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Our approach to gender diversity

There’s been lots of debate over the past 2 years about diversity in tech conferences, and in particular gender diversity

Here are the conclusions we’ve come to about this issue:

  • Ours is a male-dominated industry – and weaker for it
  • This gender bias is self-reinforcing: for example the lack of visibility of high profile women makes our industry less attractive to those considering a tech career
  • We are stuck in a rut, and need to be proactive if we are to climb out – we can’t just expect the bias to correct itself
  • Conferences have a big part to play in this when organisers decide who they put on stage
  • We accept that we are collectively responsible for correcting the gender bias in our industry, and believe that a positive change is possible if we each do our bit
  • A number of conferences have already shared their stories about how they’ve gone about encouraging diversity. We’ve gone about things slightly differently, so here’s ours…

When planning for All Your Base Conf this year we started with the topics we would like to cover this year. Some technology specific, some broader.

For example this year we really wanted a CouchDB and a Couchbase talk. We wanted an IndexedDB talk, a “We really use and abuse X tech” type talk, etc etc…

Once we had our rough programme we created the first rule, we must find at least two speakers for each slot who can deliver with equal ability. The key part of this rule is that one must be male and one must be female.

Before we started inviting speakers we had one more rule to follow. If we had invited a male speaker, we had to invite a female speaker next, so if we were turned down by a speaker for a slot, we’d apply this rule to find a replacement: regardless of the topic. If the last invitation we had sent out was to a woman, the next would be to a man.

In the end we’ve got a lineup with a majority of female speakers, we had 11 slots to fill.  This was not planned but a result of inviting exactly the same numbers of men as women, and then the order in which those invitations were accepted.

With a few simple rules and programming based on content and talent we have ended up with a world class lineup of speakers, who work for some of the biggest tech companies in the world, delivering exciting technical content.

Tickets for All Your Base are on sale now, and we look forward to seeing you in October.

6 Comments

  1. Robin
    Posted 13 September 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    A disappointing and backwards solution. The thing is, the very moment one deals with GENDERS in any way, one is committing sexism. The only way towards equality is to completely ignore gender and only look to the person’s competence and legitimacy for the task or role in question. By specifically working to shuffle females into whatever context, one isn’t working towards diversity or GENDER EQUALITY at all. Take a moment to think about that.

  2. Mathew Clout
    Posted 13 September 2013 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Just wondering, where would the tech industry be if it wasn’t so male dominated? Over the past few decades it has grown to a multi trillion dollar industry affecting the lives almost every man, woman and child.

    What have we missed out on?

  3. Michael
    Posted 13 September 2013 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Looks like a great conference!

  4. Mark
    Posted 13 September 2013 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Where are the blacks on your speaker schedule? Or the gray-haired people?? Surely your conference will be weaker because of this lack of diversity.

  5. Josh
    Posted 16 September 2013 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    …but who decides your two male/female speakers have ‘equal ability’?

    Great approach, but still questions over selection — will some speaker candidates have been selected to fill that gap?

  6. Pearl
    Posted 21 February 2014 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    Really appreciate the effort people take to avoid sexism and encourage more women to get into tech and succeed.

    I know tech industry is lacking women but being a woman I would want someone to appreciate me ‘based on my talent and ability’ and not because ‘I am a woman in tech industry’.

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