Fire Pit Chats: Why Representation Matters

Friday, March 12, 2021

 We're trying out a new thing around here that I'm calling "Fire Pit Chats" because the attempt is to replicate the conversations my friends and I have around my backyard fire pit. Because of my professional background I have had the opportunity to hear different perspectives and learn how to sit in my discomfort and untangle complex social topics. One of the most valuable things to come out of this experience has been the continued conversations about how race impacts every part of our culture and non-white people's daily lived experience. I hope by sharing some of our conversations we can all learn to recognize the effects of race and how we can work to dismantle white supremacy. 

And so today on the heels of International Women's Day I'm excited to share a conversation with my sister-in-law Kiana about the importance of representation. She is an incredibly smart and talented (because I'm biased towards her let me stop my list of adjectives there) engineer - one of the few women of color in her field. 

Last summer E! News' (yes that E! News) Instagram account featured Kiana in a post outlining the stats of Black women in engineering. The post went viral and while there was an overwhelming amount of positive comments (thousands), many comments (many hundreds but who is counting) showed how much learning still needs to happen for most of America. Not only were people questioning why it mattered that she was Black or a woman, people were truly offended to see this post congratulating a Black woman on being one of the few to graduate with this degree in the US. Hundreds of comments cried "divisiveness!" and "this is what's wrong with America" and "since when did E! become a radical BLM account!?" People threatening to unfollow E! because of the divisiveness displayed in the post (don't let the door hit you on the way out, Karen!). This is why I'm so glad we are having this conversation, and I hope you will share it with anyone who finds congratulating Black people or publicizing statistics on race in the workforce offensive or unnecessary. 

Aside from the E! News post, we talk about Kiana's experience being a double minority in a white male based field. She talks through how she even got into engineering (completely self-driven because no one thinks to encourage women in this field), specific examples of the treatment she received from both classmates and instructors as a Black woman in a white male dominated field, and how that impacted her. She also covers what her current company is doing to drive more diversity in the industry and what is required of white allies to begin to dismantle white supremacy in the workplace.

See yall out there.

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