Welcome to the weekly Underrepresented in Tech vlog with Michelle Frechette and Allie Nimmons!

Underrepresented in Tech is a free database built with the goal of helping people find new opportunities in WordPress and tech. Overall, let’s dive in with this week’s blog.

Michelle (00:16):

Good morning, Allie. How are you?

Allie (00:20):

Hi Michelle, I’m awesome. How are you today?

Michelle (00:22):

I’m doing great. Thank you. It’s so good to see you.

Allie (00:26):

It’s good to see you too. I haven’t seen-seen you seen you in a long time, but I always love being able to see you on video.

Michelle (00:31):

I know same here. Last time we were together in the same space was Wordcamp Miami last year, a little over a year ago already.

Allie (00:38):

We had a great time. We spent so much time together and I rode your scooter!

Michelle (00:45):

And I had brunch at your apartment!

Allie (00:52):

You met my cat and everything. It was awesome.

Michelle (00:55):

She’s so cute. I am just so excited that we are starting this new vlog series. How about you?

Allie (01:02):

I’m so stoked about it. It’s going to be really fun and an excuse for us to chat every week.

Michelle (01:07):

I know. I love that too. I can honestly say that any project I work on with you, I absolutely adore and becomes a passion project. Underrepresented in Tech is absolutely 100% a passion project. I know it is for me. I think I speak for both of us when I say that as well. And I think most of the people who found our site have an idea of what it is, and I know how it got started, but why don’t you tell everybody who’s watching how this thing got legs?

Watch the video of our vlog above, or read the full transcript of our conversation below!

How did Underrepresented in Tech get started?

Allie (01:39):

Well you and I had both had a lot of experiences of either starting projects or working on projects where we needed to help bring on other people like speakers or, you know, other sorts of people. People had reached out to us individually one-on-one like through Twitter or email asking like, “Hey, I’m starting this thing. Do you know any — and I want it to be diverse. Is there anybody that you can recommend?”

And I know I’ll speak for myself: I got really sick and tired of that because I was like, I don’t have time to head hunt for every single person who reaches out to me, but I do appreciate this. And I do want diverse people to have that hand out to them with more of these kinds of opportunities.

So we kind of started chatting about like, man, wouldn’t it be great if we just started like a Google sheet with like all the awesome people that we know who are not straight white men in tech? And we could just have this database of people to pull from?

And then we were sort of like, well, then we would have access to it. And the people we add to it wouldn’t really be giving us their permission to add them. So as we improved on that idea and improved on that idea an threw ideas out, eventually we were just sort of like, we should just build something!

We are both WordPress builders. We’ve both built between the two of us probably close to 500 websites. We could just build a site and build a database for all of these things. And it truly was a passion project because it came purely out of this desire that the both of us have to help people and to bring more diverse voices out into the world. The voices that we already know are amazing and we want other people to hear as well.

What has it been like since building UIT?

Um, so we’ve just kind of, we just kind of built it. We were like, well, we’ll build it and we’ll see who comes, we’ll see what happens. And so far, we’ve had an amazing reception. Like I think people are really happy about it and eager to support it. I mean, e have what, four or five in-kind sponsors now who have donated time and software to help us make it work. It definitely came out of this need to solve a problem. And how can we use WordPress to solve that problem and help the WordPress community at the same time? Did I miss anything?

Michelle (04:06):

No, no. That’s pretty much exactly what happened. We were on a call like this literally face to face. And I honestly don’t remember which one of us said: we just need to build a website. And then literally three minutes later, I’m like, we now own underrepresentedintech.com. I hope you like it!

Allie (04:27):

Yeah. And your folks at Sentree helped us with hosting and like within the next day you were like, yeah, they’re gonna help us out with hosting. I’m like, cool. So like all of the key pieces just started falling into place. What I think was cool about the experience of how it came about is it was like easy. I feel like some people have an idea for something that they want to build and it’s like really difficult and complicated and they have to jump through all these hoops. For us it was was just like, well, we want to do it, so let’s do it. And then we did it and we were like, well, we need this portion. We need this thing. Okay. We’ll find it. We’ll figure out how to do it.

And I think that’s also us working together. We have a multi-year long background of working together on various projects. And so I think we work well. We communicate well together. So that also helped I think, to make it. So that one day I’m going to look at when that first thing was, if like we should take this spreadsheet and make it into a database and then figure out when we actually launched the website and it’s going to be a ridiculously short amount of time.

Why we want to amplify other voices

Michelle (05:35):

Absolutely. We’re going to have to go so far back at our Twitter DMS to figure out exactly why that let you do that. Let me know. It’s fine. You can definitely do that. I know that I get asked a lot to speak and to write and to be on podcasts and I’m not going to lie. I absolutely love it. And I want to do those things. You get asked a lot. I get asked as the old white woman in tech, you get asked as a young black woman in tech, and it’s like, it’s great to hear our voices.

