I do think genuine interest is important, though. If my dad had sat me down in front of the computer and told me to configure a webserver when I was 12, I don’t think I’d be interested in computer science. Instead, my parents gave me a lot of free reign to do what I wanted, which was mostly coding terrible little HTML sites for my Neopets. Neither of my younger sisters are interested in engineering or computer science, and my parents don’t care. I’m really lucky my parents have given me and my sisters the encouragement and resources to explore our interests.
Still, I grew up saying my future career would be “like my dad’s”—even when I didn’t know what he did. He has a pretty cool job. Also, one time when I was in middle school, I told him that and he got a little choked up and said I wouldn’t think that in high school. So I guess that motivated me a bit.
We did the same thing: no pressure on our kids to follow particular career paths, but rather to do what made them happy. Unlike Torvalds, though, none of my kids decided to follow my particular career, not one. No biologists among my children. But they are being themselves and doing what interests them, which is what matters.
But it was this quote that made me happy — someone really gets it.
I also think that some community leaders just don’t value diversity. It’s really easy to argue that tech is a meritocracy, and the reason there are so few marginalized people in tech is just that they aren’t interested, and that the problem comes from earlier on in the pipeline. They argue that if someone is good enough at their job, their gender or race or sexual orientation doesn’t matter. That’s the easy argument. But I was raised not to make excuses for mistakes. And I think the lack of diversity is a mistake, and that we should be taking responsibility for it and actively trying to make it better.
I see a lot of that. The easy path is to ignore the problem, or pretend it’s someone else’s fault, and pretend that you can ignore it all.
Of course, the other phenomenon I see is a lot of people blaming the victims and actively fighting hard to oppose improvements in the situation.