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Addressing Equity in Design, Product, and Research

When equality is not enough, how can we bring equity into the equation when it comes to matters of product, design, and research?

The month of May for Out in Tech featured a strong focus on the theme of Equity. The product community kicked off a string of events with Equity in Product, hosted by the UI/UX and Product Manager community of Out in Tech. The premise of the event was a discussion on what designers and product managers can do to address unconscious bias. Whether bias can inadvertently manifest in designing experiences that do not consider certain demographics, or if research fails to collect data from unrepresentative samples – there are a variety of issues that can arise when a product is not equitable to all groups. During our moderated discussion, our five amazing panelists touched on personal experience, their identity, and the processes they’ve gone through when creating equitable products.

Some actionable tips as a first start to considering equity in your work is to recognize who is and is not a part of your decision-making process. Panelist Jacob Hernandez, a senior product designer at LinkedIn, stressed the importance of creating a better sense of belonging at LinkedIn for a variety of audiences, which would be a strong pivot from LinkedIn original identity of white, white collar workers. They ask questions like “How do we address the default metrics?” And “What are the default cultures that we fall back on?” Many panelists also mentioned the importance of including the communities that we design for, a distinction made clear by juxtaposing “designing with” versus “designing for.” Only by shifting power and recognizing who has power can we lower the barrier to entry for certain platforms or communities that were once inaccessible.

Emily Denton, a research scientist at Google, mentioned that data can also be used for good. In the case of Data for Black Lives, the organization reimagines data to leverage help for communities. Bias can also exist in technical components and algorithms, which means awareness of power dynamics and inequality needs to be at every stage of the process.

By looking at data and metrics, you can create a strong case for adding equity into your design. (For more ideas, look to the Resources section of the blogpost for frameworks shared by our panelists.) In the chance that the case is not strong enough, panelist Jayesh Srivastava, Head of Design Strategy at CNN Digital, mentioned that the advantage of addressing underrepresented communities is also a strategic business decision. By being the forerunner in creating products and content for communities that are not the usual demographic, companies have the opportunity to tap into new audiences and build new relationships.

And lastly, our panelist Naome Jeanty, Research and Evaluation Director at Cardea, suggested that we look for organizations where the leadership reflects BIPOC representation, and also look out for white supremacy as a first step to gain awareness of how pervasive it is. They mentioned that grassroots organizations are incredibly valuable as a way to understand the groups they serve, and helping you make your work more equitable by building empathy.

To continue the work on equity, our panelists shared reading and resources:

Reading:

Resources:

Organizations:

We hope to see you at more of these type of events, and join our Slack to continue the conversation on equity. To see the rest of the events we have planned for the year and ways to get involved, check out the OIT Events page. Or, join our Slack directly to be a part of our 15,000+ member community!


About the Author:

Katherine Lu (she/her) is a freelance UX Designer and is the co-lead of the Out in Tech UI/UX committee.

We’re kicking off Pride month by celebrating troublemakers and building equity in tech through courage + conviction. Don’t miss out on the all-star Out in Tech Pride panel where you’ll learn what’s happening behind the scenes in the Zoom rooms where execs are making decisions that affect billions of people around the world, including queer and trans customers and audiences.

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