Diverse Links

Published 16 years, 9 months past
  • mezzoblue: Homogeneity?

    There’s really nothing in the post I don’t want to quote, but this bit in particular jumped out at me:

    …as a conference organizer, you tend to be conservative. You need to ensure a speaker list that will fill seats. This isn’t “we want to maximize profit” filling of seats either, this is “holy crap we just signed a contract that would put us out multiple tens of thousands of dollars if we don’t hit certain numbers”. When you book larger venues, you make commitments and really put yourself on the line financially. Those who haven’t run conferences simply can’t understand what a nerve-wracking experience this is.

  • Brian Oberkirch: Identity Is a Mashup

    This is an ongoing debate (as it has to be) though the argumentation tends toward the self-righteous, self-evident mode: look at all these white boys on the roster. What are they thinking? I think we can do better. I think we have to do better.

    On that post, a comment by Derek Powazek

    One of the reasons I got very excited about the internet when I discovered it in the 90s was because, finally, here was a place where race, gender, and religion truly did not matter. Where you could succeed or fail on the strength of your ideas alone – not what color you were or what junk was in your pants.

    I still believe this to be true.

  • Hamm on Wry: Post Gender Preferences

    I don’t see how being male, female, white, black, brown, purple, queer, asexual, cancerous, capricorn or a carrot would matter if you happen to also be a professional in the web-standards-meets-development world. I would, honestly, attend a speech given by a carrot if that carrot was recognized as a leader in the field. That’s what professional speeches are all about.

  • Jason Friesen {dot} ca: Diversity Wars

    To me, this is the key to being race- and gender-neutral — actually not caring about a person’s race or gender, but simply whether they can contribute what is needed in a given situation.

  • Adactio: The diversity division

    I firmly believe that conferences shouldn’t simply be mirrors for the Web business, reflecting whatever is current and accepted. A good conference can act as a force on the industry. Conference organisers have a great opportunity here and I think it’s a shame to see it wasted.

  • Digital Web Magazine: Beyond the A-List, Diversity in the Web Community

    I am going to go out on a limb here and use smart mob mentality here. If you know of a web professional who is talented, has done some remarkable things, and should be speaking at some web design conferences by all means let us know…

  • Meri Williams: Conference Diversity .. the Permathread Returns

    You never know, we might just change the world.

Comments (22)

  1. This was an excellent discussion. It was civil, well thought-out by the vast majority of posters… all, if my count is right, and above all, DIVERSE.

    This is the time for diversity; the time for people to be heard. As this is a public posting, no one is excluded from giving their opinion. And that’s what makes the web in general and a site like this great equalizers.

  2. I’m tired of conference rosters stacked with The Big Names. My job sends me to every conference I want to go to; last year I was going to one or two a month. I’m sick of hearing talks by Joe Marini, Kelly Goto, Veen, Cederholm, and even you, Eric. This year I haven’t registered for any conferences because none of them are offering anything new.

    But I would drop big bucks in a heartbeat on a conference headlined by people I had never heard of who you, Veen, Zeldman, and Molly thought were interesting. That would be the most exciting conference ever.

    (Don’t let Kelly Goto help pick, though, her name is mud. She misrepresents cultural anthropology, TiVo, and the Toyota Prius.)

  3. I was typing out this long drawn out post in response to yours the other day. The only thing left for me to do was hit the button, and I stopped and thought and then scrapped the whole thing.

    “A good conference can act as a force on the industry”

    This is what I thought that made me scrap my post, and someone else said it as you quoted. The big thing is that the industry drives itself. To know people and be working with the people who really are the “power players” in the field, gives you an opportunity and perhaps even a responsibility, to go out of your way to find people of all races, genders, religions..etc. that CAN represent the field. And while you can state that the best of the best aren’t always those people, finding those people will create new avenues and will even open up the door to finding how diverse it really is.

    It’s hard to put into words exactly, but I also believe that by inviting someone other than the expected to your conferences to speak, you’re demonstrating that the field is really neutral when it comes to who wants to give it a shot. And in the future, the industry, itself, will reap the rewards.

