[This post caused a ton of drama in the internets. If you want to read it, please do, but at the end, please read my follow-up. ]
If you’re waiting for an invitation, I hope you’re not holding your breath.
We’ve just finished going thru the submissions for my iOS Developer conference, 360|iDev. While we had some great submissions from women in the field, the showing wasn’t large. somewhere around 4%. Of the total line up for the conference, those women make up barely 10%
We even went against our long standing policy and invited a few people to speak. We rarely invite anyone to speak. We sometimes have to remind people to submit, but we almost never solicit someone to submit whom we’ve never had speak before. We won’t be doing it again, for the record. Matt Gemmell has an awesome list of women in tech, and Mike Lee has been very vocal in advocating more women be involved in Tech Conferences. We’re glad both are so engaged, now if more women were too. The one thing we disagree with both of them on is this. It’s not our job to pull anyone, male or female onto the stage. We want people who want to be there. Women fought for rights to vote, work, etc, but somehow as event organizers it’s our job to gift-wrap speaking spots for them, and when there aren’t women at our events, it’s our fault. Bullshit.
We pinged two people off Matt’s list. We didn’t pick randomly we asked around for recommendations. We got no reply from one, and the other said “I’m not a very good speaker”. We only did two because frankly we think it’s a waste of my time going through lists of women in tech to solicit submissions from them, especially if they then demure or don’t reply (please see #2a). We don’t want people at our conferences, that don’t want to be there. That’s why we can’t pay airfare, speaker fees, etc (please see #3).
Back to the point, ladies…. you can’t write blog posts about sausage-fests, and too many dicks on the dance floor at tech conferences, and then never show up. You can’t wait for people to include you. That never works. It doesn’t work for men, and it doesn’t work for you. The only way the programming world will get to a better gender mix is for women to stop hiding, waiting for us to stop what we’re doing and invite them in.
If you don’t attend conferences “because there’s not enough women” you’re part of the problem.
You know who’s part of the solution?
They didn’t wait for an invite to speak. The submitted awesome topics, that would be accepted no matter who submitted them (please see #2b). We’re pleased to have each of them presenting at my conference.
The door is open. we’re holding it open, but I’ll be damned if we’re gonna grab you and pull you through the door or try to coax you through it. WALK THROUGH THE DOOR.
I wanted to add a few things. I’m super glad so many great discussions sprung up, even the ones that attacked my credibility and motivations. If this post had no reaction, I’d be worried about us all :)
1. I shouldn’t have made it about me. I used “I” a lot and really it was about the conferences and the company, which is 50% run by my wife. I think that helped me look even more douchy and ass-hole-ish. I think it made my point harder to see and talk about, which bums me out. I’ve edited the post to be more “we” so if you didn’t see the original, sorry, just assume this one makes me look less like a bad guy… I hope.
2. I got a lot of complaints of being sexist. I’ll be honest I don’t know how that could be inferred from my post, but if expecting women to submit talks is sexist, i’m ok with that. We encourage women to be as active as possible at 360|iDev and 360|Stack. Along with Mollie Rusher host a women’s breakfast to 1. offer women attendees a break from us men, but 2. and most importantly to get feedback on the conference, how to involve more women, etc.
2a. Our sample wasn’t 2. This post has been 5 years coming. Those two were just the latest. I’m sorry I made it seem like an attack on them.
2b. To be clear on our process for speaker selection. The first pass is done without looking at the name on the submission. We do that to help from doing two things. Picking people we know without regard to what they proposed, and taking gender and race ( as much as that can be assumed from a name) into account.
3. Despite Aral’s claims to the contrary we do cover 3 nights hotel for our speakers and this year are trying to an honorarium. From the beginning our aim has been to do as much as we can to ease the burden of speaking. We don’t charge a lot, and we have a lot of sessions, that’s a lot of speakers. That means it’s a lot of money that we often don’t have. We’re hoping the honorarium becomes a standard part of being a speaker at 360 conferences.
3a. If anyone is curious how the money works, since it was claimed I was getting rich at the expense of pro speakers. We do a session on the state of the conference including a full breakdown of income and expenses. You can buy the video here. Email me if $5 is too much to sate any curiosity on my intentions, regarding money. This year was the first time it’s been made publicly available, but we thought sharing it was valuable.
That stuff aside, I got some great and bluntly honest feedback. One of which I’ll implement this weekend. We’re going to post a anti harassment policy for all the events. Some will say that’s kind of obvious but it was pointed out that if things happen at our events, we might not hear about it. This is a sad sad list, and I’m ashamed of most of it from the perspective of a guy and a conference organizer. Frankly that kind of crap is whack. If a speaker did that at our events they wouldn’t be welcomed back, end of story. But it was also pointed out that we should be explicit in that stance and encourage anyone who feels harassed to let us know. I will say, I’m happy our events weren’t on that list that I could see.
I’ll post the policy on the company site and link to it from the conferences. So look for that, and let me know what you think of it, what I can fix or be more clear about.