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Diverse It Gets

This post is probably going to get me burnt to a tiny, mewling crisp, but that’s okay.  I can take it.

I also want to make it very clear that what I write here reflects my personal views.  It does not in any fashion represent the official policy of An Event Apart LLC or its associated conferences.  However, it’s obviously the case that, as a co-founder of the company and an organizer of said conferences, my views influence what happens there.  Just don’t think for an instant that I speak for Jeffrey in this, nor that I am declaring official company policy.  This one’s all me.

So, here it is:  as a conference organizer, I don’t care about diversity.

All right.  Take a minute to reduce the boil in your blood to a bare simmer, and bear with me.  I’m going to explain what I mean, and illustrate as best I can.  I hope that by the end, you’ll better understand my point of view, even if you don’t agree with it.

Yesterday, Jason Kottke posted the percentage of female speakers at recent and upcoming web conferences.  I note he didn’t include the one-day Event Aparts from last year, where our speaker lists ranged from 0% female (most of them) to 25% female (Austin) to 40% female (Seattle), but that’s okay.  Maybe he was only considering “bigger” conferences.  Early on, he wrote:

Each time this issue is raised, you see conference organizers publicly declare that they tried, that diversity is a very important issue, and that they are going to address it the next time around.

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.

You’ll note that nowhere in that list do you find gender, race, creed, or any other such parameter.  Those things are completely unimportant to me when organizing a conference.  (Or, really, when I’m doing almost anything.)  Hopefully, you’ll also note that I have not said that speakers should always be white males.  If that’s what you think not caring about diversity means, then sorry, you’re wrong.  At least you’re wrong in my case.  I can’t speak for others.

I will admit that we’ve seen a little bit of pushback on this issue.  The gender imbalance of the upcoming Boston show was pointed out to us by one of the speakers, and I’m sure someone’s eventually going to ask us where the women are in Seattle.

I’ll slightly sidetrack to address Seattle, since it illustrates one aspect of how speaker lists are decided.  With Web Directions North just concluded in Vancouver, we made a tactical decision to try not to repeat any speakers from WDN at our Seattle show.  Retaliation?  Nope; simple marketing.  If our Seattle speaker list looked like even a partial re-run of WDN, then where’s the incentive to go to AEA?  Unfortunately, that left us fairly high and dry with regard to many of the best-known names in our field, including the best-known women.  Nothing against the WDN crew: we’re all friends here; they had the earlier show; and nobody held a gun to our heads and forced us to go to Seattle in June.  That’s just how things turned out.

So that left us four women down in terms of who we could consider inviting to Seattle.  You might say: well, that’s fine, but what about getting other women on stage?

Okay, who?

Before you answer, remember that An Event Apart is a web development best practices conference.  Our brand promises to bring you the biggest names in the field of standards-oriented design and closely related fields, and to have those people talk about what they see next, to push the envelope just a little further out, to show the audience old things in new ways, and so on.  Therefore, it relies on populating the stage with widely known and respected people, on having speakers who are instantly recognizable as relevant to what the attendees do and what they want to learn.

So someone might suggest that we invite, say, Natalie Jeremijenko.  I’d immediately sit bolt upright with interest: I love her stuff.  She’s the kind of artist-engineer-hacker I would want to be if I were to choose that sort of career path.  Her ideas and projects completely fascinate me.  I would love to see her present on what she’s doing and thinking and seeing in the world, and to have the chance to meet her in person and express my deep and abiding admiration.

But then the conference organizer in me would slump back.  She’s not well known in the web design/development field, and she doesn’t really work in that field anyway.  As brilliant and talented and amazing and wonderful and female as she is, she doesn’t belong on our stage.  Other stages, absolutely!  (If MAKE: ever does a conference, they’d be idiots not to invite her.)  But not ours.

Call that decision a manifestation of old-boy clubbiness if you want, but it isn’t.  It’s the natural result of defining a brand and sticking to it.  Should Slipknot be the opening act for a Tim McGraw/Faith Hill tour?  Should Rick Santorum be the opening keynote at the Democratic National Convention?  Should I be a speaker at the Blog Business Summit?  Should men be on stage at BlogHer?

No.

Look at the authors of the best-selling books in the field.  Look at the folks behind the most widely followed web sites.  Look at the names that come up whenever someone asks who are the most respected and influential people in web design and development.  How many are female?

A few.  Not many.  (And most of them spoke in Vancouver.)  So is the gender imbalance in the eye of the organizers, or is it in the very fabric of the industry?

Allow me to illustrate by way of digression.  A couple of years back, I was asked to do a book project that I couldn’t take on.  So I posted here, asking people what recognized names in the industry they’d recommend to write such a book.  I got over one hundred responses before I closed the comments.  Know how many women’s names I got?  Six out of fifty-six; that’s about 10.7%.  Two of those women landed in the top ten, and the rest got a mention or two.  (Anne van Kesteren doesn’t count, since he’s male; he’s also Dutch.)

Still, we might take that list and assume that of the most respected names in the CSS field, 11% are women.  You might conclude, then, that any CSS-centric conference (which AEA is not, but bear with me) should never have less than 11% female speakers.  Fine.  So that also means that no CSS-centric conference should have less than 89% male speakers, right?

Hey, how come the room got so suddenly quiet?  And why all the pitchforks?

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.

For that matter, it’s very important that our speakers be good public speakers.  Bobby or Bobbi Speaker could be the very top name in their area of expertise, but if they’re a train wreck on stage, then no thanks.  In our internal discussions, we’ve rejected some names because they are known to be poor speakers.  (They were all men, as if that matters.)  We’ve also pursued some speakers who we know are simply fantastic on stage.  (From both sexes, as if that matters.)

So, like I said before, when I’m thinking about a speaker list, I care about expertise, speaking skills, stature, appropriateness, and marketability.  I’m just not interested in a person’s plumbing.  I care about what they know, how they’re perceived in the industry, how well they fit the conference’s brand, and how well they do on stage.

Now, here’s where you get to show me my blind spots:  let me know who has been overlooked by conferences in general, female or otherwise, and why they shouldn’t be overlooked any more.  As an organizer, I’m interested for the usual business and brand reasons; personally, I want to know because I always want to learn new things and hear from new voices.  I’ll absolutely give consideration to any name you mention for AEA speakership—but everyone will be considered using the same set of criteria, and their plumbing isn’t part of that set.

Addendum 24 Feb 07: my poor use of language created a massive ambiguity which has left many with the wrong impression.  I used “diversity” to mean mostly “gender diversity”, as it was used in the piece to which I was responding.  I did not say, nor did I mean to leave the impression I was saying, that I am uninterested in conceptual diversity, diversity of thought.  It seems that I did leave that impression, and for misleading others, I very much apologize.  (That the misleading was unintentional is beside the point.)

124 Responses»

    • #1
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 0757
    Chris wrote in to say...

    No complaints here. Sounds good to me.

    • #2
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    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 0811
    Lee wrote in to say...

    I’m not really too familiar with what females are potentially out there to be recruited as a speaker for your event. But it struck me that to make your event more marketable (one the things listed as important to you), including a few females would go some ways towards that end. So even accepting your other rationales listed, as an event organizer I would want to foster diversity not for the sake of it, but to appeal to a wider audience. There’s strength in diversity: it’s a key element in nature ensuring survival of a species. Why not include it in your list of important considerations?

    • #3
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 0838
    Eric Meyer wrote in to say...

    There”s strength in diversity: it”s a key element in nature ensuring survival of a species. Why not include it in your list of important considerations?

    Actually, I’m all for diversity of opinions, ideas, and so on. That’s the kind of diversity that makes a conference or other population strong. I admit I did fall a bit into the trap of using the generic word “diversity” as a signifier for gender/racial/etc. diversity, which is how it’s most commonly used, and was the context in which I was writing.

    On the other hand, there’s such a thing as too much diversity. Given the nature of An Event Apart, we’d be ill-served by increasing diversity of opinion to include speakers who think standards-oriented design is a waste of time when multiply-nested tables and spacer GIFs work just fine. I don’t think such people should be silenced, but I think our attendees would feel their time and money to be wasted by taking up a speaking slot with that sort of presentation. I’d even regard a panel session on “CSS vs. tables, which is better?” as a waste of everyone’s time, at least at AEA. You can get tons of that stuff online, with no end in sight.

    As for the idea that adding women (for example) to a list for the sake of marketing diversity, I strongly believe there’s a bigger marketability win in assembling the best possible list of speakers, regardless of their gender/race/etc.

    • #4
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 0842
    Wilco wrote in to say...

    I completely agree with you Eric. Personally I don’t understand why this gender thing is such a big issue. For real, it’s about what the person can contribute, to a conference, a gouverment, to a person’s life, whatever. Why is gender such a big deal then? Why make such a fuss about the colour of one’s skin. Why not hair colour? Why not get angry over how many disabled people get asked?

    • #5
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 0905
    Eric DeLabar wrote in to say...

    In terms of marketing, sure it makes sense to get a few females on the bill, but I don’t think that’s point. AEA has a set of criteria to become a speaker, and a pool of known speakers to pull from; it is simply the fact that the pool only has so many women and that most of them already spoke at WDN.

    I went to the first AEA because I knew the names of the speakers, and I knew the reputation of ALA. The first AEA was great because the organizers took the time to choose the right speakers based on their skills and abilities, not on, as as stated above, their plumbing, or any other such parameter.

    I’m not a woman, so maybe I don’t have the right perspective to be posting this, but I’d rather attend a non-diverse conference of excellent speakers than a diverse conference of mediocre speakers. Reverse discrimination is still discrimination.

    • #6
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 0940
    David Clark wrote in to say...

    Interesting piece, and for the most part I agree with you.
    However, I would encourage you to broaden the issue to be more than just about gender…
    I think it is FANTASTIC that AEA and other “mainstream” events now include accessibility issues as part of their core material, I just wish more of the perceived “experts” on that topic had visible disabilities.

    Just my $.02

    • #7
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 0954
    Eric Puidokas wrote in to say...

    You’re right. There is a gender inequality in the industry. And no matter what causes that inequality, you’ve decided it’s not going to be your job to try and fix it.

    Companies could hire more women into the field. Schools could try to get more women to enter the field. Or… big name conferences could try and feature talented women who know their stuff. Even if they aren’t famous (yet). Half of what gives these speakers their credibility is that the conference organizers will vouch for them. You inviting someone to speak makes them an expert.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s your responsibility to invite more women to speak at AEA. There are a lot of ways the problem of inequality could be helped. You’ve just decided to not be one of those ways.

    • #8
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    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 0956
    Tracey wrote in to say...

