At PyCon 2015, I had the pleasure of attending the Ally Skills
organized by @adainitiative
(named after Ada Lovelace).
The workshop was a 3 hour strongly guided discussion centering around
4-6 person group discussion of short scenarios. There's a guide to
running them here,
although I personally would not have wanted to run one without attending
I attended the workshop for at least three reasons --
First, I want to do better myself. I have put some effort into (and
received a lot of encouragement for) making my lab an increasingly
open and welcoming place. While I have heard concerns about being
insufficiently critical and challenging of bad ideas in science (and I
have personally experienced a few rather odd situations where
obviously bad ideas weren't called out in my past labs), I don't see
any inherent conflict between being welcoming and being intellectually
critical - in fact, I rather suspect they are mutually supportive,
especially for the more junior people.
But, doing better is surprisingly challenging; everyone needs a mentor,
or at least guideposts. So when I heard about this workshop, I leapt
at the chance to attend!
Second, I am interested in connecting these kinds of things to my day
job in academia, where I am now a professor at UC Davis. UC Davis is
the home of the somewhat notorious Jonathan Eisen, who is notorious
for many reasons that include boycotting and calling out conferences
that have low diversity.
UC Davis also has an effort to increase diversity at the faculty
level, and I think that this is an important effort. I'm hoping to be
involved in this when I actually take up residence in Davis, and
learning to be a male ally is one way to help. More, I think that
Davis would be a natural home to some of these ally workshops, and so
I attended the Ally Skills workshop to explore this.
And third, I was just curious! It's surprisingly tricky to confront
and talk about sexism effectively, and I thought seeing how the the
pros did it would a good way to start.
Interestingly, 2/3 of my lab attended the workshop, too - without me
requesting it. I think they found it valuable, too.
The workshop itself
Valerie Aurora ran the workshop, and it's impossible to convey how good
it was, but I'll try by picking out some choice quotes:
"You shouldn't expect praise or credit for behaving like a decent human
"Sometimes, you just need a flame war to happen." (paraphrase)
"LPT: Read Captain Awkward. And read
"It's not up to the victim whether you enforce your code of conduct."
"The physiological effects of alcohol are actually limited, and most
effects of alcohol are socially and/or culturally mediated."
"Avoid rules lawyering. I don't now if you've ever worked with
lawyers, but software engineers are almost as bad."
"One problem for male allies is the assumption that you are only
talking to a woman because you are sexually interested in them."
"Trolls are good at calibrating their level of awfulness to something
that you will feel guilty about moderating."
Read the blog post "Tone policing only goes one way.
Overall, a great experience and something I hope to help host more of
at UC Davis.
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