Tuesday, May 9, 2017

No More Excuses: 1,000 Women & Non Binary Folks Who Can Speak At Your Next Tech Conference

Last year, I wrote how despite the tech sector paying lip service to the idea of addressing diversity in its leadership or workforce, large companies and influential tech conferences are still big on talk and short on action.

For example, this exchange between tech writer Matt Andrews and EdgeConf's Andrew Betts on every single speaker being male:

When men in charge of tech conferences aren't being defensive, they're being straight up lazy, because finding women doing interesting work in tech is sssooooo hhhaaaarrrd, you guys!

No, seriously, someone said that.

Mike Kuniavsky the lead behind the "Sketching in Hardware" conference actually said in an interview that it's "…often much harder to identify the women who are doing interesting work than the men".

Melanie Ehrenkranz, a tech reporter with Mic.com, put out a call for anyone who was

  • willing to speak at a tech conference
  • doing interesting work in the tech sector, and 
  • was not a cis man
In just under a day, she had a list of 1,000 recommended names, which you can see for yourself here.

Okay, so now there's a list of speakers in tech. That's all we need now, right? Wrong. A list of women and nonbinary people that can speak on stage is just the first step. As Ehrenkranz said, the point is not for men in tech to have a list of people to tokenize;
"We also have to disrupt the idea that the only thing minorities are qualified to speak on is being a minority. The tech experts listed here are more than tokens — they're authorities in their fields. Individuals from underrepresented groups shouldn't have to tediously compile lists and shout into the Twittersphere that they are here, they are experts and they want to speak. Panel organizers need to make a more concerted effort to diversify their experts. Male panelists need to look at their fellow panelists and, if they notice it's exclusively white men, make space for more voices.  
We're not always going to do the work for you."

Note: Originally the title of this post inadvertently didn't mention non-binary people. I have since corrected it.

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