Guest post: This post was written by my dear friend Flavia Weisghizzi, that many years ago introduced me, and the world of Italian communities, to the whole concept of Code of Conduct during a community leaders summit in Rome. Here (https://events.codemotion.com/conferences/milan/2019/code-of-conduct/), you can find the Code of Conduct of one of the events that Flavia helped to organize.
Not later than last week, while I was in the office, one of my colleagues started speaking against the Code of Conduct we proudly have in our events and our Diversity and Inclusion policy.
The company for whom I work, in fact, organizes tech events around Europe, and we actively work to increase and support the participation of underrepresented groups as speakers and attendees.
Starting from the point that the largest minority in the Tech world is represented by women, the point of view of my colleague was simply: women are skilled enough to be able to propose a talk in our CFP and being selected; they don’t need to be “overprotected”.
That’s is perfectly fine in a perfect world, a world that will not take into count the cultural bias women are facing every day. Still, the first step to increase the engagement of the women and underrepresented groups you need to build a safe and welcoming environment. This is why we all need a Code of Conduct.
DO’S AND DON’TS OF A CODE OF CONDUCT
A Code of Conduct is not to be intended as a magic spell that resolves the issue, but for sure it helps emphasize the goal of fostering a technology community that accepts and promotes diversity: it helps to establish an inclusive culture, but it is not a comprehensive solution on its own.
The Code of Conduct defines and sets some clear ruled to be shared, that clarify an organization’s mission, values, and principles: its most significant goal is to improve the communication processes and the relations in a single event as well as in an offline or online community.
According to Geek Feminism, important elements of an effective code of conduct include:
- Specific descriptions of typical but unacceptable behavior (sexist jokes, etc.)
- Reporting instructions with contact information
- Information about how it may be enforced
- A clear demarcation between unacceptable behavior (which may be reported per the reporting instructions and may have severe consequences for the perpetrator) and community guidelines such as general disagreement resolution.
That implies that a Code of Conduct has a “theoretical” part – the declaration of vision and intents – but it needs to consider also some practical guidelines in the unpleasant – but unfortunately not uncommon – case an inconvenience would actually happen.
LAST TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL CODE OF CONDUCT APPLICATION
I will never get tired of saying that a Code of Conduct is a tool to ensure and improve diversity through the dialogue, not a blackboard to write up the good, the bad and the ugly guys, it intends to be much more a bridge than a gun, which means that the more we are open to listening to the eventual complain and take action if needed, the less we incur in misuse and misunderstanding.
If someone during your event or in your community complains about something, always ask details, and first thing, try to talk to the person who breaks the code of conduct and inform them of their bad behavior. Should they be a speaker, an attendee or a member of your staff or your community, you should never forget that cultural mismatches are just around the corner: they can’t be tolerated in any way, but sometimes need to be clarified.
“We do not need to choose between good people and good code; if we foster a good community, good code will follow.” (Mx Kas Perch).
p.s. if you are going to write a code of conduct for your event/community, feel free to get inspired here: https://adainitiative.org/2014/02/18/howto-design-a-code-of-conduct-for-your-community/