How to Increase Diversity in the Field of Technical and Professional Communications

Room 42 is where practitioners and academics meet to share knowledge about breaking research. In this episode, Chris Dayley explains how increasing diversity in the field helps technical communication as a profession.

Season 1 Episode 15 | 45 min

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Transcript (Expand to View)

[00:00:12.610] – Liz Fraley

Good morning, everyone, welcome to Room 42. I’m Liz Fraley from Single-Sourcing Solutions, and I’m your moderator. This is Janice Summers our interviewer and welcome too Chris Dayley, today’s guest on room 42. Chris is an assistant professor of English and Director of the Master of Arts and Technical Communication Program at Texas State University. He’s got over 13 years of professional experience in higher ed and his scholarly work has been in Technical Communication Quarterly, Programmatic Perspectives and other Journals. His research focuses on issues of social justice, with a specific emphasis on diversity and inclusion in technical communication and professional communication academic programs. Today, he’s here to help us start answering the question how does diversity in the field affect profession– Help techcomm as a profession. That’s part of it.

[00:01:05.730] – Janice Summers

We’re here to talk about diversity in our field. Boom!

[00:01:09.980] – Liz Fraley

Right.

[00:01:11.640] – Janice Summers

So welcome Chris, very, very excited to have you here, and I’m really thrilled to hear your perspective on this topic. I think it’s an important topic that I know almost everybody that I’ve ever talked to in the field is super interested in and wants more diversity. Where are we at right now? You’re coming from academia, so how does it look right now as far as diversity, how are we doing?

[00:01:40.870] – Chris Dayley

So, well, as a field as a whole, the field as a whole, we’re talking about just are we diverse? I mean, not really. In some places more than others, but this idea of diversity and talking about diversity and trying to increase diversity and inclusion as well, this discussion is still relatively new, you know, for a long, long time, technical communication was considered just a very formulaic, pragmatic type of thing, you know.

[00:02:26.060] – Janice Summers

Right.

[00:02:26.300] – Chris Dayley

And, looking at the history of it, we’re thinking about, OK, this is just a very objective type of writing and as technical communicators started thinking about, okay, this is actually more humanistic, you know, the rhetoric comes into play, sometimes the technical communication, ideas started to form and change,  and now we’re starting to talk about, okay, how does this– How do we think of technical communication in terms of diversity and inclusion? And honestly, one of the best things about technical communication in my mind is that it’s a really good place for these kind of issues, for social justice, diversity and things like that, because as technical communicators, we are always thinking about our end users, right, our audience.

[00:03:18.800] – Janice Summers

Yeah.

[00:03:19.640] – Chris Dayley

So, we’re always thinking about how we empathize with people, really.

[00:03:23.930] – Janice Summers

Right, right.

[00:03:25.220] – Chris Dayley

OK, go ahead, sorry.

[00:03:26.450] – Janice Summers

No, I was just saying, right, right. I was agreeing with you.

[00:03:30.320] – Chris Dayley

Yeah. And I think that’s so awesome, like we think about okay, what’s the user situation, how might they think differently, and then we design solutions for that, we design communication for that. So when we’re addressing issues of discrimination and exclusion, you know, you have to think from another person’s point of view. And I think that’s really key, right. So we were talking about earlier before we started the broadcast, how we as technical communicators will be in a situation where we’re trained to listen first, right. Listen to that subject matter expert, fully understand what they’re saying, process it, ask clarifying questions, and then we take action. {inaudible}. And that’s, you know, so to me, that’s why technical communication is such a great place for this. So now that we’ve started really talking about these issues and taking them seriously, I mean, I think technical communicators can really contribute in a big way to issues of diversity and inclusion.

[00:04:38.480] – Janice Summers

I agree with you because it’s funny, because it comes to that old question when you ask people who are not in the discipline, what do tech writers do? right, I run into this with other people that aren’t in this sphere, and I’m like, well, have you ever read instructions? Have you ever had a manual like, oh, yeah, I have that okay there’s a technical writer behind all of this. And now you’re add in professional writers and they touch every aspect, and so many aspects of our lives, in professional lives and in our personal lives, they interact with us. And you brought up another good point in that, the evolution of the field went from just this archaic view, very stagnant to now, you’re infusing psychology, sociology, all the humanistic studies into a technical writer. It touches everything.

[00:05:40.120] – Chris Dayley

Yeah, yeah, and technical communicators have power, and I don’t know that people think about that a lot, but when you create documents and things, you know, you’re influencing people

[00:05:54.280] – Janice Summers

Right?

