The “diverse speakers at tech conferences” thing.

I’ve moved this post to my other blog, as it didn’t quite fit in here.

Category: Geeky stuff 8 comments »

8 Responses to “The “diverse speakers at tech conferences” thing.”

  1. Running events and trying to please everyone #britruby | Emma Mulqueeny

    [...] great and detailed blog about the specific issues is written here and largely I [...]

  2. Mike Higginbottom

    Hi Sam,

    Ref your point 5, please, please, PLEASE don’t give up on the fantastic work you’re doing. My 13 year old daughter is something of an apprentice geek and she’s recently been to a couple of Manchester Girl Geeks events. Whilst she’s not ready for 24 hour hackathons and the like, the stuff she HAS attended has been something of a gateway drug for her.

    This month she’s having a spiffing time with the wonderful guys at Madlab doing NaNoWriMo. It’s brilliant to see her interacting confidently with a diverse group of adults and complete strangers as a peer group. Ditto for the soldering workshop she helped out on at MOSI as part of MSF. Lovely to see her doing the teaching for a change.

    So, even though you might not always be a direct witness to your results, just know that you’re doing great work and making a real difference.

    Mike Higginbottom

  3. Neil Brown

    In his books, Clay Shirky writes about groups who come together for a specific stated purpose (e.g. supporting a political candidate, or forming a technology user group), but end up staying together because of the social bonds they have formed, rather than focusing on the stated purpose of the group. I know next to nothing about the Manchester Girl Geek events, but reading the part about “I’m getting tired of organising well attended all-female events and seeing none of the attendees outside our small women-only bubble”, is it possible that the women are coming/staying for the social aspect (which, as you say, is better for them in all-female events) rather than the technical aspect, and this is why they are not interested in attending other technical events?

    I’m not saying that the women aren’t interested in the technical aspects (this is not meant to be a “women aren’t hardcore technical” male rant), just that perhaps the social aspect is the real draw of the event, and that’s not replicated in other events, so there is no appeal in attending other [non-female-focused] technical events.

  4. Sam

    Aw thanks Mike. As I said, I’m more than happy to see us working more with younger girls, as they are obviously an entirely different group and may be the “geeks of tomorrow”, hopefully confident enough to attend “regular” tech events without thinking about it twice.

  5. Sam

    “is it possible that the women are coming/staying for the social aspect (which, as you say, is better for them in all-female events) rather than the technical aspect”

    Very good point, and something I was only semi-aware of. I’m pretty sure a lot of our attendees come for the social aspects (we do have a hell lot of fun at our events and it’s great hanging out with loads of bright women!), but quite a few of us (as organisers) run or attend other groups as well. So I would have thought that “someone they know” being there might be enough to make other, “regular” events appealing. But yes, maybe the main motivation for making the effort of attending an event after work or on a weekend is doing something social with other women rather than doing technical stuff.

    Being scientist, I would love to do some research into this actually. Anyone wants to give me funding? ;)

  6. Mike Higginbottom

    Here’s a thought. ‘Geek’ encompasses such a huge spectrum of activities, each of which can be practised at various wizardly levels. My daughter’s going to be up for an intro to Arduino type event but not a guru-level-haskell-skynet-hack-fest. Ditto, said Haskell guru probably doesn’t need a how-to-flip-digital-IO-bits-101 tutorial.

    Interestingly, what I noticed from my perch on the Madlab sofa whilst watching the NaNoWriMo session, was the way experienced writers were eager to give out top tips to my daughter and how everyone pitched in to impromptu head-to-head typing contests to win Maltesers and group high fives. The playing field was levelled despite gulfs in talent and experience.

    Perhaps the key to all this is Neil’s notion of social cohesion. Maybe things like Facebook groups and Google+ hangouts could be used to boost this aspect of MGG and that might well lead to experts naturally becoming informal mentors and the less experienced gaining the confidence and interest to jump into more advanced topics and events.

  7. Hack-in-a-Box | Trying to Please Everyone

    [...] great and detailed blog about the specific issues is written here and largely I [...]

  8. Woman speakers at conferences |…

    [...] has been all over the news about what happened in a conferences in the states but I wanted to echo Samantha’s thoughts… Diversity in tech is good. And not just for the sake of it, but because we need. more. [...]

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