people (more likely than engineering roles to be women or minorities or “creatives” in these “soft skills” roles) are often undervalued from a salary/equity perspective, and their way of working or thinking isn’t respected.

If that’s the case, of course we don’t want to stick around (or can’t because we burnout…). If I have to deny core parts of who I am to fit in? Thank u, next.

In 2019 I hope more founders think critically about the type of company they want to build, who they want to serve, and who can help them build the best possible version of the thing it is they want to make.

And we ALL need to look at our biases. Look at the diversity of your sources. Look at your bookshelf—what do those authors look like? Are you only reading white and/or male experiences? (This was a BIG reality check for me in 2018.) Look at your mentors, the people you follow online, the people you hang out with offline, the people you trust and the sources you cite…

The tech you make will mostly be used by people who don’t look/think/feel like you do, or experience the world the way you do.

What we build affects everyone.

We need to remember that and act accordingly.

Speaking of checking biases and as a follow up to this thread—here are some anti-racism resources I’ve found helpful specifically in examining/unpacking my white privilege, and the role I play in maintaining a system that oppresses BIPOC:

1. If you’re not clear on how your white privilege shows up in your life day-to-day, read through Peggy McIntosh’s list of 46 examples of White Privilege and Male Privilege as a starting point.

2. Layla F. Saad’s Me And White Supremacy Workbook provides 28 days worth of exercises on topics including white fragility, tone policing, white centering, tokenism, and optical allyship.

3. Rachel Elizabeth Cargle’s When Feminism Is White Supremacy in Heels article on what toxic white feminism looks like, and how dangerous our reactions can be. This is an important read for white men, too.

4. Rachel Elizabeth Cargle’s Dear White Woman article on her Patreon, which outlines white racism and systematic racism, and provides more resources for learning about those topics.

Please remember that when a BIPOC does or shares this kind of work, they’re doing an incredible amount of emotional labour. BIPOC themselves are not resources, they don’t owe you explanations and it’s not their job to keep you accountable and call you out. You can’t rely on your BIPOC friend or colleague to “enlighten you”. That’s your job.

That’s also why in a work setting you can’t turn to the one BIPOC, or visible minority, or person with a disbility to design/validate/champion your diversity and/or inclusion program.

The Difference Between a Hobby and a Business

A hobby is about you, a business is about your customers.

That’s it. That’s the whole post. Ya’ll can go home now.

Seriously! This is a simple (obvious?) truth, but one that’s hard to swallow. I only recently got hit in the face with it accepted it. The whole follow-your-bliss-make-your-passion-your-business narrative is dangerous.


Because it puts the focus on you. It’s about your passion, your wants, your identity.

That’s all well and good when we’re talking about hobbies. When it’s a hobby, it’s fine to have creative expression driving the bus. But when it’s a business, your customers better be driving and your ego best be, well, not in the vehicle.

It’s only a business if you have paying customers. Which means you need to a) know who your customers are b) understand their problems c) have a solution to said problems.

No one cares about you. They care about how you can help them.

So. I repeat.

The difference between a hobby and a business is that a business isn’t about you.

I enjoy taking photos. Like, really enjoy it. Walking around a new place with a camera around my neck is one of my greatest joys. On my most recent trip to Scandinavia I thought to myself—travel photographer! Wouldn’t it be so cool to get paid to travel around and take pictures!!

But here’s the thing. I only like taking photos when I like taking photos. When I see the thing and get ~*inSpirEd*~. If some hotel gave me an itemized list of “OK, here’s all the aspects of the hotel you need to feature, GO!” I’d hate it. It would suck the joy out. My photography is about me—my taste, my creative expression—and that’s why it’s a hobby and you don’t see me trying to sell prints or services or whatever else.

Why is it so Damn Hard to Find Canadian Tech Marketing Salaries?

You know what would be delightful.

Some transparency around marketing salaries in tech. Specifically in Canada. Specifically for women.