I think we have good things to say, but there are more old white women in tech than me. There are more people of color in tech than you. Sometimes I’m tokenized that way. I think maybe sometimes you’re tokenized that way. And you actually said to me, I don’t want to always be the one speaking. There are other people that need opportunities that I’m kinda tired of it. It doesn’t need to be my voice every time.

And so that’s how the database came about. How are we going to be able to recommend other people if we don’t have the time capacity, energy, et cetera, to be involved with different projects? And this is Women’s History Month. And so we can talk about the fact that we’re women in technology as well.

What happens when there are not enough voices

I’m not going to like out the particular conference. I can’t remember what conference it was. And number two, I can’t remember who it was, but it was least two years ago, perhaps three, that there was a conference in Europe. And it was all men, literally

Allie (07:19):

I know the one you’re talking about.

Michelle (07:21):

Yeah. It was mostly white men. There were a couple of men from India also on there. And that’s not diverse. That’s not representative.

Allie (07:33):

You’re talking about the one that they ended up canceling?

Michelle (07:35):

Yes, absolutely. There was such an outcry about the fact that women in technology exist. We are here.! We’re actually really good at what we do. I am not the best coder, but guess what? There are a million amazing women coders out there. It’s not just about coding. And so like, there was so much of an outcry. They like reached out to one or two women to try to like even the playing field. And those women were like, yeah, I’m not touching this with a 10 foot pole. You’re not going to tokenize me.

Allie (08:07):

They got in trouble. Yeah. I remember that. And, oh God, it was so pathetic. I remember I got a headache from rolling my eyes so much. And like there were some people defending them and like, Oh, well, you know, in Europe it’s different. And it’s like, no, it’s not really. It might be, but it’s not that different to where it’s so impossible to get any women to apply. Like what the heck. That was ridiculous.

Why we dislike WordPress influencer lists

Michelle (08:40):

It was absolutely ridiculous. And then shortly thereafter, and I think what really elevated that conversation was a list came out. I’m not going to out the company again, I can’t remember what it was. But some tech company in the WordPress space put out a list of something like the top 25 people you should be following.

Allie (09:01):

Yeah. Influencers or super heroes or something like that.

Michelle (09:04):

Yeah. I mean like some ridiculously lofty title that they put on these people. I don’t know if it was 25 or 30 people, whatever it was, there was like three or four women. It’s literally the same 20 white guys. And you like alternate the women out through that. And there was a huge conversation all over Twitter about that.

Allie (09:27):

And then they did something similar after the fact where they kind of cherry picked the women who are the most vocal on Twitter about how it and then added them to the list. It’s like, I don’t want to be on your stupid list! The list itself is the problem. If I encounter one of those lists that it is fairly diverse, I’m like, okay, I guess I can’t really complain. I think the list itself is kind of pointless, but at least these people are getting it, you know, getting exposure and getting praise and stuff like that.

But in my opinion, just making the list in the first place… what’s the point of that? Why would I follow all of these people? What are they actually saying? You’re not offering any actual value aside from, you know, sharing a well-known person’s Twitter handle in the hopes that they’re going to see that and then share the article and that’s going to send traffic back to you. So like, I just see it as a big SEO marketing ploy.

How we feel about being added to influencer lists

Michelle (10:24):

I mean, suddenly I was on that list. Like, I don’t think a lot of people knew who I was at the time. Though my podcasts and things like that people know who I am a little bit more and where I work and those kinds of things. But suddenly I was on that list. A year before that I would have been like, Oh my God, I showed up at all! How did they know who I was? But instead, I was like that really grumbly lady on Twitter. So you added me. Thanks, but no thanks.

Allie (10:51):

And full disclosure, I recently ended up on one of those lists. It was like WordPress influencer predictions for 2021. It was at the end of last year. But I agreed to be on that list because they asked me to provide content. Like they asked me to provide a prediction. It was actually an African-American, I believe African-American, if not a woman of African descent… reached out to me and asked me to participate in it. So I was like, cool, I’m supporting this woman’s idea. I’m actually providing useful content. It’s not just: Oh, look at me, I’m an influencer. It’s like, Hey, look at me. I have something to say. And maybe you’d like to hear it. You know? So like, I just wanted to put that out there because I do po-opoo these lists and I did one voluntarily, but I think there’s a big difference between putting those lists together and actually developing some content.

Our feelings on Women’s History Month and similar holidays

And you mentioned Women’s History Month a couple of minutes ago. I kind of feel same about Women’s History Month to a degree. I’m glad that it exists and that women get a moment in the spotlight, but women should be in the spotlight all year long.

