I'm Tired of The Lack of Diversity at Tech Conferences

May 20, 2010

in #Tech

Yes, this is another one of those posts. Only different.

I was surfing the Internets the other day and came across this post at Mule Design, “An Open Letter to Our Industry:

Conference organizers and publishers, I do not think you are racist. And I do not think you are woman-haters. I think you are probably very nice people. I think you are good to your friends, your girlfriends, your wives, your children. I think you hire and treat your employees fairly and well.

I think you are lazy and irresponsible.

It is your personal prerogative to hold a conference or publish a book or magazine featuring whomever you choose. It is your professional duty to reach outside your existing circle of friends and colleagues, outside of your snug familiar comfort zone to find new voices and new perspectives.

That pretty much sums up my thoughts on the matter. I’m gonna tell you a secret: I’ve been writing a post on the topic of diversity at tech conferences for the past four weeks. I haven’t published it because I’ve been frustrated with it. I don’t want to sound like I am whining (I’m not!), nor do I want to sound like I don’t have any solutions (I do!), and I don’t want to seem like I’m calling anybody racist (they’re not). Everyone is just…lazy. Conference organizers and potential speakers (myself included).

I do my part here and there, but I could be doing more. We all could be doing more. So, you know what? I am going to work on something to help us all out. E-mail me if you want in. Otherwise, stay tuned.

*walks off in a huff*

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Bernstein May 20, 2010 at 9:26 AM

Liz, I’d like in.

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Liz Burr May 20, 2010 at 10:19 AM

Yay! Okay I will e-mail you when I have myself together!

(and you’re from New Mexico? Even better!)

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Anjuan Simmons May 20, 2010 at 10:38 AM

I’m all about real talk like this. I’m in, too!

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Maurice Cherry May 20, 2010 at 3:41 PM

Count me in as well.

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nocdib May 27, 2010 at 12:42 PM

The lack of diversity at tech conferences is most likely due to a lack of diversity in the tech community, period.

Anyone who has been involved in any branch of IT knows that the majority of the field is made up of White, East Asian, and Indian men. Women of all races and Blacks and Latinos of either gender are very visible minorities. I don’t see this as a symptom of exclusion, especially in an information age where you do not even need a formal education to become a technological spectacle in either design or programming. If there were visible minorities doing great things and obviously being overlooked then I would say that there is a problem but the fact of the matter is that, for some reason, the tech industry draws greater representation of men from the previously mentioned three groups.

The worst thing you can do is to overlook technical merit in favor of race or gender, especially when technical merit is not privileged to any one group. By the way, I am a black male.

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Liz Burr May 27, 2010 at 1:49 PM

I definitely agree that this is part of the problem. But I do think there need to be diversity strategies for tech conferences. Simply hoping for diversity candidates to drop by is not going to get the ball rolling, and sadly that’s what many conference organizers are passively doing. But yes, I do understand your point and my solutions include doing something about this too.

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