    I am a woman, and I have been in the IT industry (and other male-dominated activities) for 20+ years now.

    In the past, I’ve been threatened for taking what should be a man’s job, accused of getting favorable treatment because I’m female, handed reports to re-type when I was in the secretaries’ office picking up a printout, had equipment grabbed from my hands (“don’t carry that, you’ll hurt yourself!”), told I would do better to hide my femininity, and required to wear skirts or dresses only (no slacks) to the office. Unfair? Sure. In a few extreme cases I’ve even gone after the perpretrators. I have a successful career in spite of it all, and I am respected by my peers for my own skills and knowledge.

    I don’t know whether I’ve been passed over for a job or promotion because of my gender, but I have walked away from situations where there was any hint that I was being treated preferentially because of it. Encouraging diversity by casting a wider net to find qualified participants of different genders/races/whatever is a good thing. Putting less qualified people in the lineup to make it more “diverse” cheats everyone: your customers, the people who should have had those spots, and the people who get the positions without being held to the same standards.

    It would be great if everything in life were perfectly fair and balanced, but that just ain’t reality. There is still some bias and prejudice that should be eliminated, but there are also areas that men and women just aren’t equally attracted to (I still can’t get any guys to show up to my scrapbooking parties). And that’s OK.

    Plus, it’s a nice change to go to events where the line is outside the men’s restroom at break time!

    • #9
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    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1000
    mw wrote in to say...

    I see your point, and since I’ll be attending AEA Boston, I appreciate the care you put into finding the best and the brightest. But I’m disappointed that you wrote this. It only serves to be more divisive, and it provides fodder for those who think it’s just fine that there aren’t many women in this field. I don’t personally know any other women who do what I do, which is a big reason why I’m looking forward to AEA.

    I also have to ask: why not use your — or Zeldman’s, or Moll’s, or Krug’s — name recognition to bring a lesser known person to the forefront more often? I admit I’ve never heard of Ethan Marcotte, but since he’s sharing the bill with some heavy hitters I’m looking forward to his talk. Why not use your time and recognition to encourage more women to get into front-end technology and web standards, instead of writing posts like this?

    • #10
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    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1001
    Richard wrote in to say...

    This is a fantastic piece of thinking and writing Eric and I applaud you for posting it. It’s time to get beyond social engineering (forced diversity for the sake of some PC ideal).

    Here’s something to consider, a more nuanced scenario…

    You have one slot left in your conference and you have two, equally qualified speakers to fill it. They are technically equal in every way and both have the expertise and communication skills to wow an audience, do the job you want.

    One of the speakers will need a ramp up to the stage (which has steps) because he uses a power wheelchair, the other can walk. The conference tells you (ADA law aside) that it will cost $1000 to build a ramp, and, it just so happens that this speaker will be speaking in two difference rooms so will need two ramps or the ramp will need to be moved.

    It’s easier to just hire the speaker who can walk but you might want the guy in the chair? Why? Well, he’ll bring diversity to the mix of speakers you’ve got coming and he might pull in other people with disabilities who work in the field and who might not have come otherwise.

    Is it “social engineering” to choose the guy in the chair not only for his expertise but also for the fact that he’ll change (broaden) the customer-base of your conference? Yes, I’d say it is and I’d say it’s okay to be thinking along these lines, as long as your first principle is adhered to: you don’t bring someone in in a chair who’s less qualified just because they’re in a chair.

    I think you can map this idea over pretty much any variable: gender, popularity, age, etc.

    Again, I applaud you for your first principle and for saying it like it is.

    • #11
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    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1023
    Chester Bullock wrote in to say...

    Well stated.

    • #12
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1045
    Chris Heilmann wrote in to say...

    I also agree with what was said here. The only thing I’d really like to see in terms of diversity is more presentations about accessibilty by disabled speakers. I was fortunate to see Jan Eric Hellbusch in action talking about accessibility as part of your development methodology and he put several sighted speakers after and before him to shame. Let the experts talk.

    • #13
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1100
    Chris Hester wrote in to say...

    Richard wrote:

    “It’s easier to just hire the speaker who can walk but you might want the guy in the chair? Why? Well, he’ll bring diversity to the mix of speakers you”ve got coming and he might pull in other people with disabilities who work in the field and who might not have come otherwise.”

    I believe this is called “positive discrimination”. One reason given by black newsreader Trevor McDonald as to why he’s been such a hit in the UK was “positive racism”. Similar thing I guess.

    There’s also the issue of the “token black” when it comes to US shows. Does this apply to events? Witness Heroes – how many are white? Sigh. But I once heard shows need to include at least one black person just to avoid being classed as racist. Correct me if I’m wrong. (Yet do all-black shows have to feature one white person? I digress…)

    At events, I’d definitely like to see more black speakers, along with more from different religious backgrounds, and more women too. But you can only reflect what the people available to you are. Like you say it would be wrong to include people purely because of their gender/race etc. I’d also like to see more disabled people, as they have something that definitely needs to be said about web design and accessibility.

    I think it’s OK to include the odd unusual name as well. Like I read that Peter Gabriel gave a speak at a tech show, yet he was not a programmer, but a musician. But I’m sure he gave a damn interesting speech.

    • #14
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1107
    Rob Weychert wrote in to say...

    There is still some bias and prejudice that should be eliminated, but there are also areas that men and women just aren’t equally attracted to (I still can’t get any guys to show up to my scrapbooking parties). And that’s OK.

    Tracey has an interesting point here, and I’m surprised it isn’t made more often. Is it just a stereotype that most computer nerds are men? Are women purposely excluded from the industry, or is there something in a woman’s chemistry that makes her less likely to be interested in technology? I really don’t know. But it seems like an important element of the conversation that’s usually conspicuously absent.

    • #15
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    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1108
    Received from Identity Is a Mashup at Like It Matters

    [...] the standards evangelistas at AEA.  That Eric Meyer has to break his day and write a defense of his conference dev fu is ridiculous.  As the saying goes, these folks gave at the office.  And gave, and [...]

    • #16
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1113
    Frances Berriman wrote in to say...

    I’m so glad you’ve written this! I’m personally very glad you wouldn’t look at the quality of a speaker based on their gender, race, colour of their glasses etc. I don’t want to see a woman speak just because you felt you had to fill your quota of XX.

    Eric DeLebar said above; “I”m not a woman, so maybe I don”t have the right perspective to be posting this…”. I am a woman on the web, and I still don’t seem to be able to put myself into the perspective of those that think negative discrimination is afoot. I do know I am positively against positive discrimination though. :)

    I’d happily see this whole thing become a non-issue, and hopefully in the future when job roles do become more evenly filled by men and women, it’ll vanish.

    • #17
    • Pingback
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1123
    Received from Richard’s Notes » Blog Archive » Diverse It Gets

    [...] speaks at many conferences posted an essay on forcing gender diversity at technical conferences: Diverse It Gets. “In my personal view, diversity is not of itself important… ….What’s [...]

    • #18
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1124
    JamieKnight wrote in to say...

    hiya,

    I think you have a good point in that how can have have an equal representation when there are not equal number to do it.

    Imagine if you had a container, 20% full of oil, and 80% full of water. if you were to take a sample of that container where 50% was oil and 50% was water, you would not be accurately representing the contents of that container.

    Added to your point about the lack of viable female speaker, i think you have a very strong argument.

    Jamie & lion

    • #19
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1139
    Jeremy Keith wrote in to say...

    Eric, for now let me just say that I disagree with you. I’ll go into more detail later when I have the chance.

    But I did want to just say that the person on the ALA team that I’d most like to hear from at AEA is Erin Kissane. She’s “A-list” in my book and I consider myself part of your audience.

    • #20
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1143
    Patrick wrote in to say...

    Eric,

    This statement:

    What”s important is technical expertise, speaking skills, professional stature, brand appropriateness, and marketability.

    I agree with. It’s a perfectly logical and rational baseline for a conference (not to mention other areas of society). It’s one that looks past physical attributes of an individual and allows for a qualifications to shine through. As much at that makes sense, it also has the potential to offend. But then we are human.

    • #21
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1146
    Michael wrote in to say...

    I don’t think that it’s AEA’s job to diversify the industry, but it seems that you are in a unique position to expand the category of “known and respected people.” My impression is that most of your events sell out, and you’ve built a lot of trust and confidence in the brand, giving you a great forum for introducing new, or at least unknown, talent.

    • #22
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1157
    Anil Dash wrote in to say...

    I look for A-list speakers, by which I mean speakers who will be regarded as A-list by our audience

    Eric, you’re a smart and forward-thinking person. Why are you limiting yourself to the constraints imposed by the audience you have today, instead of aiming to please the broader audience you could have tomorrow. Right now you’re saying the equivalent of “the markup we have works in the browsers that are most popular.”

    • #23
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1228
    Tantek Çelik wrote in to say...

    Heartfelt and well written.

    I wrote up a big long comment, and decided it would be better as a blog post.

    My current thoughts on this topic:
    Two (and a few more) questions about speaking, conferences, and diversity.

    • #24
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1255
    soxiam wrote in to say...

    at some point you may need to take some risks and reach out to new undiscovered audience if you want to keep your event fresh and growing. the problem with your so-called “a-list speakers with our audience” is that the definition tends to get stagnant and self-perpetuating over time. there are reasons, yourself included, why same people seem to get invited to speak over and over again. yes you are all great but let’s not deny that, at the same time, you are also getting famous for being well known among certain circles. soon or later, fair or not, it is going to start looking more like a scene that celebrates itself. and that’s the danger of only catering to what you think your audience wants.

    • #25
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1258
    Molly E. Holzschlag wrote in to say...

    I really should write more on this over at my own site. That might have just been sarcasm. In all seriousness, I mostly agree with you, Eric. Men have never been the problem in my own career path, quite the opposite.

    However, I have found that I have worked at least twice the hours and twice the years to accomplish the same amount of visibility. I don’t have an explanation for that. It’s not eactly like I’m difficult to notice/hear.

    I do agree very strongly with Jeremy. Take Erin who I, too, would love to hear from – or someone within the ALA/AEA family – and give that person a bit of time on stage. See how it goes. Mentorship can help and it doesn’t have to be on a large scale. Slow and steady wins the race, so it’s been said.

    • #26
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1302
    Mike D. wrote in to say...

    The gender imbalance of the upcoming Boston show was pointed out to us by one of the speakers, and I”m sure someone”s eventually going to ask us where the women are in Seattle.

    I have a more general question to ask that has nothing to do with conferences:

    Where are the women in Seattle?

    • #27
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1302
    zeldman wrote in to say...