    This was an excellent post. And your responses to others, demonstrates how open minded you really are. And your latest posts show that you certainly listen and take into account others’ opinions and views. It pays to really listen to other people in so many ways.

  4. “To me, this is the key to being race- and gender-neutral — actually not caring about a person”s race or gender, but simply whether they can contribute what is needed in a given situation.” – Amen to that, a much better summary of my own thoughts than those that I posted on my own blog.

  5. I would, honestly, attend a speech given by a carrot if that carrot was recognized as a leader in the field.

    Imagine if a carrot was recognised as a leader in the web-standards-meets-development world.

    That would be cool.

  6. All you people who are arguing about this… you’re all men. Faintly ridiculous?

    I’m going to be super arrogant here, go out on a limb, and quote myself:

    It’s been my experience that asking “Where are the women?” is the equivalent of shouting “Hey, everybody! I just found out I’ve got bird flu!” Yes, it’s a problem that lots of people are concerned about, but they don’t want to do sit down and *talk* about it. They just want to make a mad dash for the face masks and the exit.

    The problem is not just conferences, but the field. But is it a problem at all? I’m not convinced it is.

    But I will say that faking “gender equality” through some sort of system where women don’t have to work as hard as men is *certainly* not a solution.

  7. I’m a women in web design, and I don’t really know what to say. I don’t think you or any other conference organiser are purposely excluding women. I would like to see more female speakers, though. And I agree with comment no. 2 – more lesser known names would actually make conferences more interesting to me. I often feel I already know what most of the big names like to talk about; I’ve read their books, their weblogs… I would prefer to discover something new at a conference.

  8. This is for Amy, Eric and I already had our non-conversation in my comments.

    Amy, why would you think that a profession that not only has few women in it, but has actually be losing women is perfectly acceptable?

    Is it because you yourself don’t experience problems, and therefore they must not exist?

    Is it that you prefer working more with men?

    I’m not being antagonistic — I’m trying to understand the women who have commented here who don’t think there’s any problem, who basically seem to equate this whole discussion with ‘positive’ discrimination.

    I’m also curious — how long have you been in the field and did you come through a comp sci degree program?

  9. Before I saw the Zeldman post, I hadn’t given it a second thought – I guess most of the conference speakers _are_ white men (but then I am also a white man, although I’m foreign if that helps). But the conference attendees, at least in my experience, run the gamut. To me, it comes down to this: if there are “minority” (in the loosest sense, i.e. not white male) speakers out there who are being overlooked _because_ they are minorities, that is a problem and it needs to be fixed. Yesterday.

    If the problem is that the industry isn’t encouraging minorities to become speakers so there aren’t any in the mix, well that’s a different issue. In my experience, web development and the surrounding fields are by no means dominated by white males; in fact over three jobs and eight years in the industry I’ve worked with precisely four other white guys who did what I do, or close (one of whom was deaf, if we’re counting). Everyone else (30+) has been either female (the _vast_ majority in fact) or non-white or both.

    The thing about the web is that you build your reputation online, and as such it doesn’t matter what you are, as long as what you’re saying makes sense to enough people. Case in point: I read a web analytics blog by a guy named Avinash Kaushik. I assume from his name that he’s of Indian descent, but so what? He’s a smart guy with a lot of experience, an entertaining style and an interesting angle. If he was an Inuit woman or a Nigerian tribal elder or the Hamburglar, would it make any difference? Do people discount his opinion cos he sounds like he might be Indian? I honestly don’t know, but his blog’s popularity in that field continues to skyrocket and he doesn’t seem to be hurting for speaking engagements, so I’d have to conclude no.

    Maybe it would be more helpful to ask why it always seems to be the same faces with more or less the same presentations (no offence intended). Similar to previous posters, I’ve skipped conferences that I could have attended, simply because I feel like I’m not going to get much out of it; Eric, Molly, Gerry, Kelly, Jeffrey, Jeffrey, Bryan and Jeffrey, Jared, Christine, Christina, Josh, Hagan, Nathan.. to name but a few.. they’re all good and some are great. But I can’t afford to take a week off work to see the same (admittedly awesome) presentations I saw six months ago. Are we locked in a cycle? The events can only work financially with “big names”, therefore big names are the only ones invited? Perhaps event organisers can “work in” some up-and-coming speakers, “on the side stage” so to speak.