[00:05:55.500] – Chris Dayley

So, it’s incredibly influential field that people often don’t think about.

[00:06:02.980] – Janice Summers

Right. It’s that subtle energy that’s in the background that is just quiet and persistent.

[00:06:10.540] – Chris Dayley

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly.

[00:06:12.510] – Janice Summers

Now, how long have we been talking about diversity it’s fairly recent, which is– I think it’s fantastic that we’re starting to focus on that, but how long would you say that’s been?

[00:06:26.680] – Chris Dayley

So in academia, the earliest mentions that we get about diversity and inclusion come probably from the early, you know, 2007-8 or so people start talking about it in conferences. And then around 2011, you start to get published research papers talking about diversity in the field. So, I mean, that’s a long, I guess that’s a long time ago now, like more than a decade. But in terms of, you know, research and talking about a subject, it’s not very long, and then only in the past few, five-ish or so years has it really, at least in my sphere, started to take off and become a legitimate like, we’re starting to have people that will join academic departments in their research field is social justice or diversity and inclusion as a research field. So just the past few years, has that even been really– Could you even really go on the academic job market and say I research diversity and inclusion in technical communication?

[00:07:45.840] – Janice Summers

That’s I think a very admirable evolution. And now how is it that– How do we change what we’re doing? How do you change what you’re doing in academia to become more diverse and more inclusive?

[00:07:59.720] – Chris Dayley

Yeah, so–

[00:08:01.460] – Janice Summers

Doesn’t it start there, I think that’s one of the things you were telling me is like, you know, if we want more diversity and inclusion out there in the workforce for professionals, we have to kind of start academia too you know, we have to mind our own house and be more diverse and inclusive at this level. How do you do that?

[00:08:19.580] – Chris Dayley

Yeah, because so almost all of you out there have a college degree, you know, and one of the things about higher education, really, is that, higher education is built on exclusion, so, I mean, originally it was built just for rich white guys. That was that was the original group of people that were in colleges and universities, but, you know, colleges evolved and the point of having research universities is, you know, new ideas and new thought, but some of these old systems remained in place. So even as colleges and universities have evolved to say now they’re very interested in inclusion, right, what they’re interested in is diversity mainly. So there’s– I should say that there’s a difference, you know, diversity just means people from different backgrounds. And so but what we’re seeing in higher education is that the gap is starting to close for number of students, say people of color entering into higher education institutions. But that gap closing– But with that gap closing, what we’re seeing is that much fewer of them end up graduating. So the gap, the persistence gap is wide, and what we think is happening has to do with inclusion.

[00:09:57.470] – Chris Dayley

Yeah. So when we’re talking about–

[00:10:00.560] – Janice Summers

We can’t just stop at diversity.

[00:10:02.010] – Chris Dayley

Yeah, right, exactly. So, like colleges and universities think about diversity in their communication all the time. We see it constantly. So when you look at a college recruitment brochure, you have the thing where they say in higher ed marketing they’ll still say three and a tree , right, so you have three diverse faces in some campus greenery in the background, you know, but you’ll show these images of diverse students. It does a couple of things, first of all, it’s PR right, it shows that we are interested in diversity.

[00:10:40.830] – Janice Summers

Right.

[00:10:41.520] – Chris Dayley

And so that’s for the public. And then also, I think most colleges hope that it will help attract a diverse group of applicants.

[00:10:50.790] – Janice Summers

Right, because if I can see myself in the picture, then I feel like I could achieve something there. That’s a common phenomena, yeah.

[00:10:59.760] – Chris Dayley

Yeah. But it’s so much more complicated because, say if I’m a prospective student and I’m black and I see on this brochure, oh, there’s black people at this school, and then I show up and all of a sudden I’m like, where are the black people? And then that person becomes the person on the front of the brochure, you know, so it’s become this hard ethical question of are we– Is it okay to show diversity because we’re trying to attract a more diverse group of students, even if it misrepresents? You know, that’s kind of a technical communication, ethical question. Even if we’re misrepresenting how much diversity is at the university, is it okay because ultimately we’re helping these people or ultimately we’re trying to meet the mission statement of the university. So, yeah, that’s a big question. Sorry, I got a little off-topic.

[00:12:03.060] – Liz Fraley

No, it’s a good one.

[00:12:04.320] – Janice Summers

It is a good one. Because what do you do? It’s the chicken and the egg

[00:12:08.850] – Chris Dayley

Yeah, yes, yes, yes. Absolutely.

