Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

03 Jan 2024, 11:20 a.m.

Some Diversity Advice I Give

Colleagues ask me for advice on diversifying their hiring pipelines, recruiting and retaining volunteer contributors, and addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in marketing to and taking care of their users. Here are a few tips I often share.

Assumptions and disclaimers: I'm assuming here that my audiences are mostly privately owned technology companies or open source software projects whose leaders are mostly based in the United States, aiming to hire or otherwise recruit engineers or other technology professionals, and building software products. And I'm assuming that the dimensions of diversity they care most about are gender and race, with perhaps some interest in class, disability, transgender inclusion, geography, sexuality, neuroatypicality, age, and educational status.

I won't address DEI in product design, but that's something I recommend Superbloom (formerly Simply Secure) for; they have a lot of free resources on their website.

And of course this is not a comprehensive list.


  1. Becoming a Recurse Center hiring partner is likely a good idea. RC alumni are thousands of enthusiastic programmers, managers, and other tech experts (about 1/4 to 1/3 women, and a significant proportion nonwhite). Nonprofits get a discount.
  2. Here's the blog post one nonprofit tech lead wrote that helped him get a lot of nontraditional candidates at New York Public Library. One thing he did that really helped was specifically saying he was happy to have informational interviews with people who were thinking of applying. I believe multiple info interviews he did led to successful candidates.
  3. Improve your job description. The more specific detail you can have in your benefits and salary info, the better. Here's an example. And make it clear what you are NOT requiring. Example.
  4. There's a 2012 report on "Solutions to Recruit Technical Women" that I've appreciated - I need to catch up on what has been published more recently.
  5. ReadySet is a consultancy that can give you more help with DEI in hiring specifically.

Recruiting and retaining volunteers:

  1. Read my short writeup on "Growing Your Contributors" which lists specific things you can do to better retain and recruit open source contributors; many of these will also help you support more tentative contributors, which will help with DEI.
  2. Read my speech "Inessential Weirdnesses in Open Source". Free and open source contributors and leaders who are already comfortable with our norms and jargon ought to learn how to see our own phrasings and tools as outsiders do, including barriers that often slow down new users and contributors, so we can make more hospitable experiences during our outreach efforts. I partly based this speech on 'It's not "them" — it's us!' by Betsy Leondar-Wright, which made a big impression on me as someone who would like to reduce my accidental bias in my outreach efforts.
  3. Run "how to get started" events online, and publicize those events specifically to demographics you'd like to target. Reach out to affinity groups, such as PyLadies, women-in-tech groups like the ones in this Geek Feminism wiki list (yes, I know it's rather obsolete), and the Systers list. See if anyone you know is in LGBT-in-tech or PoC-in-tech Slacks, Discords, or subreddits, and ask them to publicize it there. During the event, take note of participants' contact details (if they consent), and (again, if they consent) follow up with them individually to suggest personalized tasks, offer mentorship, and so on.
  4. If you can afford it, mentor an Outreachy participant. Outreachy is a paid remote open source internship program. You can apply to be a mentoring organization starting twice a year. Join their mailing list to get a heads-up when they open for applications. I can attest that Outreachy is a good way to get new contributors whom you can genuinely retain after their internship ends.

User marketing & care:

  1. As above, check out the "Inessential Weirdnesses" piece, and run "how to get started" events online and advertise them to the demographics you want to reach.
  2. Build up a list of users whose opinions you'd like to get as you develop your roadmap, get user testing for features you're developing, and so on. Over time, you could turn this into an formal or informal advisory council of users, and work to ensure that you have representatives from demographics you want to make sure to serve well.

Hope this helps. I'm turning comments off on this blog post, but you can comment in the Fediverse by replying to this post.