    But I did want to just say that the person on the ALA team that I”d most like to hear from at AEA is Erin Kissane. She”s “A-list” in my book and I consider myself part of your audience.

    We invited Erin Kissane to speak for us in Seattle but she had a schedule conflict; she’ll appear at another AEA event later in the year.

    I don’t share Eric’s view; I’m not neutral. I work with brilliant women at Happy Cog. Our Event Apart planning and production team is all female. I make an effort to recruit great female speakers.

    For reasons I don’t pretend to understand, you find more women in visible leadership roles in editorial work, information architecture, usability, accessibility, and entrepreneurship. You find fewer women in leadership roles in the CSS/design niche that’s the core of our show.

    If our conference was primarily about accessibility and usability, I reckon it would be 50-50 women-men. I’d certainly try for that kind of balance.

    But our core is the place where design and web standards meet, and the leaders in that niche are mostly guys. These speakers — the bulk of our show — are those who have made significant contributions as designers and coders. Who comes to mind? If you’re honest, it’s people like Dan Cederholm, Douglas Bowman, Andy Budd, Dave Shea, Jeremy Keith…

    If you scan New Riders and Friends of Ed titles in this category, most of the writers are guys. It’s not because the publishers are sexist and it’s not because publishing is an old-boy enterprise (check the credits in the front of the book: you’ll find more women than men). It’s because more men than women write books about the meeting of code and design.

    Whether you’re comfortable with this gender mix or unhappy about it doesn’t change the fact that it exists. Fortunately, AEA is becoming more and more of a best-practices conference, which means we’ll be able to include more and more great female speakers. We invited some women to Seattle who couldn’t make it, and held off inviting others for reasons Eric explains in his post, so Seattle is looking more boyish than I’m comfortable with. But it will be a great show.

    • #28
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1310
    Sheri Bigelow wrote in to say...

    I agree that you should strive to get the best possible speakers for your event, but I also think writing that “diversity is not of itself important” misses the point. I strongly disagree with the premise of your post which (at least to me) seems to promote the narrow perspective that more diversity means less-excellent speakers (as referenced by some responses thus far, “I”d rather attend a non-diverse conference of excellent speakers than a diverse conference of mediocre speakers.” “There is a gender inequality in the industry [...] it”s not going to be your job to try and fix it.” “You can only reflect what the people available to you are.” “I don”t want to see a woman speak just because you felt you had to fill your quota of XX.”). Of course, a poll of your readers is likely to reflect the already Caucasian-male-dominated web development market. Diversity goes deeper. It’s not just about “marketability” and making money or even reflecting a non-diverse main audience. It’s about community and respect for others. Holding a conference without any women speakers does not necessarily mean you discount diversity. Saying diversity is not important when setting up a conference, however, does discount diversity. Diversity is about trying to create a rich and rewarding human experience, not the lack of {insert adjective here} at web development conferences.

    I want to attend conferences that are not only about the highest expertise, skills, stature, brand, etc., but that are also about people, connections, and inspiration. And THAT is exactly what Web Directions North was about. There was a lot of amazing support and good times had in Vancouver this year.

    • #29
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1313
    Ms. Jen wrote in to say...

    The A-List is a bit of a small place. As more conferences and events are organized for web design and development, the speaker rosters have been pretty narrow the last few years with many of the same folks speaking.

    I will throw my hat in with Anil here. An Event Apart should be as its name states; look to the future, look to push the boundaries.

    Perhaps Natalie Jeremijenko would be appropriate for your audience, as she might trigger creative ideas that other speakers might not. Last year at the Carson Future of Web Apps summit in London, Tom Coates spoke on Social Networking and Design. He did not speak on Ruby, or APIs, or Javascript, or… But many thought his presentation was the best of the day because it was not the same as the others and it did get us thinking in new paths.

    ;o)

    • #30
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1315
    Richard wrote in to say...

    This is a fantastic discussion and no matter how one comes down on Eric’s statement it’s important for this discussion to take place. I’m delighted that he made a provocative statement.

    If I were the “token” woman, person with a disability, or African American chosen to speak at a conference to give it a more diverse mix of presenters, what might that mean to me?

    There’s a downside to forcing diversity and it’s not just the backlash from the folks who were otherwise qualified who didn’t get the slot because of social engineering, it’s also the self-esteem of the person who got the slot because of social engineering.

    I would like to know that I got asked to speak at X conference because of my expertise and speaking skills, not because I’m a demographic poorly represented.

    Affirmative Action, inclusion and other forms of social engineering are designed to seed change and that change is important and ultimately good. However, when you’re inside the change it’s messy and people must make sacrifices to enable it. We tend to forget about the messy part.

    If you were a big-shot (male) speaker and spoke at a conference each year and that conference got you a lot of consulting work, then one year found out you were not asked so that a less qualified woman/black/person with a disability could speak, how would you feel about that? I think Eric’s idea to focus on qualifications first, then diversity is important to consider because it eliminates some of the messiness in social engineering.

    And, yes, I agree that at the same time Eric and others who run conferences should use their considerable leverage to enable change, but change that doesn’t undermine anyone’s self-esteem. Not an easy design task.

    • #31
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1332
    Mark Jaquith wrote in to say...

    Artificial diversity can not coexist with a genuine meritocracy. As long as you’re making it known that meritorious people of all types are welcome, and as long as you don’t take irrelevant criteria into account when making your decisions, you bear no responsibility for the variability of non-important characteristics in the people you end up choosing, because it’s just a function of who applied and who was meritorious. It’s not worth worrying about, if merit is your goal. You can’t artificially create the flavor of diversity that you think “looks good” without screwing people more meritorious than their replacements.

    • #32
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1409
    Eric Meyer wrote in to say...

    Obviously I’m not going to be able to keep up with responding to everyone, but I’ll take a few stabs at it.

    Eric Puidokas: You said: “There are a lot of ways the problem of inequality could be helped. You’ve just decided to not be one of those ways”. Can you suggest ways in which a conference could help withthe problem of inequality? I’m not trying to strike back or anything (not that I read your comment as any sort of attack); as a conference organizer, I’m genuinely curious to know what I could do.

    Tracey: You said: “Encouraging diversity by casting a wider net to find qualified participants of different genders/races/whatever is a good thing. Putting less qualified people in the lineup to make it more “diverse” cheats everyone: your customers, the people who should have had those spots, and the people who get the positions without being held to the same standards.”

    Next time, I’m just going to ask you to write my posts, because what I quoted proves you’re much better at summarizing my opinions than I am. Two sentences when I went on for a page and a half! (And for anyone who’s searching for evidence of sarcastic flaming, this is not one of those. I’m serious. I could’ve just posted those lines and been done.)

    The way you’ve been treated in the past saddens and disgusts me. It’s a very familiar story, I’m sure—all too familiar for many readers. The best response for me is to make sure I don’t do the same, and that I don’t do the same in reverse.

    mw: I’m glad you’ll be at AEA Boston, and I hope we can talk about this in person while you’re there. What I’d like to know, however, is why/how you found my post to be divisive?

    You also said: “…why not use your… name recognition to bring a lesser known person to the forefront more often?”. See my response below.

    Jeremy: As Jeffrey mentioned, we did ask Erin Kissane, but she had to decline. I hope you’ll get a chance to disagree with me in detail!

    mw, Michael, Anil, soxiam, and Ms. Jen: we could try to be tastemakers, as it were, but that’s a dicey proposition when establishing a brand. We’re in explosive-growth mode right now, and though it now appears we’ve got a very popular conference going here, that wasn’t a given. We went into the larger AEA format not knowing how it would sell, to be honest. I figured we’d at elast break even, but I wasn’t at all sure we’d sell out. Anyone could say to me, “What, are you nuts?” but they didn’t have to commit to an event that would cost most of six figures just to cancel.

    So in order to get established, I felt we needed to go with the biggest names we could get. (We actually asked some very big names, but got no responses.) Now, with thiings obviously going well, we can relax a bit on that score and think about ways to evolve. Down the road, we can afford to be a little edgier with our speaker choices. In fact, I think that would be an important thing for us to do—to find fresh, compelling new voices. But that’s still not a gender-specific effort.

    Sheri Bigelow: You said: “I strongly disagree with the premise of your post which (at least to me) seems to promote the narrow perspective that more diversity means less-excellent speakers…”

    Please refer back to the point where I said: “Hopefully, you’ll also note that I have not said that speakers should always be white males. If that’s what you think not caring about diversity means, then sorry, you’re wrong. At least you’re wrong in my case.” See also: “I’m just not interested in a person’s plumbing. I care about what they know, how they’re perceived in the industry, how well they fit the conference’s brand, and how well they do on stage.”

    My point is that I want excellent speakers regardless of their gender, race, or whatever. To draw the conclusion you have from that point is inaccurate at best. If I’d meant that I think a diverse speaker list means reduced quality, I’d have said so. I didn’t.

    • #33
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1431
    Shane Shepherd wrote in to say...

    Hmmm…is it just me or is Eric starting to sound more like a Republican than a Democrat in this post?

    • #34
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1517
    Gimli wrote in to say...

    I care about expertise, speaking skills, stature …

    Oh so now you’re against the dwarves. The Dwarven League Of Web Mongers will hear of this!!

    • #35
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1523
    Richard wrote in to say...

    ” In fact, I think that would be an important thing for us to do—to find fresh, compelling new voices. But that”s still not a gender-specific effort.”

    But, behind the scenes, I would hope that all other things being equal (expertise, name pull, etc.) you’d opt for diversity over continuity. Not in a PC way, but in fact, thinking about marketing to a broader demographic: women, people with disabilities, or any group not well represented in your current mix of participants.

    I don’t think considering diversity is reverese descrimination, do you Eric?

    • #36
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1533
    Jason Lefkowitz wrote in to say...

    This jumped out at me:

    So someone might suggest that we invite, say, Natalie Jeremijenko. I”d immediately sit bolt upright with interest: I love her stuff. She”s the kind of artist-engineer-hacker I would want to be if I were to choose that sort of career path. Her ideas and projects completely fascinate me…

    But then the conference organizer in me would slump back. She”s not well known in the web design/development field…

    This is kind of a chicken-and-egg problem, isn’t it? A big way you get more well known is by being invited to speak at conferences. But how do you get well known if nobody’s willing to take a risk and introduce you to their audience?

    If Eric Meyer thinks someone’s work is completely fascinating, I’m going to check it out even if I’ve never heard of her. Hell, I’m going to check Ms. Jeremijenko’s work out now, and I’d never heard of her until this post. I’d worry less about her profile and more about if she’ll have anything interesting to say or show.

    • #37
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1556
    tiffany wrote in to say...

