Meet The Queer Product Designer Behind OkCupid’s Inclusive Pronouns Feature
Below is an article about PowerToFly Partner OkCupid, originally written by Clare Kenny, the Director of Youth Engagement at GLAAD, and published on October 1, 2018. Go to OkCupid's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
Once a fringe phenomenon, dating apps have become a mainstream way for people of all backgrounds, locations, and interests to date, make friends, hook up, and—sometimes—find love. While some online users enjoy the newfound normalcy of dating apps without harassment, the same cannot be said for all users.
LGBTQ people—especially those who live outside of traditional expectations of gender identity and expression—are often subjected to high rates of ridicule and hateful language online. Dating apps are no exception.
Apps like OkCupid, though, are working to change this climate by allowing daters to express themselves more accurately on the app. OkCupid looks to make a positive impact in the lives of all LGBTQ people by focusing on representation on the app and behind the scenes. That's why when it came time to update, OkCupid enlisted their Product Designer, Rowan Rosenthal, who identifies as Agender and uses they/them/theirs pronouns, to take the lead in adding a pronouns feature to the app.
.@OkCupid is #DTFightTheBinary. The app will be even more inclusive for those who identify anywhere along the gende… https://t.co/BN20Z75r00— GLAAD (@GLAAD)1536597944.0
Like many of us in the LGBTQ community, Rowan is no stranger to the ways and woes of digital romance. In order to learn more about the positive impact updates like these can have on users, community members, and companies alike, we asked them to walk us through their journey being a part of revolutionizing LGBTQ inclusivity at OkCupid.
Tell us about the OkCupid platform update: What changed, what was added?
Daters are now able to enter their pronouns in the details section of their profile. We've included the most common options "she/her", "he/him", and "they/them," as well as an option to write-in your own. (The write-in section can also accommodate sets of pronouns, i.e. "she/her and they/them.") This information is displayed publicly anytime someone views your profile.
What was your role in the OkCupid update to include pronouns on the app?
I identified the need for this feature via 1:1 interviews with queer folks who use OkCupid. To further validate this need I looked at the data surrounding existing pronoun usage—tens of thousands of members had already mentioned their pronouns in their profile, despite having no dedicated space for it. I designed pronouns to live alongside other prominent details on member profiles, as it's a critical and basic point of information about you.
Why is it important for dating apps to include features like a pronouns section?
It's essential for dating apps, or any app really, to create space for the fullest expression of identity possible. This is critical for dating apps specifically, though. As a member of a dating app, you're trying to convey your true self—putting it all out there in hopes that someone else on the app is interested in who you are. Including a dedicated space for identity & pronouns allows the person seeing you to get a fuller and more accurate sense of that. It also helps those who use pronouns that society typically doesn't use/recognize feel like this space is for them. Making sure to including pronouns, more gender identities, and more orientations goes a long way towards creating that sense of inclusivity.
Image credit: OkCupid, 2018.
What advice do you have for LGBTQ people, especially trans and non-binary people, who have been skeptical of using dating apps?
Dating apps are an amazing place to meet like-minded queer folks that you wouldn't be able to get to know otherwise, especially when your daily life might involves mostly interactions with mostly straight & cis folks. We understand that there can be other challenges when you're non-binary or trans—I know this firsthand. However, the biggest benefit to using a dating app, whether you're LGBTQ or not is that you can signal what you're looking for and what you're about. That's why at OkCupid we ask you 15 questions about yourself and you can filter based on what matters to you—meaning you have a better chance of meeting someone who cares about the same things you do. I've always used OkCupid, even before working here, just because I felt more comfortable with the variety of ways I was able to express myself, my identity, and my beliefs on the platform. So, that's (obviously) my recommendation here.
What do you hope non-LGBTQ users of OkCupid learn from this update?
While this update mostly pertains to LGBTQ users, we do hope this change will help to normalize the use of singular they/them, as well as other pronouns, within the dating space.
What is your advice for other companies, in and out of tech, that want to connect and support the LGBTQ community?
Listen. Talk to your LGBTQ users/customers and really listen to what they have to say. You can't assume what they might want, or how your product might be improved for them—you just have to find out, and go from there. Solicit feedback, do your research, and don't be afraid of criticism. That's the best way to build trust and inclusivity.
Clare Kenny is the Director of Youth Engagement at GLAAD. She leads GLAAD's Campus Ambassador Program, Rising Stars Grants Program, and amp series. Clare is a graduate of Skidmore College.
It's been six years since Sarah Cooper graced us with her 10 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings. But how on earth can we appear smart in our new virtual world, in which for many of us, going to work is just sitting in one long series of probably-not-necessary Zoom meetings?