[00:12:13.140] – Liz Fraley

One of the things that solidified it for me, like, in a way that it hadn’t before was someone was telling me about hiring practices on offshore oil rig platforms and they hire in a cluster because if you’re the only woman on the platform, you can’t go to anyone and say, hey, you got a tampon, right? You’re the only one there. So there is a sense to you can’t just have one, right, you need to have– Inclusion means having a community people can go into also.

[00:12:42.140] – Chris Dayley

Yeah, yeah, and so that’s one issue, and we’re thinking about how we’re communicating with people, you know, how much are we thinking about how honest we’re being with that, but like you know so, I guess I kind of want to go back a little bit to universities and this idea of exclusion, because the university gets prestige from excluding as many people as possible. So if you’re Harvard, you’re going to say we only accepted seven percent of our applications, aren’t we incredible? You know, but the idea of a merit-based admissions process where you’re looking at a student holistically that comes from the idea of higher education had that idea back when they were trying to exclude Jewish people.

[00:13:32.370] – Chris Dayley

They were trying to say, like, we’re trying to keep people out, so we’re going to have merit-based admissions so that we don’t have an objective admissions process. But now we do merit-based admissions based on the idea that we’re trying to be totally you know, we’re trying to be as objective as possible and include as many people as possible, but, what do we look at when we try and bring someone in through a merit-based admissions process? You know, well they need to have extracurricular activities or they need to score a certain number on a standardized test or they need to take AP courses or all these different things. And all of those things exclude people that are not from, you know, the traditional middle and upper-class white background.

[00:14:22.030] – Liz Fraley

Yeah, I was going to say, what is merit-based mean when it starts from a position of inequality or inequity, right? When you don’t have time to be able to do 18 different extracurriculars and do AP classes because they’re not offered to your school.

[00:14:39.060] – Chris Dayley

Yeah, exactly. And I think, you know, and so then when that happens, the admissions officers are the ones that bring in the students and then the techcomm program just kind of has to get what we get. So when you’re at a university and you’re trying to get– And you’re a technical communication program, and you’re trying to get more diverse students. You’re at the mercy of that admissions office. But where I think technical communicators could really be valuable in this process is we can start talking to and working with admissions officers from the point of view of technical and professional communication. And we can say, hey, look, the way that you’re communicating with students and your process for doing this could be better. You’re not thinking about your end user. You’re thinking about what everyone’s always done forever or you’re thinking about the institutional mission or things like that.

[00:15:39.870] – Janice Summers

So one of the ways to make improvements, because you have to start with that diversity, right? Is to be involved as a department, to be involved in the recruitment process, and in that very first aspect of how you promote and recruit people in and receive applicants. So if you’re involved in that, then you can make a change on how they accept a more diverse audience that would be interested in your department, right? Is that what you’re saying?

[00:16:12.930] – Chris Dayley

Yeah. Yes–

[00:16:15.060] – Janice Summers

So in the commercial world, recruiting is also the same thing, it’s exclusionary, right? So I think that directly translates to people who are trying to staff or hire a diverse group is they need to be involved with their marketing department and their human resources department, and they need to help shape how recruitment is done so that it attracts diverse people. And I think in the commercial world, you have even more influence in that recruitment process because recruiters like to fill the jobs that you need. So I think what you’re saying should resonate really clear with anyone who’s out there in the world as a practitioner right now and trying to hire and recruit the same thing so go on. I just want to make that leap for people. So they understood because, you know, I’ve been in that department, a commercial world in the recruitment department, so I can tell you. Yeah.

[00:17:19.360] – Chris Dayley

Yeah, and I think and I don’t know if this also translates, but one thing in higher education is that probably a lot of you can relate to people don’t come to the university saying I’m going to study technical communication like that– Most or probably almost all of you fell into it somehow by accident, just like me.

[00:17:42.110] – Janice Summers

Yes.

[00:17:43.280] – Chris Dayley

And so we’re constantly trying to go into English classes and say, hey, you want to actually make money when you graduate or trying to go into, like, science classes and be like, hey, you hate math, but like science?

[00:18:00.110] – Janice Summers

Right. Come to our department, you’ll have a home.

[00:18:08.210] – Liz Fraley

But exposure is part of it, yeah.

[00:18:11.190] – Janice Summers and Chris Dayley

Yeah.

[00:18:12.380] – Chris Dayley

So as we start working with the recruiters, you know, and start saying, hey, check out the cool, great opportunities over here in our department, because I worked as an admission counselor for a few years, that was my first job in higher ed. Lots of times people would come into my office and be like, what should I study?

[00:18:31.790] – Janice Summers

I don’t know what to do.

[00:18:31.790] – Chris Dayley

Yeah, I don’t know what to do.

