One Thing to Enhance Maker Diversity

One Thing to Enhance Maker Diversity

This week, we have another post from our Fifth Monday series, in which the MakerBridge bloggers write on the same topic. In this post, we answer the question, “What is one thing you’d like the maker community to do or focus on in order to enhance diversity?”


I’d like to see everyone–myself included–start questioning the maker activities we attend or hear about that don’t promote diversity. And I don’t just mean making sure that everyone says, “Yay, diversity!” at least once during every talk or article, or that every panel discussion has a token minority representative on it. I mean that we should be making noise every time we see a maker panel that doesn’t feature multiple types of diversity. We should be full on getting ourselves in the news with the noise we’re making.


Look at the splash #WeNeedDiverseBooks made earlier this month. Did they solve the problem of the all-white, mostly male panel headlining BookCon?  No, but they did get another panel created that focused on diversity, and they got so much publicity that I will be surprised if next year’s BookCon doesn’t go out of its way to be more inclusive with its main lineup.


Makers need to be doing that, too. We need to be so vocal that people can’t help but to hear that we need to highlight diverse makers.


To do that, we also need to recognize those diverse makers when we see them. I know a lot of people have said this before, but it bears repeating: Not every maker will be messing with electronics and using a 3D printer!  I mentioned in a previous post how much I loved Leah Buechley’s message here, part of which is that we’ll find much more diverse makers if we remind ourselves of how many diverse types of making there are. Makers are already diverse. We need to make it clear that the Maker Movement welcomes and celebrates that diversity. And one way to do that is to make lots of noise when we see places we need to improve. 


Diversity quilt by Flickr user oregondot


My advice is to populate your makerspace with multiple types of activities that send welcoming cues to multiple types of people. For example, try planning a robotics work time at the same time as a floral arranging class — they’ll draw in two different kinds of people, and there could be some interesting (and literal?) cross-pollination. I’ve noticed this in our own maker work and also heard about this from maker participants. Recently, a woman told me a story about going to her library makerspace. She looked in the room and saw a bunch of wires and components. “Oh, that’s scary. That’s not for me,” she said, turning to leave. Then she saw a pincushion and a pair of scissors sitting on the table. “Wait a minute. I could do that,” she said. And she stayed … and even dabbled with the circuits! 



One thing I would really love to see to help increase diversity would be clear codes of conduct/anti-harassment policies for makerspaces, maker faires, workshops, and any other space or event where makers gather. This has been a big topic recently in the world of comic/sci fi/general geek conventions, and author John Scalzi has made a point to speak on it. It is an unfortunate truth that minorities (women, people of color, LGBTQ people, etc.) face harassment, sexism, racism, homophobia, and other situations that introduce fear or danger into otherwise pleasant activities. Developing and publicizing policies to combat these issues can help makers who fall into these groups to feel safe, respected, and accepted by the community as a whole. This can go a long way to improving and encouraging diversity in the maker movement. It is especially helpful to post these policies on websites, promotional materials, and so on, allowing potential makerspace members or maker faire attendees to know beforehand they will be entering a safe space.

Although you may feel it is obvious you won’t tolerate attacks on minorities, it’s important to set down clearly what constitues as inappropriate behavior and what the consequences will be in the event of a policy violation. A written policy can be enormously reassuring and welcoming to new makers. For some good resources and examples of how to devise this type of policy, check out Geek Feminism Wiki’s page on Conference anti-harassment, the Lone Star 3 convention’s Code of Conduct, and the Wikimedia Foundation’s Friendly Space Policy.

Do you have a different answer to this question? Want to add someting we didn’t think of? Let us know in the comments or tweet at us!


Image Credit: “Diversity Mask” by Flickr user George A. Spiva Center for the Arts

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