I recently got an angry email from someone who wasn’t happy that there are more quotes by men on Quotes on Design than there are women. That’s my site, so it feels bad to know I’ve let someone down when all I was trying to do was help.
I need to understand diversity and equality issues more deeply and sort out my own feelings. This site may be a good vessel for that.
If I answer myself completely honestly, I feel that I do no censorship or discrimination against the authors of the quotes I publish on that site. I read the quote, if I think it’s a good quote, I publish it. The site is probably 50% user submissions and 50% me. So questions flow out of me here:
- Is it my own selection bias from what I’m reading that turn up more male quotes? The last four books I’ve read were by women, so it doesn’t seem like it. If anything I prefer female authors in general.
- Is it other people’s selection bias?
- Is there less design-based writing by women so that fact trickles through to this site?
- Do I have deep-seeded sexism that, even if I don’t think I’m being biased, I really am? And others as well?
I thought a rational thing to do was to mention this on Twitter and try and solicit more female quotes. I think I even phrased it that way too, which I got in trouble for and I’m not sure why. “Quotes by female authors”. Perhaps that’s better.
Actively soliciting quotes by gender though feels a little sexist to me. Just trying to be honest. Where I tried to exhibit no gender bias before, now I am. But is that for the best? Tab Atkins posted this weird story about this racist tree that seems to resonate here a little. Perhaps over-correcting, even if it doesn’t feel quite right, is for the best. I don’t know.
And then of course diversity and equality isn’t just about men and women. What about latino people and black people and the disabled and short people and the loads of other groups with a past of discrimination? Should I be actively soliciting quotes from these groups as well. That would be more fair, I think, although it becomes more cumbersome, wordy, and may dilute the message. Is it more effective to tackle things group by group?
I also wonder what perfection looks like in the context of Quotes on Design. Should the breakdown of quotes be perfectly representative of the diversity of Earths population? That seems cheezy to say, but perhaps thats the ideal. We can’t say perfectly representative of the tech community, because that suffers from diversity issues already and blaming trickle-down doesn’t help anything. Perhaps fixing this can cause trickle-up and help.
Mostly I just don’t know. I don’t know what to think. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I hurt or help. I’ll probably just keep on keeping on and try and do tiny bits of good where I can. If it ever becomes daylight clear that something I’m doing is hurting, I’ll stop it.