[00:18:33.350] – Janice Summers

I don’t know what to do.

[00:18:35.240] – Chris Dayley

I mean, like, what are you interested in, and someone was like, I really like writing, you know, and I’m interested in science and stuff like that, and I would never have said, hey, technical writing, because I didn’t know what it was.

[00:18:52.640] – Liz Fraley

 This really cool field

[00:18:54.830] – Chris Dayley

But we can start doing that, you know.

[00:18:57.470] – Janice Summers

Yeah.

[00:18:58.310] – Chris Dayley

I went into– When I came to Texas State, I went into our admissions office and I said, hey, can I take a tour of campus? Yeah, great. And I talked to the recruiter and the staff and I was like, hey, this is what I do. This is my department, you know, send people to me, I’d love to talk to them and hopefully we’ll get more people in the field that way.

[00:19:17.280] – Janice Summers

Yeah.

[00:19:19.740] – Chris Dayley

But I think when we’re talking about recruiting and bringing in diverse, a diverse group of people, one of the most important things is having diverse voices in our decision making processes.

[00:19:34.560] – Janice Summers

Yeah. I think that second step is– Okay, so now you’ve been successful, you’ve got some diverse people, now you have to include them, right? That’s the inclusionary part as you can’t just stop a diversity, you have to look at inclusion. So go on.

[00:19:54.950] – Chris Dayley

Yeah, yeah, exactly. So, you know, just talking to people and asking them what they think, what we should be doing and including them in the way we make decisions is such an important thing, and one of the hardest things to do is to not try and bring people in and sort of normalize them or sort of get them into the mainstream, so one of the things that we do in academia really well, but it’s a problem, is that people will come in and will say, this is how you do the thing, you know. This is how you do class, this is how you write, this is how you create this type of document or genre, and then we don’t– And when someone doesn’t do it that way, then we correct them. That’s kind of how we grade another. That’s totally wrong, because you have to know how to write a proposal, you know.

[00:20:58.300] – Janice Summers

Right.

[00:20:58.720] – Chris Dayley

There’s certain conventions and stuff like that, but I think that there’s also room to bring in other ideas. So like an example would be there’s another professor who I know her name is Temptaous Mckoy and she’s at Bowie State University. I think I’ve talked to you all about her before, but she– When she was writing her dissertation, you know, she asked, well, can I do a digital chapter? And they were like, I don’t know, I don’t know, and they let her do a digital chapter for her dissertation, and then a lot of her dissertation, not all, but a big part of it is written in African-American vernacular, English. And so, when you read it, you know, her dissertation is about, ways that– It’s about something called Trap Karaoke, but it’s a very like, you should look it up when you all have a chance, because I’m not going to do it justice if I try and explain it.

[00:22:09.430] – Janice Summers

So we’ll look up the definition of Trap Karaoke later.

[00:22:13.240] – Chris Dayley

Trap karaoke and the way that’s a form of communication, you know, and so the use of African-American vernacular English and then the use of a digital chapter makes it so much better. It really conveys what that is, what trap karaoke is, the culture around it, how it works and her committee was so impressed with them because they let her do it that way instead of saying that’s not what a dissertation is, or instead of saying, you know what, you know, if you want to be taken seriously, you’re going to need to write your dissertation this way. And they said, you know what, why don’t you– Let’s try it out, let’s do it this different way, and it was, of course, just as rigorous and just as much theoretical foundation, everything you need in a dissertation. But it was done with inclusion in mind, which I thought was very impressive.

[00:23:18.150] – Janice Summers

Which I mean, that’s kind of why we want diversity in the first place, is to get these different perspectives. That’s what adds the richness to the fabric, is all of these different opinions and perspectives and backgrounds that makes us stronger at communication. So I think you bring up a good point. If you’re just looking at diversity, then you’re not looking at the full spectrum you need– You’re stopping short and it’s doomed right, it’s destined to failure. It could be why you get a lot of diversity coming into the department and then they don’t make it all the way through.

[00:23:58.500] – Chris Dayley

Yeah, one of the things that I’m finding in the research that I’m doing is students will come into the University and then they have– Only one of two things usually happens, and this is probably an oversimplification of course but if you’re not from the white, middle and upper class sort of social norm, then you either come into the academic department and you adapt and you sort of make yourself part of that and you just figure out a way to make it work or you leave because you can’t adapt.

