Stacy-Ann Hayles

Web Designer for small businesses

The only “other” in the room

I’ve become used to being the only “other” in the room.

As a child in school, I was often the only one from a rural area, while others in my class came from the city. Of course, that meant that back home, I was the only child attending a school in the city, while the other kids attended the same school nearby. While I hated it, it set me up for a life of being the exception in a room full of the same.

In my first marketing job, I was the only girl in a room full of men. This meant two years of constant misogyny, often directed specifically at me, and being worn down thin emotionally, in a pre-Me Too era when such behaviour was not just tolerated, but expected.

Venturing into the tech world, I was often the only black woman, and definitely the only one from the Caribbean, who took part in the various online conferences and meetups. I remember being afraid to speak, because I didn’t feel like I could possibly contribute anything useful, and I feared the focus would be on my accent or my look, not what I had to say.

But recently, there’s been a delightful change.

In May, I attended Build Con 2021, where surprisingly, one of the speakers was a black Jamaican man – Stephen Campbell – who spoke about his work in the no-code space. The Notion Ambassadors community, at large, is also filled with women, black folks and even a couple folks from the Caribbean as well!

And most recently, I watched a recording of a meeting for the Notionettes – a small group of women who come together to publish a quarterly magazine on Notion – and to my surprise, all four of the women in the meeting were minorities, three were black and one was from the Caribbean, just like me!

Their faces looked like mine, their voices sound like mine, and their experiences and stories mirrored my own. And it was literally the first time since my foray into the world of web design and no-code that I felt like I actually belonged. Crazy, isn’t it?

Yet, it’s proof that people from all around the world have just as many diverse interests as those in the developed nations. We just need the opportunities, and thankfully we’re finally getting them.

I’m grateful to the individuals, like Doc Williams and Marie Poulin, and organizations, like Notion, who are offering those seats at the table and welcoming us in. I can’t speak for everyone, but these seemingly small gestures mean a lot more than you know.

I look forward to the coming era of diversity and equality, and to no longer being the only “other” in the room.

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