    “There”s a downside to forcing diversity and it”s not just the backlash from the folks who were otherwise qualified who didn”t get the slot because of social engineering, it”s also the self-esteem of the person who got the slot because of social engineering.”

    as a two-fer-one token conference speaker, i can safely say that my self-esteem was not affected. in fact, i was quite glad to have the opportunity even if the reason was because i was The Black and/or The Girl.

    i’ll jump on the ‘i disagree’ bandwagon here too. and since i’m not in the mood to type an original thought, i’ll just agree with anil, eric p., and michael.

    • #38
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1557
    Sheri Bigelow wrote in to say...

    Eric, what I should have said… is that I disagree with how some people have interpreted your writing. To be quite honest with you, I agree what you’ve written at the base level. You are correct and should be commended for bringing together A-list speakers. I think you’re basically saying that it should be about talent, not diversity for the sake of diversity, and I agree.

    • #39
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1559
    Keith Burgin wrote in to say...

    Kiss of death, coming. I completely agree.

    If we are talking about opinions on world poltics as they relate to gender, race, religion, sexual preference, then by all means create a conference of folks who are diverse based upon those criteria.

    However, why create diversity of sexual build, skin color, or religion when none of those things are the focus of the work at hand? It’s artificial diversity for the sake of appearance.

    And we need far less diversity for the sake of appearance. We need diversity where it counts, and can make a difference.

    Just my opinion.

    • #40
    • Pingback
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1602
    Received from Storming the Castle - Poltics, Opinion, Discussion, and Activism » Blog Archive » Diversity… when and where?

    [...] Eric Meyer, thinking liberal, nails it.  It’s rare when we can talk politics and tech stuff at the same time, but Meyer brings up a good point regarding diversity and how much it means when putting together a highly specialized conference.  Meyerweb.com [...]

    • #41
    • Pingback
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1659
    Received from PeteL's Blog : Web Luminary Diversity

    [...] of blogs that I read every day, and this morning, Eric Meyer posted a really interesting post about diversity in the web community.  Not surprisingly, it’s gotten a lot of response, and I wanted to pipe in with my [...]

    • #42
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1723
    Matt Wilcox wrote in to say...

    Hear hear Eric. Nicely said.

    I’ve never understood why people make a big deal out of gender ‘bias’ in any industry. Keeping specific to your own example, I don’t understand why gender, race or anything should be looked at – those things are utterly irrelevant. If there are less women than men, so what? How and why is that a problem? Why the assumption that everything ought to always be equal? I’d far rather hear people that know what they are talking about than listen to a few ‘token’ representatives that are not as well qualified as they might be. Why do these things get brought up at all?

    I’m not interested in anything about speakers except whether they qualify well for the job. Gender, ethnicity, social background and all that jazz doesn’t enter into the equation. Why should it?

    • #43
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1843
    Eric Puidokas wrote in to say...

    Eric Meyer: “Can you suggest ways in which a conference could help with the problem of inequality?”

    You’re giving every speaker at AEA an opportunity. A chance to prove to the industry that they are worthy to be on the list of “most respected names in CSS”. By giving that opportunity to a more diverse group, you could likely make that list more diverse. Eventually, that could start to encourage more diversity in the whole industry.

    Think of it as affirmative action for CSS. There’s inequality and it’s not by any means your fault. But you could still help change it by presenting more diversity at AEA.

    • #44
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 1844
    Juliette wrote in to say...

    I largely agree with what the general tenure of the comments is, which I would summarize as “there should be diversity for marketing reasons – broaden your audience -, but don’t lower the standards”, but still would like, if I may, to add a few pennies to your thoughts.

    (The below focusses mainly on male vs female diversity, but the same can be said about other kinds of diversity qualifiers as well – sorry that it has become such a very long ramble, but I rightly or wrongly thought this needed saying)

    I, somewhat like Tracey, have been in the IT industry for 12 years now. At first I worked for one of the biggest IT firms in the world (I now work for my own company) and I, again like Tracey, have found that being one of the 5% professional women (i.e. excluding support staff) in the company was most definitely an uphill struggle, if not a battle at times.

    More than that, I have found that the way women – in general – communicate, is quite different from the way men communicate.

    Please bear with me as what I’m going to be saying contains some fairly big generalizations and some assumptions, but should still be valid enough to provide you some food for thought:

    For some reason, most women quietly do their work and do it really well and are not seen/noticed. Why not ?
    In my humble opinion, it is because women tend to have less need to play the “mine is bigger than yours”-game.
    Men are far more vocal about their archivements than women, men tend to publish (and show off) far more than women do.
    Does this mean that women do not archive similar or even better break-through thinking ? No, it does not.
    Does this mean that women aren’t great speakers when given the opportunity ? No, it does not.
    Does it mean that it is more difficult to find those women ? Yes, it does.

    So, yes, if you want well known *names*, you will end up with a largely white male speaker list.
    However, if you want the best *speakers* with the most original ideas, I believe you will end up with a far more diverse speaker list.

    I realize that it will mean more work to identify those breakthrough thinking women (or disabled, or coloured or alien or whatever), still wouldn’t it be worth it if it means you will get some more truly original thinkers on stage ?

    Apart from that, as pointed out by other posters, it will make your conferences more marketable to a wider audience which considering you are now organizing larger AEA conference, should be interesting, shouldn’t it ?

    If we just look at the client-side side of the web business, I believe that you will find that the actual workforce is far nearer 50/50 than we are all let to believe for the same reasons as mentioned above. There *are* a lot of women in the industry, but lots of them are self-employed and not so vocal about their work and therefore ‘invisible’ to the stats.
    (I purposefully say *client-side*, as I realize that on the server-side the mix most likely will still be more conservative)

    So how was/is the mix of the attending public of the conferences ? Let me guess… 80/20 ?

    Taking that as a given, that means your conferences could grown with another 60% if your audience would be representative of your potential public !
    And one of the means to reach that audience and draw them in, is having a more diverse group of speakers.

    If a woman sees a speakers list with a 90/10 m/w divide, they tend to think (whether right or wrong), that the public will be like that too.
    For me, if I go to a conference, I go both for the actual content as well as for the enjoyment of meeting fellow web-workers as I guess most people do.
    If you then – based on experiences both Tracey and me described – anticipate beforehand that you will likely be either excluded from the most interesting informal meetings or have to put up with more of the “mine is bigger than yours” banter or even have to put up with being seen as the “bonus pussy”, will you still register for the conference and go there ?

    People like me and Tracey (Tracey, please correct me if I’m wrong) won’t be put off, we’ve been there, got vocal enough and can tough it out.
    But I bet there are lots and lots of women, who will be and are put off (as posts in female webworker fora about conferences attest to).

    So diversity for diversity sake, of course not. But by not putting in the extra effort to find those top-notch women in the industry, you are short-selling yourself both in potential audience as well as in raising the quality of already excellent conferences.

    Signing off,
    Juliette who can be diverse in any of the following ways (and more!): white, female, Jewish, atheist, blondie, european, allochtoon, thirty-something, Generation X, non-native english speaker, dyslexic, right-handed, blue-green eyed, liberal thinker etc etc

    • #45
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 2024
    melissa wrote in to say...

    I am going to be attending AEA in Boston and honestly gender, or race for that matter, really don’t factor into the decision to an attend an event. I look for what the speakers bring to the table in their knowledge and experience.

    Cheers

    • #46
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 2139
    Matt Brundage wrote in to say...

    Speakers shouldn’t be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their charset.

    • #47
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 2230
    Adrian Cooke wrote in to say...

    I think Eric’s argument is both pragmatic and sound. AEA is a conference that presents the best of the best in its field. It’s dominated by people who have already made an impact on standards-based web design. No matter what you think about diversity it takes career time and investment to be short-listed as a speaker for an AEA-style conference. Imbalances in group characteristics emphatically cannot be addressed this late in the game while still keeping the audience paying their registration fees.

    While I, for one, appreciate Jason Kottke’s attention to this issue and the substantial publicity he generates it is ultimately unhelpful if the collective buck is passed to conference organisers to find heterogeneity in a relatively homogenous group of professionals. Perhaps the best thing AEA could do for diversity (of race, gender, ethnicity, class, etc.) is to provide diversity scholarships that enabled young people from underrepresented groups to attend the conferences and learn from the experts. I would bet that the audience demographic is going to parallel the speaker demographic pretty closely in Boston. But wouldn’t it be great if Seattle or future conferences had audiences that were substantially more diverse than the that of the speakers on stage because AEA devotees had made it logistically possible for a more heterogeneous group to gather?

    Diversity needs time and money — it’s mostly a matter of distributing resources that are typically concentrated amongst middle-class white men. These resources include conference registration fees, sure, but just as important are the networking opportunities that come from attendance: how else do the organisers *know* who is, or could be, moving the field? Or, if that reasoning pisses you off then say so: these things are network-driven. Organisations that plan conferences, and organisations that pay audiences to attend them, both need to shoulder this responsibility — send and receive more women, more people of colour, more people with disabilities. People who blog and comment need to recognise this as well and lend whatever support they can.

    • #48
    • Pingback
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 2232
    Received from & Web, Etc. » Blog Archive » Eric Meyer on Gender Diversity

    [...] Meyer has addressed issues brought up by a recent article by Jason Kottke that I’ve mentioned before. Eric writes, So, [...]

    • #49
    • Pingback
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 2321
    Received from Man with no blog : » Where are all the Women? - Gary Barber

    [...] as well). A point to note on this its very US based. What about the rest of the world Jason? And Eric Meyer has come back swinging as an organiser of A Event Apart, pointing out that gender doesn”t matter. [...]

    • #50
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 2327
    Tanny O'Haley wrote in to say...

    For those who feel “uncomfortable” with the diversity of the speakers at An Event Apart, I have ask, “why”? Both Eric and Jeffrey Zeldman have both said that they did invite women. Eric gave a very good reason for not inviting those who spoke at Web Directions North. The Event Apart organizers did not leave out women, different races or the disabled because of prejudice. So why the discomfort?

    • #51
    • Comment
    • Fri 23 Feb 2007
    • 2336
    Amber wrote in to say...

    I’m not going to verbally burn you to a crisp. But I thought about it.

    (P.S. This comment box is REALLY sloooow)

    • #52
    • Comment
    • Sat 24 Feb 2007
    • 0243
    Miriam wrote in to say...

    I would like to support Juliette, and say lets hear from some of those women who are doing interesting things in the field. How come we don’t know who they are? What can we do about that? Do they really exist?

    Those who have the power of selection have just that: power. Be they book publishers or conference organisers. Should they foist inferior quality stuff on us to satisfy gender issues: no. Should they do anything at all? That is the question, and Eric’s answer is no.