I think things like Women’s History Month and Black History Month have become so commercialized and they’ve become an opportunity for companies and corporations to shout out how diverse they are and how much they care about diversity when they probably don’t. Or when it’s equally likely that they don’t, you know, maybe they do. But it just seems like an excuse for people to put on some sort of… What do they call it in marketing? Optics. It’s an optics opportunity. Like, Oh, look at us, look how great we are because we give half a crap. No – you should be doing that all year long, no matter what. And so, yeah. I have mixed feelings about Women’s History Month

Michelle (13:01):

I do too. And I’ve always felt that way about Black History Month. Not that it’s not great to be learning things because it is absolutely. And to be raising up those amplifying those voices, things like that. But first of all, why did they pick the shortest month of the whole year? That’s the first one, right? It’s Black History Month so I’m going to give them 28 days. We’re not going to give him one of the ones with 31 days because heaven forbid,

Allie (13:26):

Never noticed that. Holy cow.

Michelle (13:30):

Yeah. And then we’re going to give women the 31 days right next to it. So it’s going to look like we’re going to have this huge amount of wokeness, but then like the other 10 months of the year, let’s just go talk about the white guys again. Yeah, absolutely.

Allie (13:45):

Oh my God. And that’s the other thing too, is I love when people are like, why isn’t there a white history month? Why isn’t there a men’s history month? That’s the entire rest of the year!

Michelle (13:56):

Well, no, it’s not even – it’s the entire year because let’s face it – even during Black History and Women’s History Month t’s not like the white guys take a step back. It’s not like I hate guys. I don’t hate white people. I am a white person, but let’s just remember that there’s more to the world than white men.

Allie (14:21):

Like that Cher meme that’s been going around. It’s like a quote from one of her old interviews where I think they asked her like, why do you hate men? And she was like, I don’t hate men. I think men are the coolest, but you don’t need them to live. I was like, Oh, that’s fantastic. That’s amazing.

I know plenty of fantastic men in this industry and outside of this industry, right. I’m married to one! To a fantastic man.

About making room at the table

Michelle (14:52):

We’re not man bashers. And we are not white bashers. We’re not any of that. But let’s move over. It turns out that – just like that door at the end of Titanic that probably could have held two people. If at the table where all the white guys are sitting, if they just scooted their chairs together a little bit closer we could fit anywhere.

And the thing I keep saying about diversity and I’ll probably scream until my voice has gone and I’m like deep in the grave: diversity isn’t about giving people a place. It really isn’t. It’s about including voices and perspectives because there’s value in those people. Not just like, Oh, look, we have a Brown face at the table. Oh, look, we have a woman at the table. Oh, look, there’s, there’s estrogen in the room. I mean, it’s not any of that.

But it’s about the fact that when Allie sits at the table with you, you get a perspective and you get experience and you have such a richer, more diverse opportunity to grow your product, to grow your service, whatever it is, because now you’re not looking at it with your blinders on. And so with diversity comes such a richer experience. And if you’re providing a richer experience in your development of your product, of your website, of whatever it is, then your users and your customers are getting a much better product and a much better service.

Allie (16:23):

Absolutely. I a hundred percent agree with that. And I would even add to that. I think we forget that diversity is about also doing the work, the consistent work to demystify certain perceptions and stereotypes and stigmas. Like from before: oh, in Europe, we don’t have any women in tech. Like that’s not true. It just isn’t. And for you to even put that out there is like taking all of this work and putting it a step backward.

So, and again, for like, for Women’s History Month for you to pat women on the head and say look how hard you work, look how talented you are. Yeah. I know. I work hard and I know I’m talented and I don’t need a cookie for that. Just hire me, just pay me the same.

Michelle (17:10):

I like cookies. I like tiaras, but I don’t need you.

Tokenization and Superpowers!

Allie (17:13):

Exactly. And then I think that’s the difference between tokenizing… Like people have asked me what’s the difference? What is tokenizing? Like what’s the difference between tokenizing someone and actually supporting diversity? Supporting diversity is not a one-time thing. Tokenizing is something that you do one time.

Think of how many times you’ve watched a TV show, even as a kid. And there’s a whole group of people and one woman, right? Like, think of like the Avengers, it’s like this whole group of men and then Black Widow. That’s tokenizing, it’s one person. But the diversity is consistently sowing the seeds of it and saying we can tell all of these different stories. We can involve all of these different people. And it’s not that these type of people are “special” people. Right. They’re just people.

Michelle (18:06):

You don’t have superpowers, Allie.

Allie (18:08):

I mean, I’ve wish!

Michelle (18:13):

I used to wish that my super power was that I didn’t need sleep. Cause I could be so much more productive if I never needed sleep. Like that’s a good superpower. Like if you’re going to pick a superpower, right. Like flying. Okay. That’s cool. Like super strength where you can just like punch through walls. Right. That’s all good. But think about the fact that if you didn’t need to sleep… I could do so much more!