[00:24:33.330] – Chris Dayley

So like one example I have is that I was interviewing a student and she’s part white and part Native American. So she looks white or they say she presents as white. And she was in a computer lab late at night and she was telling me about how there were a couple of students in there that made a racist joke about Native Americans. And she was telling me this as kind of an afterthought, like she just blew it off. She was like it wasn’t really a big deal because I had asked her, well, were there any things that happened in your time and your degree program related to your race that were difficult or made it difficult to participate in the program, and at first she was like, no, not really, it was fine, everything was fine, and she was like, I guess, you know, this one thing happened, but it wasn’t really a big deal. But when she was telling me the story, I could tell it was kind of a big deal.

[00:25:32.649] – Janice Summers

It was a big deal.

[00:25:33.270] – Chris Dayley

But she didn’t say anything to them and she didn’t do anything. Because she was trying to just survive and graduate, you know, and some people survive and graduate and some people drop out, but that shouldn’t be– People shouldn’t be just showing up to our programs and just surviving and getting through. They should be coming in and thriving and being enriched and encouraged so that when they come out to the field, you know, they’ve got ideas and they’re excited and they want to contribute. Not that they’re beat down and resigned to sitting at a desk and doing just what they are told.

[00:26:09.310] – Janice Summers

Let me just survive the job. Let me just get my paycheck, you know, so then how can we be better? How can we be better because you work hard, you want to include people, you want to get a diverse group, you recruit diverse group. How can you be better to make sure that they’re at the end when you’re like in the commercial where we have this thing called an exit interview right, you have those in academia where you’re doing the finishing and they’re leaving, so you want their thoughts then you start preparing more questions, did anything go wrong? Like maybe we could do that earlier. I don’t know.

[00:26:54.440] – Chris Dayley

You could, and one of the hardest things that I’m finding, though, is that when you talk to somebody and you say, hey, do your program directors, do they support diversity? They’ll always be like, yeah, they do. How are we doing with inclusion, is everything good? Yeah, everything’s good. So I get some people who say, oh yeah, there’s a problem and this was the problem. But the majority of students that I interview will say, no, there was no problems or issues. So–

[00:27:33.910] – Janice Summers

Right.

[00:27:35.410] – Chris Dayley

But so I think what we have to do, and we’re still learning about this, of course, and nobody’s perfect at this and I haven’t seen a perfect formula, but it’s really important to be very intentional about it and to say we are going to be intentional about being inclusive. Like instead of being reactionary and kind of saying,  asking people, you know, were there any problems? And then trying to fix them afterwards, trying to be proactive about it.

[00:28:09.190] – Janice Summers

 Right, rather than reactive.

[00:28:10.570] – Chris Dayley

Yeah.

[00:28:11.260] – Janice Summers

Yeah. Because, I mean, I think in some respects, if you’re like asking so did anybody do anything wrong? You’re putting that person on the spot. And that’s not fair. And of course, if I’m in that situation say so, does anybody do anything wrong? Oh, no, and there could have been a lot of people doing things wrong, but I’m just going to say no cause I don’t wanna hassle with it. So I don’t think like asking that kind of question is going to be really productive for people so, I kind of like your perspective on saying, we kind of have to live inclusive, right, is kind of what you’re saying. We have to be always aware of that and change our habits and behaviors.

[00:28:51.130] – Chris Dayley

Yeah, exactly, and then, like we were talking about earlier, including people in everything that we do, different voices and perspectives in our decision making processes. But the hardest part about that is that you have to somehow prove and show that you believe that their ideas are valuable because a lot of times people that have been marginalized, have grown up and come their whole lives, you know, feeling and learning that their ideas aren’t going to be taken seriously. So they’re going to be quiet, they’re not going to say anything or they’re going to try and say something that conforms to that cultural norm whatever.

[00:29:39.260] – Liz Fraley

You can’t make them responsible for representing that whole cultural perspective either.

[00:29:43.970] – Janice Summers

Right.

[00:29:44.990] – Liz Fraley

Yeah.

[00:29:45.770] – Janice Summers

True, but I think part of the comment about being marginalized is because you probably have a life of experience of saying something and nobody takes you seriously anyway, so it’s like, all right, I’m just a token representation and they’re not going to listen to any ideas I have.

[00:30:01.960] – Chris Dayley

Yeah.

[00:30:01.960] – Janice Summers

So I think you have to be genuine. If you really want diversity and you really want inclusion, you have to be genuine about it.

[00:30:09.260] – Chris Dayley

Yeah, that’s and that’s so hard to show, hey, I’m genuine and I take your ideas seriously. Liz has a great point, though, because one of the things that we see in higher ed is we’ll try and hire for diverse faculty, right? But then we’ll hire the one black person in the faculty and then that person all of a sudden becomes the advisor for every person of color and they become the person of color representative on every committee, you know, and they get burnt out and asked to do more work than other people, and they become, then their opinion becomes, like Liz was saying, the representative for the whole race or every person of color, so it’s complicated, you know, it’s complicated and messy and hard, but like you were saying, we have to– When someone brings up an idea or something that’s outside of the norm, it’s so important to take that seriously and to try and just not be dismissive, I think.

