The past few days there seems an opening in the ongoing conversation talking place about speaker lists at tech conferences and their lack of diversity. A subject Shelley Powers has rightly brought up to various of promoters and organizers of conferences to their regular dismay.
Take some time and read around:
Eric Meyer: Diverse It Gets: In my personal view, diversity is not of itself important, and I don’t feel that I have anything to address next time around. What’s important is technical expertise, speaking skills, professional stature, brand appropriateness, and marketability. That’s it.
Shelley Powers: Diversity isn’t important…and neither are standards or accessibility: Maybe I’ve been weblogging too long, but it seems to me that a lot of people are doing a lot of crap in the name of ‘marketability’. If you want to be self-serving jerks, that’s fine with me, but at least be honest about it: don’t wrap it in ‘marketability’ and think it noble.
Kottke: Gender diversity at web conferences: From this list, it seems to me that either the above concerns are not getting through to conference organizers or that gender diversity doesn’t matter as much to conference organizers as they publicly say it does.
Anil Dash: The Old Boys Club is for Losers: Those of you who are defending this status quo are defending a culture of failure.
Rafe Colburn : Women and men: Diversity is a worthwhile end unto itself.
Sometimes it requires a series of kicks in the ass to move things forward. As things stand – if tech conferences are a reflection of the Web industry (see Kottke’s post for some figures) – then the Web industry is *exclusive* rather than inclusive. A reflection of society’s status quo. Vint Cerf, might agree.
Aren’t we collectively building an architecture of participation? Our face to face gatherings should mirror that. And if they don’t – then they reveal who we truly care about – don’t they?
Update – More Links:
Meriblog: Conference Diversity .. the Permathread Returns: There is a distinct and definite business case for diversity.
Anil Dash: The Essentials of Web 2.0 Your Event Doesn’t Cover: To conference organizers: If you haven’t heard of these people or their work, or you think that Yet Another Bookmarking To-Do List Guy is more important, perhaps you owe some refunds.
Personism: List of Women Speakers for Your Conference: Making a list is just a start, but what a freaking list it is. I am psyched.
Shelley Powers: Progress: Consider this: every time this topic comes up, about women in the industry and women in tech conferences, who are the people who get the most links? The most attention? The most respect? Who appear in Techmeme, Tailrank, and Megite? Kottke, Dash, Myer, Messino, Scoble, Searls, Winer-do you see something odd about this? Regardless of how many women write on this, it’s the men who get the attention. I’d say if we want to look at what’s ‘wrong’, we start right here.
And with that last insightful quote, human aggregator Karl is ummm… going to spend time with his daughter now. Shelley has a point – a few glances at various aggregators pretty much bore it out today – and all I could think – being the guy I am – is how sadly ironic it was.
Update: More Links
Troutgirl: The gender of conference speakers: With one exception, technical (or tech-biz) conference organizers do NOTHING proactive to seek out or push for female speakers — and I wish they would just stop claiming that they do. I am a long-time LAMP dev and author, a founding member of Dojo, leader of a Comet project, a proven scaler of graph-based systems, CTO of a venture-backed Web 2.0 company, vocal proponent of women in tech, experienced speaker at technical conferences, and friends with many of the people who program talks, panels, and tracks. If I’m not being proactively sought out to speak, I can be confident few other women are either.