This is what a tech event looks like when women are welcome.
This is a photo of me, taken by the talented Eva Blue at PodCamp Montreal 2010. I also brought my baby to WordCamp 2010 about two weeks before this photo was taken. There were at least two other babes in arms at that event. Their dads brought them.
This is what tech events look like when women are less welcome.
This photo is the first photo you see when you go to the Startup Festival website. The organizers asked me how to get more women at their event, and I pointed out to them months ago that photos like this do not help. In other words, I gave them a chance to fix it. But they kept the photo up just the same.
(Side note: Hey! Isn’t that copyright infringement? No. It is called “Fair Use.” Look it up.)
Tech conferences are routinely criticized for not having enough women. There aren’t enough women speakers, women organizers or women attendees. What gives? But more importantly, how can you, as a tech event organizer change this?
Over the next few weeks, I’ll offer 17 ways to get more women at your event. I’m doing this for a couple of reasons.
I help organize WordCamp Montreal. Over the past three years, we have had the following results.
|Women speakers||Talks given by women|
These numbers don’t quite match up because some talks have two speakers and some speakers speak more than once, which is why both numbers are provided.
Also, in 2010 our keynote speaker was a woman (the wonderful Andrea Rennick) and in 2011 we organized a special “Women & WordPress” session which I’ll blog about later. We also organize our schedule so that attendees can see all the women speakers, if they want to do so. This didn’t happen the first year and some people complained, so it’s now part of our scheduling policy.
In general, the tech conferences with the most equitable gender ration rarely exceed 25% women speakers. That’s something we’ve done for the first time this year.
You’ll also note that progress can be slow, measured in years. And notice I said “decent” results, not “super-amazing” ones. But it is still progress.
Often at tech conferences there are no women speakers at all.
So, to sum up, we (yes there are even (gasp!) men involved in organizing this event. Don’t forget to tell them they are awesome!) have purposely chosen to provide a generally women-friendly space. You can do that too.
I often hear event organizers complain that it’s “so hard” to get women to come to their events and even harder to recruit women as speakers. I agree. To an extent. But difficult is not the same as impossible. This shouldn’t be used as en excuse to stop trying. So I’m offering 17 ways to make constructive, effective changes to the way events are organized to specifically appeal to women.
Although I’m targeting women, many of the ideas I’ll present should work equally well in increasing various other forms of diversity. So if you have a tech conference with plenty of women (Yay! please invite me!) you will probably be able to use these suggestions to increase the number of people of colour, of the differently abled and the differently gendered as well as a representative cross-section of age groups. That would be amazing.
Who does she think she is?
Does this mean I think I’m perfect? Hell no! It just means that I value diversity and relish the opportunity to nurture it. It means that I’ve made a concerted effort to encourage it (with the help of various super amazing allies) with some success. There is still a lot of room for improvement.
We are still a long way from an equitable representation of diversity. I am certainly not above criticism. But I am committed to examining my own biases, even when it is hard, because it is just The Right Thing To Do®.
So please stay tuned for 17 blog posts!
- Introduction (you just read it!)
- Part 1: Put a woman in charge
- Part 2: Make it cheap
- Part 3: Say it out loud
Agree? Disagree? That’s what the comments are for. Contribute to the discussion.