    I agree that plumbing is irrelevant. However there are other issues of gender difference than plumbing, and perhaps the very qualities that are other than “let me show you mine” might have something creative and engaging for us as css practicitoners. Or to put it another way, does a person (plumbing non-specific) have to have the push to write and publish a book or maintain a popular blog in order to have creative things to offer?

    I appreciate that it must be hard to take the risks of setting up a conference, only hoping that enough people will attend to make it work. At that stage, of course the market rules. Once that initial stage is over however, there is hopefully room for diversity of experience, ideas, perspectives to keep the field fresh.

    As in every field, when senior positions are mostly held by men, it is simply harder for women to climb the ladder. Only some have the grit to do it, and that grittiness is not necessarily the best selector. I was at an Apple Computer conference in Australia in the early to mid- 80′s: 300 people, 2 women (except for the marketing day when there were about 60 women). It is actually quite hard to be such a small and visible minority. Let alone speak up. Let alone make a serious contribution. Has this changed today? Is it much different in the web environment?

    It is often quoted that men will apply for jobs that they know they have 70% of the skills for. Women don’t apply until they are confident they can do it all AND more. Molly has commented that from her perspective she has had to work harder to be noticed. So perhaps those quiet women with the 100%+ skills and energy have significant things to contribute, if you can find them and persaude them to share.

    We would all be the winners.

    • #53
    • Comment
    • Sat 24 Feb 2007
    • 0246
    Andrea wrote in to say...

    Wow. I can’t wait to process this all when I’m not traveling and can give it the time it deserves.

    I agree that AEA is a small, targeted conference and would not be as attractive to attend if it didn’t pull from the A-listers. The question for me has always been, “How does one become an A-Lister”? The answer seems to be by writing books and blogs, networking with other A-listers, and speaking at conferences. Thus, I can understand comments that say that by inviting more women to speak at your conference, you could help with the issue. But I don’t think it’s your duty to do that.

    However, the A-List is pretty darn small, and I have to admit that as I’m about to attend my 3rd SXSW in a few weeks, I’m getting a bit tired with the same speakers. I also wouldn’t consider attending AEA, for the exact reason that (with a few exceptions) I’ve already seen all those folks speak. Perhaps I’m not the target audience, but enough newness mixed in with the proven main attractions might convince me to attend.

    It can be tough for anyone new to break into the CSS/Web Standards A-list, because the field is small and perhaps already saturated. Book after book has come out, and it’s hard to be heard among the millions of blogs out there. Networking can be hard, for travel or personality reasons. I don’t know what the secret is, but I don’t really think it’s any different for women than for others that aren’t yet on the A-list. So, in my view, the gender effect is really an effect of a small A-list population. We just need to all make sure that it isn’t a closed population. Not that I’m saying it is– just wanted to point out what seems to me the greater issue.

    • #54
    • Pingback
    • Sat 24 Feb 2007
    • 0416
    Received from KBlog by Kimberly Blessing | Where are all the women? (Revisited)

    [...] to Eric Meyer. He’s made himself loud and clear that, in planning a conference, diversity isn’t important, but things like marketability are. My question to him is: How does one become marketable if one isn’t given an opportunity to [...]

    • #55
    • Comment
    • Sat 24 Feb 2007
    • 1139
    Juliette wrote in to say...

    I second you on the 70% vs 100% M/F skillset issue.

    A (female) friend of mine once summed it up pretty well by saying the following:

    “When a woman is asked whether she can do something which she’s never done before, but for which she has all the prerequisites, she will answer ‘No, but I can learn to do it’.

    When a man is asked the same, he will answer ‘Yes, I can’.

    The only real difference is that men *think* the ‘learn’ bit, but don’t *say* it.

    Women should try it sometime – no matter how counterintuitive it is for us – and it will help them get up that ladder.”

    • #56
    • Comment
    • Sat 24 Feb 2007
    • 1141
    Juliette wrote in to say...

    (Oops, forgot to mention that the “I second that” refers to Miriam’s comment)

    • #57
    • Comment
    • Sat 24 Feb 2007
    • 1356
    zeldman wrote in to say...

    Adrian Cooke said:

    Perhaps the best thing AEA could do for diversity (of race, gender, ethnicity, class, etc.) is to provide diversity scholarships that enabled young people from underrepresented groups to attend the conferences and learn from the experts.

    I was thinking the same.

    • #58
    • Pingback
    • Sat 24 Feb 2007
    • 1401
    Received from & Web, Etc. » Blog Archive » Stuck in the Mud: More on Gender Diversity in the Web Industry

    [...] Dash rails on both Eric Meyer and John Gruber for being dissenters. He calls Eric’s desire to have a marketable conference [...]

    • #59
    • Comment
    • Sat 24 Feb 2007
    • 1439
    Keith Burgin wrote in to say...

    Perhaps the best thing AEA could do for diversity (of race, gender, ethnicity, class, etc.) is to provide diversity scholarships that enabled young people from underrepresented groups to attend the conferences and learn from the experts.

    I was thinking the same.

    But who decides who’s underrepresented? And of what use is bringing those in who are underrepresented if the entire point is diversity and not learning? For that matter, before a program such as this is moved forward, wouldn’t we need to determine why these folks are not attending?

    • #60
    • Comment
    • Sat 24 Feb 2007
    • 1506
    Matt Winckler wrote in to say...

    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.

    Exactly. Exactly! Diversity solely for the sake of diversity is not a virtue; it is a current vice of our society.

    I heartily commend you for this bold and forthright post. Well done!

    • #61
    • Comment
    • Sat 24 Feb 2007
    • 1515
    Pamela wrote in to say...

    When you say diversity isn’t important, it horrifies me. Not in the gender sense – in the content sense. What I hear you saying in this entry is that you yourself have no instinct of your own as to what human beings might contribute to the customer experience at your conference. That you will not take a risk, have no desire to see potential — all you want is someone with credentials, with a proven conference track record. How do you think these people *got* their track record? Somebody, somewhere, took a chance on them. Looked not at what list they were on, but at where they were headed. That is the power that people like you have. You can make A listers, if you yourself have a shred of perception. You can widen the very pool that you complain about. And if you do that, you suddenly give your attendees new perspectives, possibly new revelations. They get to see new stars emerging. How can you consider that to be damaging to your brand?

    Go ahead play it safe, use no imagination and stick inside your tiny little circle of sure things – but sooner or later you’ll exhaust even the white male pool, and then perhaps you’ll see why encouraging diversity would have been in your best interests after all.

    • #62
    • Pingback
    • Sat 24 Feb 2007
    • 1522
    Received from 2020 Hindsight » On Status Quo: He said, he said, she said, he said

    [...] said something. Eric responded. In so many words, Status Quo is okay. I like the way things are. It works as [...]

    • #63
    • Pingback
    • Sat 24 Feb 2007
    • 1647
    Received from MeyerBros » diversity showdown in the blogosphere

    [...] exclusion, and affirmative action in the web-geek world. Our favorite Meyerbro homonym web-geek Eric Meyer started things off by posting his personal manifesto about why he doesn’t care about diversity, and why when he [...]

    • #64
    • Pingback
    • Sat 24 Feb 2007
    • 1741
    Received from Sunshocked : Stanifesto » The democratic web: no girls allowed

    [...] backlash began from the event organizers. Eric Meyer heroically blamed the system, saying “Call that decision a manifestation of old-boy clubbiness if you want, but it [...]

    • #65
    • Comment
    • Sat 24 Feb 2007
    • 1834
    Stephanie Leary wrote in to say...

    I came to post and found that Juliette had already said everything I was going to say. In addition to the fact that we are (to make broad generalizations) less likely to write about our accomplishments, I’d like to throw out the theory that we’re more likely to be found doing in-house work than freelancing. And when you’re working on projects that are months, if not years, in the making, and your design has to go through eight committees before it sees the light of day… well, your projects are often not the kind that get showcased in design galleries, no matter how great the underlying code might be.

    Eric, you gave a nice breakdown for the AEA speakers, but what about the attendees? I seem to recall a pretty well-balanced audience in Austin.

    • #66
    • Comment
    • Sat 24 Feb 2007
    • 1837
    Scott Ellsworth wrote in to say...

    Pamela writes:

    “What I hear you saying [...] is that you will not take a risk, have no desire to see potential — all you want is someone with credentials, with a proven conference track record. How do you think these people *got* their track record? Somebody, somewhere, took a chance on them.”

    When you ‘take a chance on someone’, you are taking a risk. As a conference organizer, you can afford a few risks, but you must be judicious in selecting them. A smart organizer chooses their risks very, very carefully, and tries to maximize the chance of a successful conference.

    Accusing Eric of not being willing to take a risk seems harsh, given the risks he _has_ to take just to put on a major conference. The largest conference I have ever organized had only a hundred attendees, brought in about $10k, and had twenty speakers. I was very, very nervous about the $5k venue deposit.

    I suspect you would get more mileage from suggesting specific female or minority speakers that would make you attend a conference. Whose sessions matter to you, and thus that you would put on the A-list. Encourage your friends to suggest the same people, and that catapults those people into the top tier of speakers.

    “[...]And if you do that, you suddenly give your attendees new perspectives, possibly new revelations. They get to see new stars emerging. How can you consider that to be damaging to your brand?”

    If the new speakers do not draw attendees, or, if having drawn them, they do not satisfy attendee expectations for quality, relevance, and value, then Eric has just lost value. His brand has been damaged. As a former organizer on a much smaller scale, I sympathize greatly with the difficulty of finding new faces to discuss both old and new topics with new perspectives. This is not easy, and adding a race or gender constraint for the sake of social engineering seems unwise.

    I do a fair amount of hiring, and I really would rather not know the race and gender of my candidates. I am very interested, on the other hand, in obstacles they have overcome. Tenacity is a virtue in my field, but I am not going to assume tenacity just because of race or gender. Telling me of your accomplishments under adversity most surely does boost your chances, because it gives me something to believe in. I am taking a risk with every hiring decision, and I want some reason to believe that those risks are worth while. This is what a speaker selector faces – a risk that he or she hopes will pan out.

    I go to one or two conferences a year. They represent a substantial investment in time, money, and effort. If I do not get a good return on that investment, he will never, ever get another chance. Not because I am unforgiving, but because I have more conferences that I want to attend than time to attend them.

    “Go ahead play it safe, use no imagination and stick inside your tiny little circle of sure things – but sooner or later you”ll exhaust even the white male pool, and then perhaps you”ll see why encouraging diversity would have been in your best interests after all.”

