Conference Diversity

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Lots of talk lately about diversity, gender and how that is reflected and affects attendance and speaker selection in conferences.

Jason Kottke

He posted some interesting numbers but as the next posts I’m linking mention, it’s a bit dishonest to list numbers for conferences without also having numbers for the industry. I don’t think you’d expect equal representation at a nursing conference for example. Proportional representation makes sense but you need to know the proportions so you can be fare. (Carson who often takes the blunt of the “attacks” answers in Mule’s comments)

Eric Meyer

Stresses in his answer.

Well, I’m hereby bucking that trend. 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. That’s always been the alpha and omega of my thinking, and it will continue to be so the next time, and time after that, and the time after that… For me, when it comes to planning an A-list conference, I look for A-list speakers, by which I mean speakers who will be regarded as A-list by our audience—the same audience that came up with a list of 56 people, 10.7% of which were female and 89.3% of which were male.—Diverse It Gets

Anil Dash

Anil is instead advocating pursuing new markets instead of staying on the beaten path and catering to the same markets.

Eric: Are you saying that it’s your explicit desire to only make a conference that’s marketable to the audience you already have? Because that seems so boring and unambitious that it feels like you’re saying “we’re only in it for the money”.—The Old Boys Club is for Losers

He’s also got a list of The Essentials of Web 2.0 Your Event Doesn’t Cover

Tantek Çelik

Something I’ve wondered about myself in comments when this discussion happened on Montréal blogs.

Now the question to everyone who whines about themselves or their colleagues not being invited to speak is: Why aren’t you or your colleagues speaking at a Barcamp? Or again, to put it more positively, if you want to speak, don’t wait for an invite, Go to a Barcamp, sign up for speaking slot, speak, and get known. Barcamp has dramatically lowered the barrier to entry to speaking, growing your speaking experience, building up your speaking resume, and heck maybe even meeting some of the folks that organize conferences, or at least meeting folks those folks look to for recommendations.—Two (and a few more) questions about speaking, conferences, and diversity

Nicole Simon

But in general I think we someday have to draw the line. I refuse to run after women all the time just to get them to such meetings if they dont also at least voice their opinions on why they did not come or where not feeling like coming. You cant complain about the cake but eat it too.—BarCamp London

Matt Haughey

But to be clear, it’s not just a gender issue — gender is just one part of it. It’s about expanding your vision, hearing from voices you haven’t before, and learning something new. That’s not just happy hippie rainbow talk either, it makes perfect business sense to go after the market you don’t have, not merely the one you already got because the people you don’t know how to reach are often orders of magnitude larger than your current audience.—Diverse means a lot of things

Brian Overkirch

A couple from Brian but read the whole thing (duh!), lots of things in there;

Mainly, I think we have to get diversity right because it will be a condition of success in the Web to come. The next few years will see the triumph of nuance over brute force; smart swarming and mashing up over lock-in; a million small victories. You won’t pay attention to diversity issues to assuage your liberal guilt; you’ll do it because it’s good for business. Because the winners will have emotional empathy; be able to identify with users; quickly read the tea leaves and respond accordingly; will cede control to members and co-create unexpected products.

Instead, let’s take a page from the black nationalists and focus on the real elements that comprise self-determination: access to ideas, to training, to colleagues and talent, to funding sources, to markets. Conferences are but a simulation of the ecosystem; they are not the thing in itself. I submit that when we get our gender ratios all kumbayah for every tech conference, we still will not have done much. We’ll feel better, but not much will have changed.—Identity Is a Mashup

[Update] Arrgggh. Shouldn’t have refreshed the feed reader! Other posts on the subject but that I haven’t gotten to yet:

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