(Don’t even get me started on the black hole that is equity…)

Have you ever applied for a marketing role at a startup? Here’s what happens:

  • You wade through a pile of content/growth hacking positions. The content roles are clearly written for women. The growth hacking roles are clearly written for men. Neither offers specifics around responsibilities/performance expectations, but it’s enough to confirm your suspicion that they’re unrealistic.
  • There’s no salary or equity range listed.
  • You look at other postings from that company. Yup, all the engineering roles have salary ranges listed. Excellent.
  • You Google salaries at that company. Yup! You find a handful of front-end dev salaries, one back-end, maybe a customer success rep or two. No marketing salaries.
  • WHY?! Because there’s only one person in each marketing role. So you can be damn sure that Monica the Content Manager isn’t posting her salary on Glassdoor because that doesn’t tell the world/her co-workers what a Content Manager at Company X makes, it tells the world what Monica makes.
  • You Google comps and end up with marketing salary ranges for marketing roles at hundred-year-old telecommunications companies. OK, not helpful.
  • You Google comps and end up with ranges for the Valley, or somewhere else in the US that doesn’t particularly help you because you live in Toronto. Or Ottawa. Or Winnipeg and you work remotely.
  • You look at comps at the big, established Canadian tech companies like Shopify. But they’re way further down the line than the newish company you’re thinking of joining. So that doesn’t help you, either.
  • In frustration, you start DMing near-strangers on Twitter asking them to share ranges.
  • You find out you were wildly underpaid at a previous role. Or should have gotten equity but didn’t. Or could have negotiated compensation but didn’t. Or could have negotiated your entire role but didn’t. Or that a man applying for that role would come into a negotiation with a number 20K higher than yours.
  • OK. Now you’re real frustrated. Real frustrated and STILL LOST.


Seriously though! This is a big problem. There’s not enough education and resources around it, and I believe that the lack of transparency is stopping talented women from applying to marketing roles (or making the switch to tech in the first place…).

And I’m not even touching the actual application, negotiation, or onboarding process. This is just one slice of the funnel. Lucky for you my battery is at 6% and I left my charger at work, so I’m going to have to put a pin in things here 😉

All this to say—it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now (studies like this get me mad) so I better not just stew and rant. I better do something about it.

Are there any good databases for Canadian tech marketing salaries? Please Tweet them to me.

If not, what if I made one? I could start by sending out a quick, anonymous survey that I compile the answers to in a webpage or something…

OKOK. We’re at 3% battery. Gotta go. But let me know what would be helpful KTHANKS 🙂

How to Get Unstuck

It’s not about you.

File that under: Things I Wish I Learned Sooner and Still Have to Remind Myself of Daily.*

Whenever I’ve been stuck—like really, truly, existential-level stuck—it’s because I was thinking about myself.

What am I?

What’s my passion?

What should I do with my life?

How do I get people to understand me?

These journaling prompts didn’t lead me to clarity. They didn’t help me “get unstuck and find my life’s work”. They just dug me deeper into self-doubt and inaction.

It’s only when I flipped it around—when I started thinking about others first—that I got traction.

How can I be helpful?

Where can I make a difference?

How can I help others feel understood?

That’s where the answers are, folks.

Focus less on being seen, and more on helping others feel seen.

Your work isn’t about you. It’s about who you’re helping.

Any that gets way easier when you take your ego out of it.

SOS! Taken in Malmo, Sweden.

*Anyone have a label maker I can fit that on?

When You Don’t Have an Audience

The best thing about posting when you don’t have an audience: nobody’s watching.

The worst thing about posting when you don’t have an audience: nobody’s watching.

It’s funny, eh? We’re always nervous to start something. Hitting Publish is hard.

What will they say? It’s not good enough. I’m good enough. Oh heck this is how everyone finds out I’m crazy and ~not~ in a cute way. This is how I get voted off the island that is the Internet. 

Then it’s live aaaaaaaaand


More often than not, no one cares because no one’s watching.

Then! Then we get mad.

