Episode 1 of the rebooted Genesis Community Livecast kicked off Tuesday with an important topic at hand: contributions members of the Black community have made to WordPress and Genesis, as well as the significant challenges they and other people of color continue to face within these respective developer communities.
Brian Kenney, who leads Management Development at WP Engine, and who serves on WP Engine’s Represents employee resource group, joined David Vogelpohl, who leads Genesis efforts at WP Engine, to facilitate the discussion, which included WordPress co-creator Mike Little, and Genesis community leaders Anita Carter and Sandee Jackson.
Throughout the hour-long conversation, which you can view here, much of the focus was on visibility—the lack of visibility members of the Black community currently experience in WordPress and Genesis, as well as the role increased visibility will play in helping the next generation of WordPress developers be more inclusive.
This came to the fore early on, when the guests were asked about Black thought leaders in the WordPress and Genesis communities.
“For me, it’s been more about people who have inspired me, and when I first got started, the first person who inspired me was Mike,” Anita said, referring to Mike Little.
“I’ve known for a long time that Mike was a co-creator of WordPress and when I saw him, I felt like, oh, he’s like me, I could probably do well with this too,” she added, touching on the theme of visibility.
Mike responded, saying the question was, unfortunately, a difficult one for him.
“It’s definitely a hard question to answer,” he said. “I don’t consider myself a leader in the WordPress community, and I do find that Black people in the WordPress community aren’t hugely visible…I struggle to pinpoint anyone I’d consider as a leader, which, now that you’ve asked it, feels disappointing.”
Sandee echoed Mike’s sentiments, saying, “I can think of lots of WordPress thought leaders, not Black thought leaders, though.”
Later on, she also summarized why it was important to see more Black people in those roles.
“We cannot be what we cannot see,” she said. “We have to see people who look like us, doing all the things, even the things we don’t know that we might want to do one day.”
Mike had similar thoughts, saying, “it can be a huge thing actually, seeing someone who looks like you in a position that you might consider for a career choice or community to join…it really makes a difference, especially for younger generations. It gives them that permission to say oh, I could be part of that community. Where so many things that they encounter day-to-day, in their ordinary life, don’t have that representation, I think it’s vital.”
With the acknowledgment that more needs to be done to further opportunities for members of the Black community and other people of color in the WordPress and Genesis communities, the conversation shifted to action: How can the next generation of WordPress coders and developers be more diverse?
While organizations like Black Girls Code were mentioned as positive initiatives, all three guests agreed that there was not enough WordPress-specific focus on reaching younger people who might be interested in technology and web design.
“It’s easy to endorse but harder to engage,” Brian said, before asking for specific recommendations that might help increase representation from the Black community in WordPress and Genesis. One of the most practical answers? WordCamps.
“When we’re able to come together as a group again, it will be important to have different types of training and presentations at WordCamps with different speakers,” Anita said. “Finding younger, WordPress developers who might be Black to be on those panels, where they’re seen, will go a long way, and it goes back to increasing visibility.”
Check out the full conversation here, which is full of additional insights and more information about ongoing diversity efforts in the WordPress and Genesis communities, as well as additional ways to help foster greater representation from the Black community in both.