    If your argument is that the pool of talent is broader than just the current A-list, and that the list needs to grow, ask yourself what diversity candidates bring that a white male does not. After all, the most likely people to be added to the CSS A-list today are also white and male, based on the names on the books on my bookshelf, and the bylines on the articles I read. To change that, you need to change the sales numbers of the books and articles.

    The only way to change the balance of the up-and-coming is to buy the books, click the ads, and talk about the articles of the best of the underrepresented people. Contact the editors and ask why certain specific competent, but not A-list, authors are unpublished or unlinked. Put cold, hard cash on the table, and the profile of the people whose words you buy _will_ rise.

    Put another way, if the organizer has to use imagination to see how a proposed speaker would add value to his conference and for the attendees, then I am not sure that is a good speaker choice. If there is a good reason to believe that person will appeal to the audience, or will expand the audience, then imagination should not be needed. The speaker’s own bio can do it.

    I say again: if you have a specific minority or female speaker that you feel is underrepresented, and that is qualified to speak, then contact conference organizers. Get your friends to do so as well. Then attend conferences accordingly – everyone who has ever organized a conference will agree that the opinions of their attendees _matter_.

    Scott

    • #67
    • Comment
    • Sat 24 Feb 2007
    • 1922
    Meri wrote in to say...

    Eric, I’m delighted to see you voicing these thoughts. As I’ve written before picking a speaker just because they are “diverse” is insulting to the diversity group in question. At worst, it can also re-affirm the original discrimination — if the only female speakers we ever see are crap, then that just supports their non-inclusion in future events.

    That said, I’m a huge fan of awareness .. of conference organisers like yourselves going “Hmm, our speaker list is a bit homogeneous, who are we forgetting?” If the only thing the “where are the women” permathread achieves is more awareness and the chance for more great diverse speakers to get up on stage, then maybe it’s worth the flame wars!

    • #68
    • Pingback
    • Sat 24 Feb 2007
    • 2240
    Received from Mickipedia » Blog Archive » links for 2007-02-24

    [...] Eric’s Archived Thoughts: 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.” (tags: internet, diversity, gender) [...]

    • #69
    • Comment
    • Sat 24 Feb 2007
    • 2355
    Glenn Fleishman wrote in to say...

    I used to put together the speaker line-ups for a number of conferences for the late, great Thunder Lizard Productions. (In fact, I believe that TLP’s top-notch top staffers are the folks handling the conference plumbing for An Event Apart.)

    I was going to post something long about how, when I developed the speaker line-up on something like 12 to 15 events for TLP back in the late 1990s as an outside editorial director for them, that I was tasked with finding a variety of viewpoints and experience, and with trying to have some semblance of gender balance.

    Why was it important? Because the industries that TLP was targeting–design, advertising, and marketing for my events–were only dominated at the top by men. The creative folks we wanted to attract weren’t evenly split between men and women, but were closer to even than in most industries.

    People of different backgrounds, whether gender, national origin, or socioeconomic, bring different ideas to the table. I was always looking to find a mix of people, using gross elements as a major cue (like gender) and fine elements as a minor one (like the particular set of companies or different fields someone had worked in).

    And it was always damned hard to find women. I was going to write something about that, but noticed that Juliette, in multiple posts, said what I thought might sound stilted from me. In one place, she wrote:

    “For some reason, most women quietly do their work and do it really well and are not seen/noticed. Why not ? In my humble opinion, it is because women tend to have less need to play the “mine is bigger than yours”-game.”

    And there you have it. In my experience in actively soliciting the opinion of colleagues and attendees, in calling dozens upon dozens of women to be speakers, and working in the field since this whole conference period, I found that women were generally not self-promoting.

    If I called someone who was a good prospect who had never spoken before, she would almost invariably decline. Men would accept. And then if that man sucked, I mean emptied the room of all life and oxygen, they might still think they did a good job and ask to speak at another event. (In a few cases, we worked with poor speakers and they became top-ranked in later events in our exhaustive surveys.)

    I have asked some relatively prominent tech women I know if they would find it odd that when a conference was announced or after an iteration of a conference, calling the organizers maybe once, maybe five times, and pitching themselves, and really driving to get a speaking position. They mostly said yes.

    As a former conference organizer, I’ll tell you that it’s not rare to get those calls, and always from men.

    • #70
    • Comment
    • Sun 25 Feb 2007
    • 0048
    Eric Broadhurst wrote in to say...

    Hi there,

    I’m not a web/CSS/anything-type guy. I don’t know what AEA or ALA or WDN are or do…I just wandered over from Gruber’s link list (although, I do happen to know Tantek). I just have a few comments/responses from the cheap seats:

    1. From the world of sports: black head coaches in the NFL were a rarity for a long time since the “A-list” of candidates (i.e., recycled old white coaches and young buck white college coaches) was always referenced. Now, after forced interviewing of black candidates by the NFL, we just had a Super Bowl with two black coaches.

    The genius of the NFL plan was not to require hiring (which would have caused people to think an (unqualified) black coach got hired over a (qualified) white coach), but rather just to require interviewing of black candidates. That way, the quality black coaches got known, and even if a guy didn’t get a particular job, when the next opening came up, another team would think, “Hey, that other team thought enough of that guy to interview him…let’s give him a shot.” The interesting part being that some black coaches have ended up on the “recycled coach” A-list.

    A long way to go for an analogy and a long way from the world of the web, but I feel that the same theory holds true for women in the web (or any field in which they or another group are under represented). There seems an undercurrent in the comments of “getting more women would only serve to increase diversity, and that, by definition, would weaken the conference.” It ignores the “hey, here are some people who never would have been considered before, but we talked to some of them and these are the ones we think are good” aspect. Someone mentioned it already, but (like black coaches getting interviewed) for a non-traditional candidate, getting invited/speaking at one presitigious conference (which I understand the TLA conferences mentioned above are) *puts* them on A-list (if they perform…the speaking gigs are a gift, not a birthright).

    2. I think the person who mentioned the “woman don’t toot their horn as much as men” point was right on the money. I have the feeling there are many “quiet” qualified/interesting women out there, and other commenteers have said the same, but on that note…

    3. Put up or shut up. Don’t just say that there are good female candidates: name names! Eric has said that he wants the most qualified field and doesn’t know of a pool of qualified women in his field of interest. The NFL owners didn’t know of a pool of black coaching candiates, but the league gave them lists. Give Eric (and others) a list!

    Sorry about the ramblings…

    Namaste

    EB

    • #71
    • Comment
    • Sun 25 Feb 2007
    • 0304
    Pamela wrote in to say...

    Scott – it is my opinion that the skill of choosing a speaker list is a differentiator between all of the many nice people taking financial risks and trying to ‘feed their family’ by running conferences. Those who are good at it manage to balance diversity in MANY forms – diversity of opinion, diversity of reputation, diversity of experience, diversity of presented material. Maybe they try to mix some funny speakers in with a few dryer speakers. In fact, Eric said it himself, he abandons his oh-so-strict meritocracy if the candidates have no stage presence. It seems obvious to me that gender/race diversity is just a small part of an overall complex formula for devising an agenda. To me, it should neither dictate your list, nor be absent from it. Since you previously asked for my recommendations, here they are: Attend your own conference. Keep your eye out for the ones that shine. Ask them to submit a proposal next year. Inspire them to live up to the potential that you see, and then hold them to high standards just like everyone else. I think what other people have been trying to say here, is that an approach like this may reap greater rewards with women, as they are more reticent, and therefore might benefit from the extra vote of confidence. I know that I did.

    • #72
    • Comment
    • Sun 25 Feb 2007
    • 0603
    Linda wrote in to say...

    Indeed Eric, if you are that ideal person who can select entirely on merit, and not bring any personal prejudices (learned, ingrained, subconscious, social) to your decision making process, then I applaud you. That is what we all wish for.

    • #73
    • Comment
    • Sun 25 Feb 2007
    • 0700
    Yvonne wrote in to say...

    When I attend a conference I have no interest in the diversity of the speakers, it”s just not something that even crosses my mind. My focus is purely on what is being talked about. I”m even pretty forgiving when it comes to the “how well” if the topic is good enough…but that could be because I”m rubbish at speaking in public and admire people who aren”t comfortable with it but try anyway :o)

    • #74
    • Comment
    • Sun 25 Feb 2007
    • 0726
    Alex wrote in to say...

    With attitudes like this, why would even want to try?

    • #75
    • Pingback
    • Sun 25 Feb 2007
    • 0909
    Received from IT crowd CZ » Blog Archive » Gender Studies

    [...] Diverse It Gets | Thoughts From Eric [...]

    • #76
    • Comment
    • Sun 25 Feb 2007
    • 1158
    Meri wrote in to say...

    I ended up writing my own post to lay out some things which I think everyone can do to help in this space:

    http://blog.meriwilliams.com/2007/02/25/conference-diversity-the-permathread-returns/

    • #77
    • Comment
    • Sun 25 Feb 2007
    • 1534
    Gini wrote in to say...

    It’s a tough balance, trying to do right by your customer base and promote diversity. You aren’t alone in walking that line, not in the least. But telling the truth is a dangerous thing for a liberal. I respect that you are diversity blind – working hard to give your attendees the best conference possible – while still being on the lookout for people whose talents you could bring into the pool of speakers. Keep up the good work.

    • #78
    • Pingback
    • Sun 25 Feb 2007
    • 1722
    Received from Meriblog: Meri Williams’ Weblog » links for 2007-02-25

    [...] Eric’s Archived Thoughts: Diverse It Gets “What”s important is technical expertise, speaking skills, professional stature, brand appropriateness, and marketability. That”s it.” More great thoughts from Eric on gender diversity in the web conference space… (tags: diversity gender genderpolitics web conferences speakers selection comments) [...]

    • #79
    • Pingback
    • Sun 25 Feb 2007
    • 1751
    Received from Hamm On Wry » Blog Archive » Post Gender Presentations

    [...] conferences on web technologies. First off was Jason Kottke presenting the question. Then I caught Eric Meyer, the Patron Saint of CSS, who responded with a resounding “meh” followed by John Gruber’s gender-fireball post, and a comment of clarification by Zeldman in [...]

    • #80
    • Pingback
    • Sun 25 Feb 2007
    • 2005
    Received from Mafe Maria • Beyond Gender Diversity

    [...] quickly began to reply. Eric Meyer among them, frames his response with a seemingly hot opinion: “I don”t care about [gender] diversity”, strongly supported by the argument that penis vs. vagina is not relevant to him when choosing [...]

    • #81
    • Pingback
    • Sun 25 Feb 2007
    • 2014
    Received from Jason Friesen {dot} ca » Blog Archive » Diversity Wars

    [...] Meyer posted the other day about gender diversity in Web Conferences. Specifically, the ratio of men to women at his upcoming [...]

