Missing Voices – Under Representation in Design & Tech

The Problem Space
Companies and institutions are increasingly strengthening their efforts to acquire talent from a variety of backgrounds. Often, the number of different nationalities present or the number of different languages spoken within the company (or design team) garners pride and positive attention. However, studies show that the retention rates of under-represented people in the tech sector are extremely low. Even after the talent is acquired, it is often not sustained. This gap offers an opportunity for designers (and others) to confront the uncomfortable realities faced by many under-represented people and engage in vulnerable discussions to shift the norm which, intentionally or unintentionally, excludes groups of people.

 

The Concept
Missing Voices centers the narratives of under-represented people in the design and tech sector, particularly as they share their perspectives on the hot topic of “Diversity and Inclusion” in the workplace. What are the real life experiences and narratives of people who identify as under represented as they navigate a majority white, majority cis-male field? Could “Diversity and Inclusion” practices in the workplace be different if these narratives were at the forefront of the discussion? How can we move beyond talking about “diversity” and move towards talking about fair representation?

 

How It Works
Missing Voices is a series of audio clips from interviews that I’ve done with POC / WOC (People of Color and Women of Color) in the tech and design sector, who share their experiences navigating work spaces as an under-represented individual, often encountering spaces where no one else looks like them. Interviewees include: Interaction Designers, Design Researchers, VR Developers, UI Designers, Public Speakers, and Machine Learning experts.

 

To activate an audio clip:
– Pull out a race card from the stack of “Race Cards”. You will see a quote on the front. This is a quote that may sound benign to some and problematic to others. The perception varies greatly.
– Place the card of your choice into the device.
– A randomized audio clip from a person I interviewed will play, related to the quote that is on the card.

 

Reflections
What started as a project investigating bias in every-day products (ex: accent recognition) evolved into a project looking into how structural inequalities influence communication between people. This project is a work in progress, not a solution. It offers an opportunity to stop & listen to someone’s story.

 

If you identify as POC / WOC / GNC / Trans, this project is about amplifying your experience and your perspectives on what can make for an inclusive sector. If you’d like to be a part of the project, I would love your collaboration. Feel free to reach out at f.azad@edu.ciid.dk

STUDENTS