Cassidy Williams

Software Engineer in Chicago

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The positives coming from the negatives

There’s this great poem that my mother shared with me recently, called “If” by Rudyard Kipling.

If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise … If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings — nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!

This struck me as such a wise way of thinking and has really influenced me recently. That last line isn’t lost on me, by the way. I understand that the author was writing to all young men and women.

Anyway, over the past several months, I’ve been bothered online with fake profiles made of/about me across several networks, and I’ve been sent anonymous messages to my personal phone and email. I had tried tracking them down and trying to figure out why without success.

It all culminated this past weekend at the hackathon MHacks, in which someone in these anonymous messages finally gave me an answer and said, “Some people are upset at you for your feminist influence.”

At first, I admit, I was upset. Yes, I had called people out for saying inappropriate things towards women, and I would share articles that were pro-women-in-tech. But I simply couldn’t understand why a group would be so bothered by those things, that they had to try and make me feel unsafe and vulnerable.

But this post isn’t about them. This is about the positive outcome.

The hackathon community’s response to the negativity over the weekend has been wonderful. People have donated to the Anita Borg Institute. People have been sending myself and other females in tech such positive, encouraging messages. There’s a giant thread going (literally hundreds of interactions) of people proclaiming their appreciation of their female tech role models. There’s unity in the community against the negativity, and I love it.

There’s always going to be trolls on the internet who aren’t happy about something you’re doing or saying. Unfortunately, this is especially true for women. But that doesn’t mean you stop.

”The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good [people] do nothing.” — Edmund Burke

This weekend further opened my eyes to the needs of the community. Female (and other minority) role models have been silenced for long enough. It’s time to encourage them and finally make tech more inclusive. I don’t expect changes to happen overnight. Like one of my brilliant mentors Rane Johnson-Stempson told me, “Life is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Here’s some steps that you can take right now.

Support a diversity organization or community. When I say, “support,” I don’t necessarily mean monetarily. You could volunteer for the group, join them at an event, or simply tweet about what they’re doing. There’s so many of them out there. A few of my favorites include:

Tell someone that they’re doing a good job. Sure, this is a small, simple task. But all of us can think of someone that is working in this field who is supportive and positive. A simple note of encouragement can go very far.

And finally, don’t stop talking. Make people aware of the negatives, and shower them with the positives. Call people out when they’re in the wrong, and help them be in the right. If someone is telling you to take down a feminist post, or to shut up about issues in the workplace, or to keep quiet about something inappropriate happening around you: Don’t.

”The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.” — Walter Bagehot

Let’s build a better community right now. It starts with you!

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