    For what it’s worth, the best conference session I ever saw was Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s keynote at UI10. It wasn’t really anything to do with the web at all, nor did he really try to make it so. Maybe that is a direction that could be taken, to find some speakers who have things to say that aren’t explicitly ‘web’ but that can open an attendee’s mind to approaching a problem differently.

    Sorry to ramble. I just feel like perhaps all this navel-gazing is missing the point.

  10. Out of curiosity, why is it particularly important that this field has to have diversity in its ranks? Why should any targeted industry have diversity in its ranks? These are not just rhetorical questions: I would like some thought-out responses if anyone has them. I would appreciate non-emotive, sound arguments.

    I will gladly support the idea of a diverse workforce, but why does a certain profession–or each profession, for that matter–have to contain a diverse working population?

    I say we should target discrimination where we see it, but we should not assume its presence where there is no conclusive proof. A lack of females in IT does not prove discrimination. It could be a symptom of it, but you need more than the presence of one symptom to prove that the discrimination exists. I’m not saying that we have to prove it in a court of law; I can be swayed by compelling evidence. I just don’t think that the absence of something is enough proof that such an absence is mandated by those in charge.

    It’s especially disturbing to me that people are jumping on Eric and other event coordinators. I believe one of the articles that Eric quotes lays out the financial situation for one of these events: it isn’t about expanding and grabbing a larger audience–it’s about being able to succeed in an endeavor for which they’ve already booked space, service, and people. There might be several, maybe more than several people who have seen all of these speakers before. As for myself, I’ve never been to one of the conferences, and, quite frankly, if I’m going to fork out the money to attend one in the near future, I would like to hear Eric speak. I would like to hear Zeldman speak. I would like to hear Cederholm. The cost of attending one of these conferences is not cheap for an independent developer, and I’m not going to spend that kind of cash to hear somebody whose credibility I am assured of second-hand.

    Several people in this discussion have talked about expanding the audience. I think they’ll accomplish that by sticking to their current agenda: getting the best speakers possible, regardless of anything but the credentials of those speakers. If you’ve been to the conference before and don’t want to see the same people, I’ve a feeling that your slot will be an easy fill, because there are plenty–like myself–who will finally find themselves with the time and the money to go and see something wonderful and informative that they’ve only been able to read about until now.

  11. This is a bit like rock and roll. The same big names still dominate live events. You’ve got U2, Madonna, Kylie and so on. But you’ve also got newer bands like Coldplay and Keane who are now big. Then you’ve got newish acts like the Kaiser Chiefs and The Killers, who are big enough to headline at smaller gigs. So that’s a spread of old, recent and new names. The new names keep up the variety year upon year, but some people would complain if a whole festival didn’t feature at least one majort act, like say, Nine Inch Nails. My point is that we need the big names at ALA events – Zeldman, Molly, Shea etc – but, in my opinion, they should also have slots for other popular names, such as Veerle, Simon Willison, ppk, etc. Then there should be a third layer, like with gigs I mentioned before, where fairly new and upcoming names should be added to the list. Whether any of these are women should depend solely on the talent of the person.

  12. Personally, I am quite sad to see this ‘pc’ topic now being discussed here…. the whole topic of political correctness and push for diversity, no matter for which situation, has been taken to the extreme. I always liked the fact that online – we judge – and are judged – by what we say and do, by the work we produce, by the techniques and tips we share – rather than by any other superficial criteria.
    Surely conferences’ audiences should dwell on the topics discussed, knowledge shared and the inspiration speakers might bring – rather than anything else.

  13. I would, honestly, attend a speech given by a carrot if that carrot was recognized as a leader in the field. That”s what professional speeches are all about.

    May I be the first to propose that @media 2007 be introduced by an aubergine?

  14. Thanks for the link, my traffic’s through the roof ;-)

    If you liked the idea I proposed about existing speakers mentoring aspiring presenters, then please pop a link up to Make Me A Speaker! Set it up a couple of hours ago, already got some great people offering to mentor others (and a similarly great list of folks interested in being mentored and learning more about how to become a great speaker).