[00:31:15.430] – Liz Fraley

How do we do it, is you do it.

[00:31:17.950] – Chris Dayley

Yeah, yes. How you do it is you do it. Exactly, yeah and then as you start taking ideas seriously and doing things, I mean, sometimes it’ll maybe it won’t be good and sometimes it will be good, but as you take their ideas seriously, people are going to feel more free to express ideas, and then you’re going to create a culture and attract people to you. It always happens, you know you get your employees or your students by word of mouth a lot. And someone will say, hey, know we’re a great place to work is? This place, you know why? They always listen to me and they take me seriously and I love it here. And then you’re going to start meeting your diversity goals that way.

[00:32:03.230] – Janice Summers

And you bring up a really good point. And I was thinking about this morning as I was waking, cause I knew we were going to have this conversation today. So one of the things that I’m just going to toot her horn, but it’s true. Liz likes to include people that she doesn’t know. Who do I not know? Because I think a lot of times, like in our social circles and in our expanse, we tend to fill it with people that we know, right?  And if we’re looking to tap people for help on things so if we’re like involved in a nonprofit, we’ll like to have people that we know. But Liz is in a habit of asking people who’ve been responsive, who do I not know? Who do you know that you think I should invite? right, then what happens is all of a sudden you’ve got this diverse group of people with this whole symphony of voices that you would not have been exposed to.

[00:33:00.240] – Chris Dayley

Yeah.

[00:33:02.160] – Liz Fraley

Part of it honestly, it’s not all completely interesting, but part of that is to reduce the workload, right, when people ask you, hey, will you be on this committee, hey, will you do this? Hey, will you do that? We can’t all do it all, and yes it’s prestigious to be asked. But really, when you’ve been asked to sit on one, you should say, hey, I can’t, but let me find you someone who you don’t know, who I can bring into the circle. Like that’s part of all of our responsibility to bring someone else in rather than either being on everything or being the recruiter, only asking our friends.

[00:33:41.150] – Chris Dayley

Yeah, I think that’s so smart and, you know, when I talk to people about doing things like this, sometimes it’s– People bring up like it’s easier to just bring in the people that we’ve always used or talk to or sometimes even it’s easier to bring in people that are already they’ll say like something like already understand the culture, right?

[00:34:08.380] – Liz Fraley

Hold that right there.

[00:34:10.190] – Chris Dayley

And maybe in the short term, like it is a little bit easier, but, it’s a short term gain for a long term loss, in my opinion. If you can bring in a diverse group of people and people that you don’t know, then in the end they’re going to come out with a better product, I think.

[00:34:26.840] – Liz Fraley

Yeah.

[00:34:27.470] – Chris Dayley

You know, even though it’s a little bit–

[00:34:28.910] – Janice Summers

I like that short-term gain for a long-term loss.

[00:34:32.840] – Chris Dayley

Yeah.

[00:34:33.680] – Janice Summers

I like that, that’s pretty good.

[00:34:37.220] – Chris Dayley

Yeah, so you know, I think if we got to think about it like that because it’s going to be difficult on the front end, but in the end it’s going to be awesome.

[00:34:45.770] – Liz Fraley

Yeah, probably worth it. I mean it brings something you said way early on, we talked about it as objective technical writing and I’m not sure that really exists or if objective isn’t a code word for something specific.

[00:35:03.360] – Chris Dayley

Well, that’s, I didn’t even think about that, yeah, objective is a code word for something, yeah, that is so true. I’m going to write that down actually.

[00:35:13.770] – Liz Fraley

Suppose to be the other way around here, I’m so sure–

[00:35:18.330] – Chris Dayley

Oh, yeah, that’s such a cool idea, yeah, yeah, and there is no I mean– You probably all understand this because there’s no objective writing really. I mean, even if we’re trying our hardest to be objective, we’re still sending some sort of rhetorical message in our writing. So–

[00:35:45.360] – Liz Fraley

Like if this is a strength of technical computer age, right, we put ourselves in other people’s shoes all the time, right. Half the things I appreciate and do work for are things that are absolutely of no interest to me personally. Like it’s not my bag, I don’t care about that, but I will support someone else’s interest in learning that, like, for example and I know everyone’s going to hate me for this API docs. I’ve written API docs, I do not see a future for myself writing API docs, but I know it’s a hot topic here in the Valley and is Silicon Valley STC chapter, we do a lot focused on that as a subject matter, right. So we’re always putting ourselves in the feet of other people, our customer, and we’re drying up who that person is. So there’s not really an objective because who is that person? Janice would say, let’s write something, let’s make up some people, like what do they look like and find a picture and find out, you know, figure out some hobbies for them, which is really hard for me, but it’s a good exercise and it makes our product literature better.

