Tech conferences often lack women speakers, and the common refrain from organizers is that it’s hard to find them. So Chiu-Ki Chan took matters into her own hands.
The former Google developer based in Boulder, Colo., organized an effort to get more women speaking at last month’s New York City Android conference, DroidCon. Starting back in March, she helped women brainstorm ideas for talks, created a space for women to get feedback on their proposals and engaged DroidCon organizers. Philly developer Corey Leigh Latislaw pitched in, helping to find more female Android developers to encourage to speak.
The result? Twenty-two percent of DroidCon’s 64 speakers were women, including Chan and Latislaw, who gave one of the conference’s keynotes. “While I was hoping for 50%, this is a respectable result, especially since I was leading a grassroot effort, not an official one,” Chan wrote on her blog.
As for lessons learned? Chan had four big ones:
1. Start early. It takes a lot of time to rally and nurture potential speakers.
2. Provide mentorship. Be ready to answer questions about everything from topic ideas to how to fund the travels. Mentorship can be from experienced speakers, but peer support is very powerful too.
3. Offer to help. I was not an organizer, yet just by telling people about the Intel sponsorship I was able to ease the minds of many people who thought they will not have the money to travel to the conference. For organizers, even if you cannot cover everyone, stating that travel assistance is available on a case-by-case basis can go a long way.
4. Keep at it. Most importantly, follow through! Asking once is not enough. Monitor the whole process to make sure no one drops off. Send reminders. Nag!
Latislaw, who recently joined a solar energy startup as its lead Android engineer, has also written two books and produced a video series about Android development. (She’ll be working remotely for the startup.)
— droidcon NYC (@droidconNYC) August 27, 2015
— Siena (@sienatime) August 27, 2015
Two other Philly devs were part of that 22 percent.
SnipSnap’s Audrey Troutt talked about meta-programming:
— Andrea Falcone (@asfalcone) August 28, 2015
Drama Fever’s Yash Prabhu talked about monetizing Android apps. (Prabhu gave a similar talk — her first at a big conference — at Boston’s AnDevCon in July. Read about how she prepped for it on her blog.)
— danielle vass (@de_velopment) August 27, 2015
Chan wrote about her experience leading the effort on her blog. It’s a great case study in how to get more women speakers at tech conferences: Organizers say they’re having a hard time finding women speakers? Then do the work for them and give them no excuses.
— auditty (@auditty) August 28, 2015