This is Part 2 of an ongoing series called So you want more women at your tech event?
One of the easiest things you can do to get more women at your event is to make it cheap to attend.
Women have lower salaries and less disposable income than men. They are more often single parents. And this income gap is even larger for older women.
You will also have the advantage of an event that is more diverse in other ways, by removing a very real barrier to participation.
The salary gap
The average salary for women in Canada in 2009 was $31,100, while men made $45,200 on average. That means that women were making less than 70% of men’s salaries. That’s a lot of extra spending money that men have for conference tickets.
Of course, you might want to look just the people most likely to attend your conference. In 2010, the median weekly earnings for U.S. women in full-time management, professional, and related occupations was $923, compared to $1,256 for men. If you ticket costs $333 (after taxes and fees), that is the exact difference between the incomes of the men and women most likely to attend your conference. That means that women have to spent 1/3 or their weekly salary just to go to your event. That’s a lot. And that’s for a professional.
What about race?
You might want your attendees to be diverse in other ways too. In the US, the average weekly salary for African Americans in full-time employment is around $600 per week. For Latinos it is about $550. In both cases this is less than half the average salary for men overall. In 2006, the average income of native Canadians was only $18,962, about half the national average.
What about age?
Age also affects income. In Canada, older women who work make only $33,000 a year, but that drops to $13,400 if the aren’t working. Young people, men and women, between 20 and 24, earned only $15, 037 per year in Canada and that’s if they have had some university education.
What about sexual identity?
Sexual orientation has also been found to negatively affect income. A 2007 study found that gay men earn 10-32% less than similarly qualified men. Lesbians also earn less than men overall. Transgender people can also face income discrimination.
So you have to ask yourself, who do you want to be able to attend your event? And who are you keeping out with high ticket prices?
What about event costs?
Organizing a tech conference definitely costs money. However, that money doesn’t necessarily need to come from ticket sales. Sponsors can often carry more of the event costs.
If you have a well-publicized policy to lower ticket sales in order to increase a diverse attendance at your event, you may even become more attractive to sponsors. Many large companies are looking for ways to market to women and by publicly supporting increased accessibility for women, you may attract new sponsors who are happy to be associated with this type of policy.
Can’t I just offer some subsidized tickets?
Subsidized tickets aren’t a bad idea, but they won’t boost women’s attendance in significant numbers. Even if women know about the tickets, and if tickets are available in substantial number, many women will be put off accepting subsidized tickets. They won’t appreciate being put in a separate category of ticket holders, based solely on gender. They will be reluctant to ask for them, or accept them if offered. But the most important reason is that women, even those paying full price, will not see the event as being generally welcoming to women.
A better idea would be to offer student tickets at a lower price. This will help women in two ways. First, the number of women, versus men, participating in technology is more equal earlier in women’s careers. By offering student tickets you will indirectly offer more cheap tickets to women.
But you will also be saying to women (and everyone else) that beginners are welcome at your event. While there are many women who feel very comfortable at tech events, some worry that they may not be welcome. Some worry (often incorrectly) that they might not have the technical expertise that would make the event worthwhile for themselves. By inviting students, you let everyone know they are welcome.
Ability to apply this strategy to other marginalized groups: high.
Want more? 15 more blog posts on getting more women at your tech event will be coming up. Stay tuned.
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