[00:36:54.120] – Chris Dayley

Yeah, yeah, see, yeah, that’s brilliant. I think that’s just amazing, not a lot of people think that way, you know, so many people only think in terms of I don’t want to make other people sound terrible, but so many people think in terms of only themselves, only viewing things through their own personal lens. This idea that technical communicators have to view the world from another person’s lens is just so, so fascinating to me.

[00:37:21.360] – Janice Summers

Yeah, and I think it’s a good exercise because it does get you outside of yourself and it can help you put a face to it or faces to it. Because oftentimes you’re going to have faces and it helps you to think about things from somebody else’s perspective. Because otherwise you get trapped and somebody was asking, well, how do we think diversity, and I think that’s one way that you start to think diversity is viewing things from another lens and you’re going to be imperfect.

[00:37:59.190] – Chris Dayley

Yeah.

[00:38:00.180] – Janice Summers

And you have to accept that you’re imperfect at it, but I think the effort alone is going to change you, and how you relate and interact.

[00:38:13.250] – Chris Dayley

Yeah, that seems to be the hardest part is you have to be intentional about it.

[00:38:18.530] – Janice Summers

Yeah.

[00:38:18.840] – Chris Dayley

So at first it’s not part of your, what you do normally, diversity and inclusion and that as you do it more and more, it starts to become one of your first thoughts, like, okay, how is this inclusive or not inclusive.

[00:38:33.800] – Janice Summers

Right, right. And I would love to have somebody in psychology come here to room 42 and talk about how we think because it’s normal and natural for us not to think about diversity, it’s normal and natural for us to think in terms of like me, and it’s primal.

[00:38:51.740] – Chris Dayley

Yeah.

[00:38:53.570] – Janice Summers

We have to rise above it and we can rise above it. So I mean, I don’t think anybody should beat themselves up over it, right. You shouldn’t beat yourself up over it and it does take intentional thought and it takes breaking that primal drive, right?

[00:39:10.010] – Chris Dayley

Yeah, yes. The whole idea of humans has being tribal, tribalistic like–

[00:39:15.890] – Janice Summers

But that’s survival.

[00:39:17.330] – Chris Dayley

Yeah.

[00:39:17.900] – Janice Summers

What we think in primitive terms. It was, it’s not now. So we have to consciously change our way of doing things. So and I think that’s one of the key things, too, is don’t be ashamed of the fact that you don’t naturally think in diverse terms.

[00:39:36.320] – Chris Dayley

Yeah.

[00:39:37.190] – Janice Summers

That kind of like admitting and saying, OK, well, you recognize that, that’s more elevated to me than somebody who thinks, oh, I’m diverse, and you look around and they’re not.

[00:39:46.240] – Liz Fraley

Well, and you’ll get it wrong and it’s okay because you learn from the experience. You’ll get it right the next time, you apologize and do it right the next time.

[00:39:54.380] – Chris Dayley

Yeah. One of the hardest things for me has been and still is, realizing my implicit biases and the racism that is in me, you know, the whole time growing up, we learn racism is bad, and so you always say, oh, I’m not racist. But, you know, in some sense I am like I have these biases that I have to think about and push against all the time. So it’s really hard to escape growing up in the system. I don’t want to get too political, it’s hard to escape growing up in this society you know, like I am, you know, sexism and racism and things like that, just kind of gets in you, so I was kind of programmed to believe certain things and stereotypes and all.

[00:40:43.400] – Janice Summers

Right.

[00:40:44.120] – Chris Dayley

So recognizing that and constantly like thinking about, OK, where are my biases? I think that’s another thing technical communicators can do really well like it’s in the same vein of what we were talking about, but thinking about where am I biased in the way that I’m communicating and how do I sort of change that?

[00:41:05.830] – Janice Summers

Yeah, that’s true, and I think that’s the first step to kind of make that walk towards inclusion and diversity is just recognizing I don’t have the answer. I can see where I’m like closed off, so how do I open up and just recognize that I’m constantly striving for that and suppressing all of the old habits and the old conditioning, right, and breaking out of that. That’s a lifelong thing and that’s not a bad thing. 