    • #82
    • Comment
    • Mon 26 Feb 2007
    • 0144
    Bern wrote in to say...

    No matter how Eric feels about this post, having read some of the many comments I believe that something fantastic is going to come out of it. The blue touch paper has been lit…

    • #83
    • Comment
    • Mon 26 Feb 2007
    • 0517
    Chris Hester wrote in to say...

    Now this debate has been taken up by the Web Standards Project. They do not name you Eric, though.

    “Between Jason Kottke and WaSP founder Jeffrey Zeldman, the buzz is building yet again on the subject of conference panel composition… specifically, the fact that most participants are white men.”

    Notable web experts who are [x]: Women and non-Caucasians

    • #84
    • Comment
    • Mon 26 Feb 2007
    • 0759
    Daniel Gr wrote in to say...

    Catch-22, you are making no change, Eric:

    No change. All your (and conference running idiots like Zeldman and Carson) fault.

    I know a handful of women just in Sweden who could perform at these events. But you’re just looking for the establish names, because you like the state of this world right? Well, suit yourself then.

    PS. Turn off this Javascript preveiw non-sense anyway. It’s junk. Down right.

    • #85
    • Pingback
    • Mon 26 Feb 2007
    • 0837
    Received from The Haystack / Gender diversity idiocy in web design

    [...] Eric Meyer [...]

    • #86
    • Comment
    • Mon 26 Feb 2007
    • 0902
    Michael wrote in to say...

    Nice header image on the site Eric……my type of perception…..

    Mike:)

    • #87
    • Comment
    • Mon 26 Feb 2007
    • 0935
    Tim Wright wrote in to say...

    hey guys, just registered for AEA – Boston. can’t wait to see the work everyone else it doing!
    -Tim

    • #88
    • Comment
    • Mon 26 Feb 2007
    • 1250
    Dan Guy wrote in to say...

    What you thought you were saying: I strive to be and essentially am blind to gender, ethnicity, skin tone, sexual orientation, religion, handedness, and a whole slew of other categories — not just in daily life, but when I pick speakers.

    What you think some people think you said: only white men are qualified to be speakers, that the old boy club is just fine.

    What some people are actually trying to say to you: If you do not recognize that there is a problem of gender inequality then your attempt to be blind to gender is going to fail and instead will perpetuate the inequality of the status quo.

    There is a problem here with gender. Don’t blind yourself to it.

    • #89
    • Pingback
    • Mon 26 Feb 2007
    • 1326
    Received from Blueprint : Gender Diversity and the Web

    [...] rehash the entire conversation.. here are some links to current posts. Original post by Jason KottkeDiverse it Gets by Eric MeyerTwo questions about speaking, conferences, and diversity by TantekThe diversity [...]

    • #90
    • Pingback
    • Mon 26 Feb 2007
    • 1407
    Received from Carsonified! » Blog Archive » Diversity - The real issues and what we’re doing about it

    [...] is a response to the following posts: Jason Kottke, Anil Dash, Eric Meyer and Tantek [...]

    • #91
    • Comment
    • Mon 26 Feb 2007
    • 1409
    Ryan Carson wrote in to say...

    Hey Eric,

    Just responded at my blog

    Cheerio,
    Ryan

    • #92
    • Pingback
    • Mon 26 Feb 2007
    • 1505
    Received from Where are all the women in web design? - MeganMcDermott.com

    [...] Meyer had a post last week about gender diversity in the Event Apart conference series. What he’s saying, basically, is that he doesn’t [...]

    • #93
    • Pingback
    • Mon 26 Feb 2007
    • 1735
    Received from Hippo Dignity » Gender bias, gender blindness

    [...] so striking to see the same rationalizations come up in different forms in different fields: why don’t we bring in more women to speak/write? Because there [...]

    • #94
    • Comment
    • Tue 27 Feb 2007
    • 0411
    Peter Holloway wrote in to say...

    Eric,

    I can understand how in this modern world your comments could be mistaken, but I believe you are entirely right in your assertion that gender diversity need not be considered.

    I believe the modern concept of equality has swung too far towards positive discrimination (such as female only short-lists for political posts here in the UK). I am too often asked for my racial category, when all that should be required is my qualification to do the job.

    You are right that gender diversity should not be considered, only suitability for the job. I honestly can’t see how your article could be taken as anything else than what you intended.

    So, thanks for making the comments – like you, I will continue reading and listening to the best because they are the best, not because of who they are.

    • #95
    • Comment
    • Tue 27 Feb 2007
    • 0459
    Chris Hester wrote in to say...

    Daniel Gr, you are adding nothing constructive to the argument. I find your negative comment offensive. Who are you to call Zeldman and Carson idiots? They are two highly-respected names in their industry.

    “PS. Turn off this Javascript preveiw non-sense anyway. It’s junk. Down right.”

    Although another person has commented they dislike it for the speed, I find it fine on my bog-standard PC. I guess mileage varies, but to dismiss it outright as junk is once again being overly negative.

    • #96
    • Pingback
    • Tue 27 Feb 2007
    • 0832
    Received from Bloggy Hell » Blog Archive » Calling future speakers!

    [...] has been a lot of debate recently about diversity in Web conferences. It is a topic that seems to rear it’s head on a semi-regular basis. As some of the players [...]

    • #97
    • Pingback
    • Tue 27 Feb 2007
    • 1102
    • #98
    • Pingback
    • Tue 27 Feb 2007
    • 1722
    Received from » Diversity in the web community Wheelz Online: Life of an IT geek.

    [...] was doing a spot of surfing some blogs I enjoy reading on web developments and I can across this post by Eric Meyer regarding diversity of speakers at conferences, and it seems like he’s had a [...]

    • #99
    • Trackback
    • Tue 27 Feb 2007
    • 1807
    Received from Penmachine words music comment

    Fifteen years, same issues, different places…

    In 1992 I was part of a university task force which said that the Internet of the time excluded women and non-whites, and that needed to change. While the Internet as a whole has improved in 15 years, software and web development still have some work…..

    • #100
    • Pingback
    • Tue 27 Feb 2007
    • 2058
    Received from secondfoundation.org : NERD

    [...] more women. There have been two responses I consider canonical: Eric Meyer’s explanation that enough skilled women don’t exist and, more importantly, John Gruber’s explanation that the reason for that is that women don’t care [...]

    • #101
    • Pingback
    • Wed 28 Feb 2007
    • 0649
    Received from raena.net » Blog Archive » Let me tell you where you screwed up, kids

    [...] arises yet again. This time, it’s Eric Meyer who drops himself in it most noticably, with a variation of that tired old thing — ‘But it’s not my problem, because there aren’t so many women in the [...]

    • #102
    • Pingback
    • Wed 28 Feb 2007
    • 1526
    Received from THOMnottom.com » Random linkings: 2007-02-28

    [...] whole “not enough women speakers” issue at web conferences by pointing out that he felt expertise and content were more important than genitalia. Unfortunately he got toasted for it. I wanted to write more on this subject and link to all of the [...]

    • #103
    • Pingback
    • Wed 28 Feb 2007
    • 1852
    Received from Natalie Downe » Blog Archive » links for 2007-02-28

    [...] Eric’s Archived Thoughts: Diverse It Gets I believe that diversity in conferences will improve as our industry does (a number of people have already said how). I get hyped quite easily so I am staying out of this whole argument. (tags: gender conference diversity web) [...]

    • #104
    • Comment
    • Thu 1 Mar 2007
    • 0904
    hugh wrote in to say...

    here is a proposal: if we are different in our interaction with conferences and events, then maybe we are also different in our interactions with web sites. or, A-list web standards men are likely to build web-standards and web sites that are finely tuned to males. so if we are interested in the other 50% of the human race, as potential lookers-at web sites, it”s worthwhile trying to figure out what those differences might be, especially wrt web sites (and secondarily, conferences).

    If kotte says: there should be more women, conference organizers are negligent. and the conference organizers say: i don”t care. and 100s of people write comments about it, then it’s worth pondering the mysteries that are at the heart of things. men and women are different, sure, when it comes to the web, and web conferences. but why? what are the differences?

    part of the reason that might be interesting would be to help build better web sites for 50% of the population.

    • #105
    • Comment
    • Thu 1 Mar 2007
    • 1647
    Kelly wrote in to say...

    Eric,

    I”m coming into this conversation quite late (approximately 100+ responses late) but thank you for putting this together – although I am a representative of the non-caucasian female speakers around, I hope I am brought into conferences because of the quality of the material I provide and the experience I bring to the table … or the fact that I love to connect and educate as some kind of calling if you will. I wrote longer response to this topic on Gary’s blog however I think the actual % gets down to vocational and technical backgrounds overall. I don’t even come from the technical sector – I am a designer and filmmaker by background.
    When I speak at conferences in other industries – the balance is quite different so I think overall we need to think about diversity not only from the speaking circuit or thought leadership perspective – but trace it back to encouragement from elementary, high-school, college and post-college environments. I spent several years educating high school girls on the benefits of women in the technology field (a fantastic program I participated in through WITI – Women in Technology) and it was inspiring and eye opening to see how most high-school girls don’t think technology is an appropriate direction.

    Anyways – interesting topic, hope to see more discussion and/or perhaps more talented women coming into the speaking circuit – I don’t think Kathy Sierra has much of a problem these days – it is largely about being passionate (a la Molly) and having something relevant to say. Maybe some day I’ll have a relevant something or other to REALLY share with the world….

    • #106
    • Comment
    • Fri 2 Mar 2007
    • 0945
    Dawn wrote in to say...

    Eric, I’d just like to day that I completely agree with you. As a female in the web industry, I do not chose which conferences to attend based on the gender of the speakers, I base my decision on the quality of the speakers and the topics they are presenting. If that speaker also happens to be a woman, then that is great, but that makes no impact on my decision to attend or not.

    • #107
    • Pingback
    • Fri 2 Mar 2007
    • 1144
    Received from Idea Grapes » If there weren’t blacks, Jews and gays…

    [...] 起先是看了Jason Kottke在西方的部落格圈引起軒然大波的那篇:Gender diversity at web conferences。Kottke把去年下半年度和今年的網路研討會中,主講者的性別比例做了一番整理,點出了缺乏女性講者的現象。接著陸陸續續,網頁設計界的長輩如Jeffrey Zeldman和Eric Meyer等,也發表了他們的看法。Zeldman的文章標題還把種族也點了出來;另外Eric Meyer則因為說了他在規劃研討會時,並不將diversity考慮進來,而遭到一些蠻嚴厲的批評,最激烈的應該是這篇Diversity isn’t important…and neither are standards or accessibility。雖然Shelley Powers的文章過於情緒化,但我蠻贊同她的一開始說的:a more diverse conference, field, profession is a better one. 再則是星期四晚上才閒閒地在YouTube上面晃到Ellen DeGeneres所主持的79屆奧斯卡片段,她也提到了diversity這個字,並說了那句經典的「沒有黑人、猶太人、同性戀,就沒有奧斯卡」: “What a wonderful night, such diversity in the room,” said Ellen DeGeneres, serving as Oscar host for the first time, “in a year when there’s been so many negative things said about people’s race, religion and sexual orientation. [...]