I put in all this work and for what! Got like 3.5 impressions on Twitter and no clicks. What the heck dude? I was joking when I said I was terrible. This is good the people need to see it and tell me I’m brilliant! TELL ME I’M BRILLIANT, SUSAN.


Point is: when we start, the stakes are low.

A heck of a lot lower than your brain (*cough* Resistance *cough*) is leading you to believe.

And we should take advantage of that while we can.

Taken at the Leslieville street festival in Toronto summer. 

The Gap Between Amateur and Professional

It’s easy to write about fear.

Have you ever noticed that?

Whenever I’ve taken a hiatus from blogging [Narrator: she was always taking a hiatus from blogging] the easiest way for me to get back into it is to write about a) how hard it is to get started and b) the importance of starting. Of starting right now, with what you have, and where you are.

I do this whole… motivational-platitude-soapbox thing. It feels good. It feels good to ship something even if it wasn’t one of the hundreds of half-baked posts sitting (OK, rotting) in my Dynalist.

I pat myself on the back because I feel like things have changed. I’ve changed.

I’m now going to be a Blogger. Or a YouTuber. Or a Captial-Something. I’m convinced, in those moments after clicking “Publish”, that I’ve conquered Resistance once and for all.

It’s going to be so much easier to show up the next time. Right!? Right? …You Guys?

[Narrator: Wrong.]

As it turns out, the devil isn’t in starting. The devil is in continuously showing up.

Anyone can show up once. Continuing to show up when you say you will?

Therein lies the tricky bit.

Therein lies the gap between amateur and professional.

Taken just outside of Moderna Museet on my trip Stockholm last Spring. Nothing like a good get back on the bike/in the saddle metaphor for September, yes?

Creative in Work vs Creative in Business

What the hell does it mean to be “a creative”?

Let’s just start there.

Creative small business owner. Creative entrepreneur…

We throw these terms around a lot, but something about it has never sat right with me. Honestly, I’ve always found the term creative entrepreneur a little cringy.

I think I’ve finally figured out why.

Being creative in your work and creative in your business are two totally different things, and one doesn’t imply the other.

Creativity, to me, means you’re doing something that might not work. It’s not proven. There’s no guarantee. You’re doing something in a way that it hasn’t been done before.

So you can be creative in your work—you can be a photographer or a web designer or a ceramic artist—but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re creative in your approach to business. Your Instagram feed could be mistaken for another wedding photographers, or you could be mirroring someone else’s marketing, pricing, or social media tactics. You’re using a proven model that you’ve seen elsewhere. You’re following the rules.

On the flip, you could have what’s not considered a creative profession—you could be an accountant or a lawyer or a financial planner—but be creative in your approach to business. You don’t look and sound and feel like every other accountant. You’re using social media in an unexpected way, or you’ve created a new business model. You’re not doing what people expect someone with your job title to do. You’re changing the game.

When we look at creativity in this way, we can see that it’s a lot broader than painter=creative.

Creativity is an approach. It’s a posture. One you can apply to your work, your business, and of course, your life.

This is why being creative can feel so lonely. Because we look around and don’t see examples of the thing we want to build. There’s no one building the business, or life, or career that we want for ourselves. No roadmap we can follow. There’s no blog post we can read, podcast we can listen to, or course we can buy that will tell us exactly what we need to do.

They can help! Sure. But ultimately, it’s on us. Only we’ve got those answers. That’s what makes being creative equal parts terrifying and rewarding.

Here’s the thing though…

We’re all building something different, but our problems aren’t unique.

One more time for the people in the back—we’re all building something different, but our problems aren’t unique.

We all have to deal with the stuff that circles around building a creative life and business—the money, sales, health, systems, planning, and boundaries stuff. Our solutions to these problems are different, but our problems are shared.

So, in that way, we really aren’t alone.

There’s solidarity in the process.

We just have to get better at talking about it.

P.S. I recorded a 5-minute video chatting this through before writing it down. So if that’s more your style, you can watch the video here.

Photo taken on my trip to Prince Edward County earlier this month.

