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How can we make the iOS development community more inclusive?

Recorded – watch the full episode on YouTube.

‌What do you think we could do to actually improve here in the iOS community – to be more welcoming?

Mayuko Inoue: I think there's one thing. I always think about this of how can we make the iOS community more inclusive, and also more diverse? I think there needs to be more entry-level iOS positions out there in the world. There really aren't that many. I think I've been really lucky to stumble upon one in my career, which I really accidentally fell into because my hiring manager was like, "We gave you an offer, what do you want to do?" I was like, "Anything but security and DevOps." They're like, "We have a spot on the iOS team." That's how I got in. But all the people who I've talked to in the last couple of years, especially after doing YouTube and hearing their journey of how they want to be an iOS developer, it's incredibly hard to find an entry-level iOS developer position.

It's also incredibly hard to find an entry-level software developer position in general, especially if you didn't go to a four-year university and you're not part of university recruiting, but I think if there is this huge economic cost to get into iOS, but we're also always hiring for iOS developers like every company that I've been at has been extraordinarily hard to find iOS developers whenever we have a position open.

"I think there needs to be more entry level iOS positions out there in the world."

To me, I'm just like, "Train somebody." The company obviously has $3,000 for a Mac and they need the help to build something. Of course, it puts the onus on senior developers to train that person, but I really think that's how you get more people to come into the iOS developer community.

Every time I've talked about it to a company, they're like, "Yeah. But we need someone who can start contributing from the get go. We need a senior developer with three to five years of experience." I get that, but I really don't think that hiring a junior developer hurts that much. I think it's overall good for the community too. There's obviously a lot of great projects and nonprofits and stuff about giving Mac machines to people who are getting into iOS development or who don't have a computer or something, and there's boot camps and programs to teach iOS development, but the economic factor is still so big.

"Just hire more. Make the head count for junior developers." I really think that's how you do it."

I know Apple is doing stuff like their MacBook Air is relatively cheap, and with Playgrounds iPad is doable, but compared to web development where you literally could buy a $300 laptop on Amazon and just make whatever you want, it's still a big difference. To me, I'm just like, “just hire more. Make the head count for junior developers." I really think that's how you do it.

Paul Hudson: Well, I've got a question here: could you guys discuss the new initiatives from the Swift Community and even Apple recently to push diversity within the iOS community?

It's interesting because a few days ago, the Swift team updated their Swift Code of Conduct to include the examples of behavior that contribute to a positive environment. The first on the list was, “please use welcoming and inclusive languages, e.g. non-gendered words, like 'folks' to 'guys’.”

It's an interesting thing because I know many folks have it baked into their brain that “guys” are just everyone, but we have a lot of these kinds of words we use. Like Apple have this old trademark “insanely great”, so let's bring in some ableism here too, shall we? We don't necessarily realize, and it's obviously a learning journey for all of us.

Apple realized last August that terms like blacklist can be replaced with block list and no one minds. We've moved away from master to main, for example. There are many ways we can do better. I think our community is very well positioned. As you said, we have a lot of very senior people, very experienced people, and bluntly that means stacks of money, stacks of resources. We can do so much better, surely.

"That just feels really weird in the mouth at first, like saying, “you all” or “folks," or something instead of, "Hey, guys." But that stuff really makes a difference."

Mayuko Inoue: 100% yes. It's a difficult mindset change obviously to orient yourself to be more inclusive, because it does require things like taking out words that you've said your whole life out of your vocabulary and replacing it with new stuff. That just feels really weird in the mouth at first, like saying, “you all” or “folks," or something instead of, “hey, guys." But that stuff really makes a difference.

I know that when I'm in a room and I'm the only woman with many engineers and people say, “hey guys," or you only use he/him pronouns to describe inanimate objects and stuff, I feel there's no feminine energy going on in this room except for me. That feels very weird because then it makes me feel like I have to adapt to whatever is going on. Obviously, there's a huge conversation that's bigger than the iOS development community in terms of inclusivity in tech really.

"I think one of the important things is at the end of the day, the technology that we create is going to be used by so many different kinds of people. The people who are going to use it should be represented in the people who are making it."

How do you make the existing culture more inclusive to people from underrepresented communities, which then hopefully will make the community more diverse? We're always focused on diversifying our community because most tech communities are dominated by cis male, straight white men, but how can we bring folks from other backgrounds into tech? I think one of the important things is at the end of the day, the technology that we create is going to be used by so many different kinds of people. The people who are going to use it should be represented in the people who are making it, because how are we supposed to know the experience of another human being if we don't identify with them in some way?

I think the Apple community is definitely a part of that. I know that from the Apple's marketing perspective, it feels a lot like they care about that kind of stuff. Their ad campaigns are super. They represent all kinds of people and in WWDC there are great stories that highlight people from different backgrounds as part of the developer community, which I think is wonderful. Maybe it's just the way that it's communicated, but it doesn't feel as bullish as say, the web development community that has a lot more momentum and emphasis on these kinds of things.

"We're all intersectional human beings with lots of different identities."

It's a bigger topic of discussion, I think, to talk about those things versus Apple doing a lot of things quietly of just like, “yeah, let's take out those words that we don't want to use anymore in technology and stuff." Yeah. Again, change happens at different rates and in different ways depending on who's there and who's controlling how it happens and how it gets communicated and stuff, but especially in the iOS developer community, I think we have to keep pushing forward.

Paul Hudson: You mentioned that occasionally being in a room full of male engineers, and you were the only female there, do you think that left you feeling almost pressured to represent women? If you screwed up, you're like, "Oh, no – on behalf of all women, I've failed," kind of thing or maybe if you're in a room full of white women, you think, "Oh, god; I'm a Japanese-American, so I've got to represent Japanese-Americans and fill my space and do my best on behalf of women," or whatever happens to be. Does that happen, do you think?

Mayuko Inoue: I've heard it happen to a lot of other women. I think for me, because we're all intersectional human beings with lots of different identities, it’s more common for me to feel I'm the only Japanese person in this room. Whenever the topic of Japan or Asia comes up, I'm just like, “well, I'm the only person with an inkling of an idea," and I didn't even grow up in Japan. I grew up in the US to Japanese parents. I do feel this pressure of just like, "I better say some things about the knowledge that I guess I have, that I was born and raised with, about how to talk to Japanese people." I don't know. There is pressure for sure.

I try not to think about it too much because I'm just like, there are people out there who know much more about certain communities than me, but I know that I shouldn't discount the experiences that I've had as a Japanese-American woman. There's definitely a bit of tension there, but luckily nothing that's been too hard of a hurdle for me to overcome.

This transcript was recorded as part of Swiftly Speaking. You can watch the full original episode on YouTube, or subscribe to the audio version on Apple Podcasts.

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