    • #108
    • Comment
    • Fri 2 Mar 2007
    • 1632
    PurplePenny wrote in to say...

    I completely agree with Eric: it should be about quality not gender balance/diversity. I don’t care whether the speaker is a small furry being from Alpha Centauri just so long as it is a really knowledgeable/articulate/entertaining small furry being from Alpha Centauri.

    An anecdote from a completely different field to illustrate the point:
    I went to a gig of local bands. One band was an all-girl band, put together specifically to be all-girl. They were crap. Really crap. Embarrassingly crap. They couldn’t play their instruments well and their vocals were off-key. Yet the audience was full of really PC young men going “Yeah, like, wow, this is awesome.”

    I asked a friend in the audience why he was so enthusiastic and his answer was “They’re a girl band”. “Yes,” I said “but they are also crap. Why do you applaud them just for being female when they are not as good as the other bands? That is an insult to the good female musicians and singers who just turn up to auditions and get taken on for being good not female.” He was quite gobsmaked and conceded that he was being patronising and sexist for applauding them just for being female.

    • #109
    • Comment
    • Mon 5 Mar 2007
    • 1358
    Lee Bryant wrote in to say...

    By this stage in the discussion you r live comment preview is unusably slow so I will have to wait until next time you blog something so ignorant of the rest of the world to comment ;-)

    • #110
    • Comment
    • Mon 5 Mar 2007
    • 1438
    Sandy wrote in to say...

    It is important that the responses to this blog correctly represent the diversity of the web — otherwise, those calling here for more diversity on Eric’s event are failing to trip over their own chewing gum.

    That is why I have not posted. I fit the existing diversity-spectrum (eg reasonabily fluent in english) too well. Let’s have some silence among ourselves while those others take time to comment.

    • #111
    • Comment
    • Mon 5 Mar 2007
    • 2308
    kunter ilalan wrote in to say...

    preface;
    Eric Meyer is a very well known, besides, by no means even a less respectable figure to hold such an accepted personality among the webdev people world-wide. I’m not his attorney. Walking in the same direction on the same pave at which he’s on the lead nearly of 4 years puts me in that position.

    the DIVERSITY only in the intensions
    as Meyer originally summed up, this explains why I ‘ll be sorry for not being able to attend the coming AEA gathering:

    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.

    I strongly believe in the proficiencies of these seminar participants ( who are not amongst the list, I won’t count ) and I never had thought why there ain’t gonna be no gals or black persons, or say, asians unemployeds disabled people et cetera ..it just never finishes

    As far as my opinion is concerned, your great looking organization is already promising, attractive, and is should be worth every penny spending for! However, from the same jealousy point of view, Mr. Meyer should by no means pay any attention to such magazine-kind artificial disturbances so he doesn’t lose his current focus.

    P.S. Btw, I came up to meyerweb after several months following T.Çelik’s post on his website, following a W3C article about slideshows. Forget the events, I fail following the webdev blogs! anyway .. I seriously need God to arrange my works or I can never catch up with the date. He also helps convincing big guys to use our web expertise in a country where ” outlook ” seems to be everything – the rest means ” nothing “. Serious B2B / B2C education is needed over here. See Erik ? this is our business, not that one :)

    best regards..

    • #112
    • Pingback
    • Fri 9 Mar 2007
    • 0402
    Received from That Voodoo You Do · Diversity and the High School Dance

    [...] women speakers in our industry was reignited by Eric Meyer’s recent post where he said “as a conference organizer, I don”t care about diversity.” This set off what is apparently called a blogostorm, with lots of passionate [...]

    • #113
    • Comment
    • Tue 13 Mar 2007
    • 1514
    Anne Stansell wrote in to say...

    I appreciate the comments to this post, but it seems to me that everyone is focusing on the problem rather than providing solutions. I understood your call to action to include recommendations for speakers, yet I didn’t see any (admittedly skimming comments).
    So here”s one to help widen your net:
    Heather Dority – Entrepreneur, Usability Expert and Web Enthusiast.

    • #114
    • Pingback
    • Sun 8 Apr 2007
    • 1936
    Received from ::HorsePigCow:: marketing uncommon » Diversity and the Web2Open

    [...] that I’m pushing on this at the moment is because I want to highlight that, in light of the myriad of conversations about diversity that are recurring, we are actually trying a little [...]

    • #115
    • Comment
    • Mon 23 Apr 2007
    • 1519
    Karl Jacobs wrote in to say...

    I see one basic flaw.

    You are regurgitating the same list of “experts” for these conferences. And while having a field of experts is a good thing, how about making an effort to find a few folks with new voices and new things to say? Regardless of their “diversity”…

    • #116
    • Comment
    • Wed 25 Apr 2007
    • 1259
    Luke Dorny wrote in to say...

    I’m part Nordic (Dansk).
    Does that make me diverse? …where? Certainly not in Denmark.
    But in LA i’m diverse.

    Kudos on your stance, Mr. Meyer.

    • #117
    • Pingback
    • Tue 19 Jun 2007
    • 1354
    Received from Null is Love » Blog Archive » Where are all the women?

    [...] about the poor ratio of female to male speakers at web conferences. Later posts on this thread are here, here, here, here and here. (There were many [...]

    • #118
    • Comment
    • Sun 1 Jul 2007
    • 1132
    Matthias wrote in to say...

    I can understand how in this modern world your comments could be mistaken, but I believe you are entirely right in your assertion that gender diversity need not be considered.

    • #119
    • Comment
    • Sat 7 Jul 2007
    • 0914
    Tina Aspiala wrote in to say...

    I think this thread has been useful in that it has brought up what I think is the real reason we don’t hear from more qualified women: Women often feel uncomfortable marketing themselves, or claiming skills they don’t have 100% covered. I’ve been guilty of this. When I’ve been asked to make someone a web page, I’ve heard myself give all kinds of caveats about how I’m not a total pro, despite the hundreds of self-styled “experts” on the web, advertising skills I can tell are far more basic than my own. I’m also more likely to admit when I don’t know something, or if I’ve been wrong, or to “see the other guy’s point of view” in a discussion, only to notice later on that these were interpreted as signs of weakness and lack of expertise.

    Enough complaining. Here’s a potential solution, which may already exist, though I haven’t found it: A social networking site related to tech, maybe limited to women (at first?) where women post profiles, links to things they’ve done, and give each other advice on forums, and (this is crucial) write testimonials on each other’s profiles/give each other points. This would allow certain top tech women to get more exposure without forcing them to additionally break through the “nice girls aren’t pushy” collar that many of us were given by our parents and educational institutions.

    Why keep this theoretical site women-only? Because women have this additional obstacle to get through, that most men don’t seem to. Men are told to get out there and get visible. Women are told to wait and be found.

    • #120
    • Comment
    • Tue 30 Oct 2007
    • 0313
    Brady M wrote in to say...

    I personally feel that this post is 100% on the ball. Anyone who see’s this as an insulting post should read it again and think about it. I strongly agree that you have to do the homework with marketing ,in this case finding the right people to do the task at hand, whether it be male or female it doesnt matter. You can have someone that is able to go over the core fundamentals of a particular item ,lets say CSS, but unable to speak publicly about it. For example lets say Mr Male and Mrs Female were both candidates for this position and they both had the same experience, expertise and were both well known for this fact, but were unable to address the points that the Customers (Audience) were asking. then which one would we ask to come along, obviously the answer is neither. I say this because the Audience would like to have someone that can Address the issues at hand. I am aware that Females do get scrutinized in the IT industry and get labelled as “She cant possible do what we(Males) do. I strongly disagree with this point as most females i know are able to make better Public Speakers for themselves and are able to Address the Situations at hand faster than most Males i know. I think it wrong that someone gets Labelled and “Shunted” according to their gender, race, ect. When did these things start counting to people, it is completley unfair and unappropriate. I personally applaud Eric and all guys that can see this light.

    p.s. Tracey (Post #8) may i say that although the treatment you received does not surprise me, i do not belive you have to put up with that. I have a few IT Technicians that are female and when i take them to a new Clients site to inspect their IT Equipment all the staff at that clients site act as if my Technicians are my Reciptionists. This is not the way i would like to see the IT Industry.

    • #121
    • Pingback
    • Mon 14 Apr 2008
    • 1552
    • #122
    • Comment
    • Thu 17 Apr 2008
    • 1755
    matthew w wrote in to say...

    Brilliant ideas that challenge the status quo will gradually percolate up from the fringe to the mainstream. Unless, of course, the channels are occupied by a homogeneous group. In our case, those channels are conferences and industry blogs.

    Even without intending to, this homogeneous group will reinforce new ideas similar to their own, and suppress those that represent a paradigm shift in thinking. Not out of spite, but inertia.

    Gone are the days when an independent blog can rise on good ideas alone. Without support from industry and celebrity blogs, a blog needs good ideas and solid writing and marketing skills. It’s possible, but should the challenge of blogging brilliance decide whether or not someone can share great web development ideas? I want to hear the best web dev ideas regardless of someone’s blogging pizazz!

    Conferences exist to learn and share ideas that are not accessible in other forums like books and blogs. Conference that reiterate what we’ve read online a hundred times by the same white men are a boring waste of time!

    Bravo Kottke for challenging the status quo. Bravo!

    • #123
    • Pingback
    • Sat 22 May 2010
    • 1938
    Received from Web Luminary Diversity

    [...] of blogs that I read every day, and this morning, Eric Meyer posted a really interesting post about diversity in the web community.  Not surprisingly, it’s gotten a lot of response, and I wanted to pipe in with my [...]

    • #124
    • Pingback
    • Fri 17 Dec 2010
    • 1059
    Received from Attracting Diverse Conference Speakers Vic Okezie – Online Profile of Vic Okezie

    [...] Seeing the list reminded me of my first FOWA (in 2007, when I was a closeted geek) and a post about women at web conferences back then that generated controversy on what matters etc. Ryan the organiser tried to defend himself, and some strong opinions flaired here and there. [...]

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