Stack Exchange sites are used by people all around the world, from a vast number of cultures. A very large percentage of the users do not have English as a first language. That’s a lot of diversity right there. Furthermore, there are people with different educational levels, different ages, different religious beliefs, different sexualities, and, of course, different gender identities. Stack Exchange’s user-base is diverse.
It’s not as diverse as it might be. The oldest, and by far the biggest, site is Stack Overflow. The rest of the network grew out of Stack Overflow. The core community on Christianity SE is not “Christians” but “Christian programmers”; the core community on Seasoned Advice is “programmers who like cooking”. This is, perhaps, beginning to change, but the influence that Stack Overflow has over the rest of the network is vast. And programmers are, overwhelmingly, men. Well educated, well off, white men. Or, increasingly, Indian men. (This in itself is a result of a long history, which includes men conspiring to drive women out of a job which was originally overwhelmingly female, on the basis that this would increase the apparent prestige and thus the average pay of the role. This worked, which is a bit depressing.)
This adds up to the fact that SE has a diversity problem. On the tech sites, it reflects, and to an extent perpetuates, the lack of diversity in the field itself. And, given that newcomers can be afraid to join Stack Overflow, and newcomers who are members of minority groups report being particularly disinclined to jump in, Stack Overflow is less diverse than it should be. And this spills over into the other sites.
The global reach of Stack Exchange means that it’s very diverse in some ways, but not nearly as much as it should be. They have, of course, made some very public moves to rectify that. The Welcoming initiative was about making all newcomers more welcome, but particularly women and minority groups. There have been partnerships with programmes which work to get more women in tech. And there has been a strong indication that a forthcoming update to the Code of Conduct will specifically mention trans issues.
And yet, at least one trans mod has resigned because she felt that the company did not support her, and that she was targetted for being trans. Another mod has raised concerns that the new Code of Conduct, by being too specific in its rules, will actually make it worse for trans people, and harder for a mod to enforce rules against transphobia.
Many of SE’s moves toward increasing diversity feel more like box-ticking exercises than anything coming from full understanding. They are also very very very American, which is fair from an American company, but it looks very much like they care more about how they look to prospective shareholders than to how things will actually play out with their existing global userbase. The motivating thought isn’t “How will this make our communities better?” but “How will this make us as a company look good?”. Particularly, the Code of Conduct does not acknowledge that many of the users, especially on the tech sites, are not native English speakers. It was not written with that in mind.
There is a performative aspect to many of SE’s moves recently, which make me wonder how much they actually know internally about diversity initiatives and codes of conduct. Do they have experts on staff, or have they consulted with experts? These are fields which are actively studied, and there are people have real academic credentials and practical suggestions.
I am Irish, a native English-speaker, hearing, able-bodied, white, gay, male, geek, programmer, atheist with a religious upbringing who hangs out on the Christianity site a bit, a linguistics nerd. This is to say that I will be immediately aware of some bigotries and mostly blind to others. I try my best to learn.