Hey! That was my idea

“I thought of that years ago.”

“I was going to do that.”

Have you ever noticed how possessive we can be of our ideas? How we’ll feel robbed when someone else acts on them?

Why the heck are we like this?!

I guess it has to do with the fact that we call them our ideas. As though they belong to us and no one else could have thought of them.

However we probably came up with the idea for the thing (product, business, song, painting, book, etc…) because we felt the world needed it—a solution to a problem or something to fill a need people have—and if that’s the case shouldn’t we be happy that it’s out there improving people’s lives, even if we weren’t the ones to make it happen? Shouldn’t we take it as a signal that the market’s ready for more of whatever the thing is?

Why instead do we feel all kinds of resentful and jealous?

I mean, we can’t do it all. We can’t act on every idea we get. We have to intentionally choose which thing we’re going to work on right now. That means letting some of our ideas go and that’s OK. Someone else will have the idea and run with it (because no, our ideas aren’t unique), maybe even doing a better job with it than we could’ve. Or maybe we’ll come back to it down the line…

Who knows!

Point is, we need to let go of some ideas (and not feel so damn guilty about it) so we can put all our energy towards the ones that matter the most to us right now.

The whole, “you can do anything once you stop trying to do everything” platitude.

A little New-Year-newfound-desire-to-do-all-the-things thought for you…

Why yes this little riff was inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s take on ideas in Big Magic.

Photo taken at The Met this past fall in during a day of gallery wandering in Manhattan. Because museums and galleries are a breeding ground for, “Hey! That was my idea.”

2017 was the year you… What?

PSA: It’s September.

Meaning there are four more months of 2017.

Yep, four. That’s it.

I’m not bringing this up to guilt trip you into feeling like you haven’t done enough this year, because if you’re anything like me you’ve got that more than covered.

I bring it up because September feels like a good time to check in with, you know, life.

With how you’re spending your time and your money. With where you want to go and where you currently find yourself.

When you look back on 2017… what are you going to think of?

The year you did what? The year you learned what? The year you changed what?

Four months is actually a lot of time. Plenty of time to build a new habit or break an old one.

Bit by bit. Day by day. What could you do?

View from the dock my pale butt was parked on this Labour Day weekend. It was lovely. 

What if it doesn’t work?

What if it doesn’t work? 

What if I’m not good enough? 

I invested a lot of energy into trying to make those thoughts go away. Not realizing that pushing them away only made them stronger. Saying to myself, “Think positive, Kate! Stop telling yourself you’re not good enough!” only did one thing… it kept me focused on the idea that I wasn’t good enough. 

I felt like I shouldn’t do something unless I was sure it would work. And that if I wasn’t sure something would work I shouldn’t speak up.

Which, big surprise, meant I wasn’t doing much of anything.

So as I mentioned last week—apparently Saturday’s are for feelings?—I turned myself into my own science experiment. The kind you’d read about in one of those NY Times bestselling advice books.

I gave myself permission to follow my instincts. To let myself focus on the questions that interest me instead of searching so hard for answers and tearing myself down if I couldn’t find them.

I gave myself permission to show up as me, exactly where I am, with the understanding that I might feel/think/act differently tomorrow and that’s OK. In fact, that’s good. That’s growth. That’s how we find clarity.

Not to sound like an infomercial but this really has changed the game for me. I can’t believe how much better I understand myself, and the difference in the quality of people I’ve been meeting and opportunities I’ve been finding (or perhaps finally noticing?).

It’s a lot easier to meet people and find things you like when you show up as yourself, because like attracts like.

So I’ll say it again—because Lord knows I had to hear it a few times before I did anything with it—clarity comes from action, not thought.

Flowers! Because, feelings. Taken in my Mum’s garden. You know when people come over for dinner and bring you plants? She’s the one person I know who manages to keep those things alive and put them in her garden. So the next time that person’s over she can be all, “Look, the hydrangea’s you brought last spring are blooming!” It’s a level of domestication I can only aspire to…