Many, many years ago I was in the “I don’t want women/PoC/minorities quotas in Tech. That’s not needed. After all, this is a meritocracy, so if you’re good at programming that’s all that counts”.
Boy was I wrong…
It’s a meritocracy if you don’t feel attacked. If you feel safe. If you can be yourself. If you don’t have to waste that much time/energy pretending to be a different person. If you don’t hate going to the bathroom and finding someone else inside.
Let me explain this with a personal example. I’m getting older. I’ll be 47 soon. I see all these “dynamic and young teams with added emoji” job offers and cringe. Will I be accepted there? My hair (well, the remains of it) is gray now. Should I pretend to be “younger”? Get a hair implant? Shave it and go full The-Rock-but-without-any-of-the-muscle? Lose weight? (I know, good for my health but in this case just to look fit). Trendy outfits?
No, I’ll look ridicuous pretending to be in my 20s. But then, will I get the job? Will they fire me? Will they think this old dog can’t learn new tricks?
Also, I’m no native English speaker. Is there any bias against people that systematically butcher English every other day? I’m Spaniard. More bias? I tell terrible Dad jokes. Also pretty bad at foosball or ping-pong…
Get the idea? You have the right to be you and nobody should think differently of you because of how you look, or who you are.
Of course, bias is a natural way of cataloging people. You have predefined mental ideas of what a programmer should be, stereotypes about people from different cultures. I find this natural: you need some way to manage complexity. But don’t let that bias affect you: every time you meet someone outside your “social comfort zone”, observe your mind. Be mindful. Correct your views. Be a better person.
And no, I don’t pretend to be an Ally, or someone cool. Think harder, and you’ll find someone is also excluding you for some reason. Then don’t be that person.