Last week a tweet from South Jersey Magazine made the rounds, advertising a panel discussion as part of its women’s empowerment series called “Women in Business: A Man’s Point of View.” Pictured were four accomplished men, each of them old and gray-haired.
The tweet… did not go over well. “Oh no,” one Technical.ly colleague wrote on Twitter when they saw the flyer. “Cannot stop laughing and it’s getting embarrassing send help plz,” a former colleague wrote.
It’s since been deleted and the panel canceled, after a wave of derision from people online, but here’s a screenshot of the flyer.
The issue of representation, allowing voices that more accurately represent what the world looks like in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation and more is one the tech industry in particular has grappled with recently, whether at Uber, Google, or elsewhere.
Brian Fountain, along with co-creators Charmel Sippio and Hyojin Yoo, have an idea to get more new voices into public visibility (Sippio is based in Philadelphia). It’s called Outspoke.in and it will be a sort of directory of underrepresented people who are willing and able to speak at tech events. In Fountain’s previous job, at coding bootcamp New York Code + Design Academy, he produced tech conferences for Fortune 500 companies.
“One thing became quickly evident, finding a speaker who was white and male was relatively easy, but designing a panel that reflected the real world was an order of magnitude harder to assemble,” Fountain wrote in an email recently. “There are organizers out there who care about inclusion and have started putting together lists of awesome people, but those lists are scattered all over the internet and not easily discoverable.”
Outspoke.in will be a sort of search engine for diversity, Fountain said.
The project is on Kickstarter, with the goal of raising $16,500. The group will use the money to develop the software and bring it to market.
“It’s a systemic issue that is not going to be solved overnight,” Fountain wrote. “But one part of the solution has to be representation. We think there are too many technologists out there who can’t see themselves in their industry. If we can help change that, we will be overjoyed.”