1. Dial in.<p>Dialing in rather than joining via the link instantly boosts your credibility. Who calls into Zoom meetings? People who are still busy and important enough to be leaving their houses! But you needn't actually be one of those people, or even more than a foot away from your computer to pull off this maneuver. (Remember, this article is called *seeming* smart, not being smart.)</p><p><strong></strong><em>Bonus: </em>If it's a large meeting at which attendance will be taken, the person running the meeting will inevitably ask, "Who's calling in from 443-322-2121?" That's when you raise your metaphorical hand, jump off mute, and say "[Your name] here. Really looking forward to hearing your perspective on [meeting topic]." And voila! You've stolen the meeting spotlight.</p>
2. Don't come on camera—ever.<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ0ODU5OS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjMwNjI3OX0.4fLyq2CvkZAJ7n_03esZepY37mOdyGdDdTEUYt5XEU0/img.png?width=980" id="bc7e6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fbbf21cc5d8c863b30654ae6993b04f5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p><br></p><p>Much like the "dial in," this technique works because it makes you appear aloof. If <em>The Crown has </em>taught me anything, it's that the key to maintaining a sense of mystique and prestige is to keep people at arm's length—and if you absolutely <em>must</em> touch them, wear a glove.</p>
3. Only communicate via chat.<p>Once you've mastered the art of staying off camera, you can level up by communicating exclusively via the chat box. Don't come off mute at all, even if the speaker asks your opinion. You are the elusive chatter and you will not be forced into actually participating in said meeting.</p>
4. Ask to share your screen.<p>Being aloof is great, but it's all about balance. Sprinkling in some active participation will really shock and impress your colleagues if you catch them off guard, so save this technique for when you've strategically <em>not </em>participated in a string of meetings.</p><p>Spend a few minutes prior to the meeting prepping a few inspirational slides with words like "synergy," "optimization," and "redefining 'culture'", or spend a few minutes poking around in Google Analytics. </p><p>Then wait for the opportune moment to say, "Can I just share my screen for a moment? I have some really interesting data I'd like to share...." and BAM — brilliance established.</p>
5. Show off your Zoom-saviness.<p>Try saying, "You know you can mute people, right?" to the host when they beg whoever's got the lawn mower and crying baby in the background to put themselves on mute for the nth time.<br></p>
6. Create an alter ego.<p>This tactic requires commitment, but the pay off is certainly worth it. Join the Zoom meeting from your normal account + name, and then join it again on a second device from an alias. Have your alter-ego ask some probing or stat-based questions in the chat and have the answers ready ahead of time. It should work something like this:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong>Your alter ego Charlene</strong><strong>:</strong> "Does anyone know what percentage conversion rates increased by in Q2?"</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong>Real you</strong>: *doesn't miss a beat* "It looks like Charlene has a question in the chat. That would be 36%."</p><div>Never mind that no one on your team knows who Charlene is or why she's at this meeting, they'll be too blown away by your brilliance to notice. (Bonus points if you use this strategy in conjunction with techniques 1, 2, 3 or 4!)</div>
7. Place an obscure object in your background that exudes intelligence.<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ0ODYxOC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzk5Njg2Mn0.V9_-3Ij3v_QndseqlrXRt5Nn39EJ97-itjls5zzYPf8/img.png?width=980" id="a369d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="604a2f04b53c2e3bc801bfa5256f367b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p><br></p><p>We're talking a telescope, or perhaps a hardcover copy of <em>War & Peace </em>(no one need know that its only purpose in your life is as a makeshift yoga block).</p><p>If you don't have any suitable props at your disposal, do not despair: download some screenshots of Sheldon's apartment from <em>Big Bang Theory </em>or the chalkboard in <em>Good Will Hunting </em>and use those as a virtual background.</p>
8. Ask "Is this really the best course of action given the current climate?"<p>Economic collapse, COVID, racism… No need to specify whether you're referring to one or all of the above; just sit back and watch your boss squirm amidst the ambiguity.</p><p>This strategy pairs very well with techniques 2 and 3. You can prep additional vague-but-probing questions ahead of time and pepper them into the chat box throughout the meeting:</p><ul><li>How will this scale?</li><li>Do we really have the bandwidth for this right now?</li><li>What's the value-add here?</li></ul>
9. Remind everyone that you have a paid Zoom account.<p>"Oh, it looks like we're getting the 40-minute warning. I have a paid account, do you want to switch to my room?" It's helpful, with just a touch of condescension. Everyone knows condescending people are smart. And everyone knows that people with paid Zoom accounts are super important.</p>
10. Tell everyone you have a hard stop.<p>When pressed for details, share your philosophy on "work-from-home" balance and how committed you are to getting up once an hour to walk to your refrigerator.</p>
11. Ask the screensharer/host to "pull something up" for everyone.<p>Ask the presenter to navigate to a screen that only you know how to navigate well. Laugh maniacally while they suffer from crippling performance anxiety. Let them struggle for as long as is tolerable before saying, "Oh you know what? I can just share my screen if you want. That would probably be easier." BAM you're the hero. Don't worry, no one will even pause to consider that you could have proposed this course of action from the start.</p>
12. Say Zoom fatigue as many times as possible.<p>If you're too tired to employ any of the other strategies, just say "I know everyone is experiencing a lot of Zoom fatigue, so we can keep this meeting short." Then hang up as quickly as possible. Meeting averted! </p><p>After all, there's no better way to demonstrate your intelligence in a virtual meeting than to demonstrate why it wasn't really necessary in the first place. </p>
A five-step framework for addressing systematic racism at work
The world has changed in the past few weeks.
We're watching corporations and organizations across the world come out in support of Black lives in droves. Many of those organizations are doing so for the first time in their history.
I sat in front of my CEO to discuss several complaints of racism. I was new to my role as a Culture Director. I was nervous about his reaction to the complaints. But I also knew he strongly supported developing this new department; I knew that he would take the right steps. So I was shocked when I heard him say sheepishly, "I don't know, Noelle...all of this stuff about racism. I just don't see it. I don't even see color. I'm pretty much color blind."
Living in the midst of a pandemic has brought about a whole host of changes and challenges for workplaces and employees. One of the most notable? Virtual interviewing. With most on-site interviews on hold for the foreseeable future, it's important that you be prepared to make a great first impression—virtually.