Allie (18:35):

I love sleep!

Michelle (18:37):

You could if you wanted to, but you didn’t need it. I don’t know what you call that character. Like, you know, like it’s not Wonder Woman or like Batman or Superman. It’s like, Sleep Girl!

Allie (18:51):

The Caffeine Caper! But to latch on to what you said about superheroes, one of these days, we should definitely talk about this. There was this recent thing with the musical artist Sia. And she was like, Oh, we shouldn’t call disabled people disabled. Like we should call it special having “special abilities.”

Read: An actually autistic person response to Sia’s controversial new film Music

And like I’ve seen so many like Tik-Toks and videos where people are like, no, I am disabled. I don’t have super powers. We should definitely do a conversation on that because there’s so much I’ve learned about disabled versus other words and like how to frame that conversation. And that’s something – as an able-bodied person – I haven’t had that much experience with. And I’d love to learn more and talk more about that perspective.

Michelle (19:49):

Absolutely. It was like, my knees don’t work great. And I use a scooter, like you said, right. It doesn’t make me like scooter girl. I have a scooter, it is not a super power. Using a cane to get up and walk to the restroom, it doesn’t make me have superpowers. It means I stand up and I’m like, ah, man, my knees hurt. You know what I mean?

There’s no super strength in that, but overcoming that and not letting it hold you back. Yeah. That’s pretty awesome. It isn’t a superpower, but the determination and the strength to do those kinds of things absolutely should be applauded. And I think that that’s what some people mean when they say that, but the language people use is just so wrong.

There’s also right now, this thing about… it’s okay to be a slender person. I’ll tell people I’m an old fat chick. And they’re like, Oh, don’t call yourself that. I’m like, dude, do you see me? I’m a fat woman. And it’s okay. Like you don’t have to call me fat in a derogatory way.

Allie (20:48):

In and of itself as a word, it’s not an insult. It’s a noun/adjective.

Michelle (20:54):

Exactly. Like, you know, I got wings when I’m moving my arm. Like that’s fat, it’s adipose tissue. And it is what it is. And you know, if you call me a fat b*tch, that’s a different story altogether. But she’s an overweight woman. I don’t care. That’s true. It’s a statement. And it doesn’t hurt me.

We need to normalize those kinds of things. So then it’s not derogatory language that isn’t meant to be harmful in any way, shape or form.

Oh, I can’t wait for it to have so many conversations!

What’s next for us?

Allie (21:29):

And we should definitely say it if you’re watching and there’s anything that you want us to chat or to talk about, please let us know through our website or through social media. If there’s a topic that you want us to chat about, we would be really happy to do that.

Michelle (21:44):

Absolutely. We’re going to start vlogging on our site! I love that, I’ve never done a vlog before. I have a podcast, that’s a little different. So like we’re vlogging. This is pretty cool. And having conversations. And I think that our voices can represent a lot of people. But obviously we need to be careful about how we do that as well. I’m just really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on so many things as we work together.

Allie (22:12):

So yeah, we plan on releasing a new blog video like this one every Thursday or Friday on underrepresentedintech.com, So you can look for those, we’ll post them on social. We’ll probably email them out. There’ll be a whole thing.

Michelle (22:28):

Yep. We have a Twitter account! I’d follow us over there because we will be sharing a lot more there. Allie and I have lots of projects. Every Wednesday or almost every Wednesday I tweet out jobs that are available. We’ll retweet that from our brand. And also we tweet about underrepresented things that are happening.

And of course, use our website if you are an underrepresented person, we want to help you be found, go to our website, enter yourself in the database and let people find you. And it’s working. Allie, did you know that people are finding people in there?

Allie (23:12):

I’m really excited to start seeing testimonials and stuff like that. I should also say, if you are not an underrepresented person and you have a project and you would like that project to be more diverse, that’s why the database is there. For you to search it yourself. So if you find yourself thinking… should DM Michelle or Allie to see if they knew anybody that worked for this project, we do! They’re in the database. Save yourself the time and just go do a little search.

Michelle (23:41):

That’s right. Add yourself, if you know somebody that you think that they should have a bigger voice in the community, tell them about our site. Of course, it’s up to them to decide whether they want to be in there. Not everybody wants to be in a database. And that’s fine too. We’re not forcing anybody. And I’m not going to come to your house with my fork and push you to sign up.

But the whole idea is that we love you guys. I mean, we really love this community and it’s not perfect. And so there are ways for us to help make it a little bit better. And this is one of those ways.

Well, Allie, you know, I love you. I love the work we do together and I can’t wait to decide what we’re going to talk about next week. We don’t know what it is yet, but you know, y’all will be the first to know once we put it out there.

Allie (24:28):

Absolutely. We’ll see you then. Thanks for listening.