Sunday, November 18, 2012

Speaker Genitalia Optimization

The BritRuby Conf has just been cancelled in the middle of a internet shitstorm.

At the root of all this lies a controversy about gender and ethnicity of the speakers, in fact, the complaint was about all of the speakers being male and white.

I have been taking part in the organization of several conferences, and I think I have an informed viewpoint I would like to offer:

The average web technology conference does not reject women's proposals, you receive from none to very few proposals from females. Are they shy? no, they are demographically underrepresented among developers. They are also less likely to be borne by their employers to attend conferences, because of labor inequalities completely outside the reach of your conference organizer.

When you actively seek, write and invite women, you get some proposals, in our case, the year we tried to bring female devs to the spotlight we got 40% of speakers, but 10% of atendees. If you tell this to a Sociologist she might tell you that women were overrepresented in the panel, but there weren't any tweets with complaints about it.

But what I find more annoying is that any other time, when I have reviewed proposals, I have checked te name in case the person was someone 'famous' which ability to deliver, comunicate, attract atendees and sponsors was well known, because as an event organizer this is what you have to do.

Any other case, if the person was an unknown gender-nondescript twitter handle, we never asked for a photograph, birth certificate or a picture of their freaking genitalia. It was the content relevance what was checked. And you know what? most of them were indeed european males, because I live in Europe and most web developers are 81.6% men (see).

Is it a problem that women are not (generally) engaging in the making of the web: yes, but I don't think the solution is to pretend it is not so, or to show otherwise at a conference.

My choice is to personaly encourage, coach and train tech friendly girls from my environment into further knowledge of web making skills.

Do you have a better idea? Do you think I am wrong? Do you own a vagina offended by my opinion? Please go ahead and tell me, comment, tweet me.

In the meantime:

UPDATE: I have edited many references to women/females as 'girls' which spanish equivalent has not the same connotative load. Thanks Sven.