[00:41:41.140] – Liz Fraley

And we are right on the hour of time.

[00:41:43.960] – Janice Summers

Are we really?

[00:41:45.580] – Liz Fraley

We are, like it just zoomed past.

[00:41:50.530] – Janice Summers

This has been a great conversation, I think and really honestly Chris, I think more conversations like this, don’t you?

[00:42:00.070] – Chris Dayley

Oh yeah, we have to, the more we talk about it, the more it’s going to help us to think about it all the time.

[00:42:05.440] – Janice Summers

And the more it becomes commonplace.

[00:42:07.430] – Chris Dayley

Yeah.

[00:42:08.320] – Janice Summers

Right, and the more, Cause I think sometimes some people if they were, you know, if they were raised in white privilege, it’s hard for them to be humble and like it’s a little bit of a shame thing.

[00:42:21.790] – Chris Dayley

Yeah.

[00:42:22.360] – Janice Summers

But if we’re all having more conversations and we’re breaking down those barriers too, and we’re making it okay to have conversations about diversity.

[00:42:30.640] – Chris Dayley

That’s such a good point, because when you have that privilege, that white privilege you grow up with, when people push against it, it feels like a personal insult, like your personal, you feel like you have to just defend yourself. But the more conversations we can have, the more you can realize, oh, it’s okay, and other people also think this and see this and realize this yeah

[00:42:53.230] – Janice Summers

Right.

[00:42:54.160] – Chris Dayley

I Like that idea.

[00:42:55.300] – Janice Summers

And I like your point about you don’t stop at just diversity.

[00:42:59.560] – Chris Dayley

Yeah.

[00:43:00.010] – Janice Summers

That’s your entry, that’s your gateway. Then you have to take that next step and talk about inclusion.

[00:43:06.280] – Chris Dayley

Yeah. Absolutely imperative.

[00:43:08.470] – Janice Summers

Cause inclusion means that’s how you change and morph and adapt your every day to make sure you’re including and not excluding people. You recruit them into your company and they’re working with you, you know, be inclusive and not exclusive and don’t put on the person who’s representing whatever their cultural background, black, brown, whatever. Don’t put it on them to represent everybody in that, with that demographic, right, that’s a person, not all representation of the entire demographic.

[00:43:47.350] – Liz Fraley

One of the STC folks I know Yvonne Wade Sanchez, she says, if you include people, diversity will happen.

[00:43:53.620] – Janice Summers

Yes.

[00:43:54.500] – Chris Dayley

Yeah.

[00:43:55.810] – Janice Summers

Because they’ll feel safe.

[00:43:57.070] – Chris Dayley and Liz Fraley

Yeah.

[00:43:57.940] – Janice Summers

And that’s the whole thing is they feel safe. I mean, if you feel like you’re the only one I’ve isolated and everybody’s pouncing on you, pounding on you to be the representative, you’re not going to feel so safe.

[00:44:07.360] – Liz Fraley

Yeah.

[00:44:07.790] – Janice Summers

Yeah, yeah, but if you come at it from that nice, soft, subtle, inclusive, how can I make you feel comfortable? You know, I’m not putting ownership on you to correct me. I am going to be more aware, I’m going to be more conscious then people feel like, wow, this is great, I’m included, I’m listened to, you know being heard and implementing ideas and suggestions.

[00:44:35.860] – Liz Fraley

Well, I feel energized, I hope the audience does too.

[00:44:38.520] – Janice Summers

Yeah.

[00:44:40.010] – Liz Fraley

Thank you, Chris, for providing this opportunity.

[00:44:43.060] – Janice Summers

You have been wonderful. I’m so glad you came.

[00:44:45.640] – Chris Dayley

Oh, thank you, what a privilege to talk to you. I really appreciate you inviting me

In this episode

Chris Dayley is an assistant professor of English and director of the Master of Arts in Technical Communication program at Texas State University. Chris has over 13 years of professional experience in higher education and his scholarly work has been featured in the academic journals Technical Communication Quarterly and Programmatic Perspectives. Chris’ research focuses on issues of social justice with a specific emphasis on diversity and inclusion in technical and professional communication (TPC) academic programs.

Today’s technical communication students will become tomorrow’s technical communication professionals. Increasing diversity in technical communication academic programs is a very important part of increasing diversity in the field in general. What can academic administrators do to increase diversity in technical communication programs? What can professionals do to help increase diversity in academic programs? How does increasing diversity in the field help technical communication as a profession?

Resources

Email: c_d470@txstate.edu

LinkedIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christopher-dayley-phd-51312b9


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