  15. Agh, hit submit too soon. Also wanted to say that the proportion of women in the audience at @media 2006 seemed a lot higher than the proportion of women speaking at web conferences. So there is a subtle bias somewhere. There are more women working in the web industry than the spines of web design books would have us believe :)

    Similar to the proportion of women in the physical sciences – high at undergraduate level, around 25-30% or so at postgrad level then decreasing down to 10% or so (in the UK and USA) by the time you get to tenured faculty. Oddly enough, the proportion of female academic scientists is higher in traditionally macho countries (Mexico, Italy, Spain).

    Sorry, don’t have any answers, just tangentially-related observations.

  16. Out of curiosity, why is it particularly important that this field has to have diversity in its ranks?

    This field already has a good degree of diversity in its ranks; that’s the point you’re missing. But it’s a damn sight harder to feel like you’re a welcomed and valued part of that field if you never see anyone like you standing at that lectern.

  17. As a woman in IT, I expect to be in the minority. I was in the minority when I received my computer science degree over 15 years ago, and I’m still in the minority in my position today. And as a woman, I have no problem attending conferences that include mostly male or all male speakers. If they are knowledgeable in their field and I’m learning something new then I’m happy. It doesn’t bother me in the least, and certainly doesn’t make me feel less “welcomed and valued” in my field.

  18. Why do you need to see somebody like yourself standing at the lectern? I don’t understand why this is a problem. If the subject material were something that was gender-relevant, that would make a difference, but the subject is Web Standards. You’re focusing on something that has nothing to do with the nature of the conference.

    Should women have the opportunity to work in the field? Yes. Should there be no barriers to women speaking at a conference? Yes. Does the absence of women speaking at conferences automatically imply a gender-specific barrier? No. It does not. There is more than one possible explanation for the disparity. The answer to gender imbalance does not always have to be “power-hungry boy’s club.”

    If the conferences were to have more female representation, I would think no less of them. If they were all-female at the lectern, I would have no problem. Just like it doesn’t bother me to be in a situation where I am instructed by people of a different ethnicity or faith. It doesn’t bother me, because the nature of the person has nothing to do with why I’m at the engagement. If I want to go to a talk about how men feel when they hit fifty, I’ll want mostly men talking. If I want to go to a talk about how women feel when they hit menopause, I’ll want mostly (okay, ALL) women talking. But if I go to a talk about Web Standards, or apple pie, or star-gazing, I don’t give a crap who’s at the lectern so long as that person is qualified. That person’s gender or race has nothing to do with the event, and it shouldn’t.

    Some of you should go read Tantek’s post about this.

  19. Brian :: Even if there is no difference in what, or how well, an audience would learn from a man versus a woman it is still wrong to discriminate against one gender or the other.

    Just because discrimination doesn’t hurt your bottom line doesn’t make it right.

  20. Dan,

    Read my post again. I specifically said that we shouldn’t have barriers for anybody. What I also said (which nobody seems to want to try to tackle) is that the absence of female speakers does not automatically mean that the men organizing the conferences are deliberately excluding them. It also doesn’t mean that these organizers should have to go recruit people because of their gender or race. That puts the wrong criterion at the top of the filter.

  21. Brian,

    If the barriers already exist is it laudable to be blind to them? Given equally knowledgeble, well-spoken candidates I want you to give me the one I’ve heard from less.

  22. I would want to have the one I’ve heard from less, too, but you’re assuming that the conference planners are faced with such an idealistic pool. Even if the qualified speakers are out there, the conference planners don’t necessarily know about them.

    I don’t deny that having a “spotlight spot” would be a good idea that wouldn’t threaten the success of a conference. I agree with everyone on that. I just don’t think it’s fair to jump on conference organizers the way that some folks have, or to suggest that they’ve been doing something wrong because they haven’t been investing energy in this situation prior to now.

    I also think that, as some in this discussion have mentioned, the diversity issue has to cover more than just women and people of African descent, because otherwise we’ll just have a diverse conference full of hypocrites.

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