Last year’s Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative conference featured just one woman speaker out of fifteen.
Lauren Ancona noticed. In response, Ancona, now a data scientist for the City of Philadelphia, pitched a talk for the 2015 conference held this month. It didn’t make the cut. She wasn’t alone: not one woman’s talk made the cut this year.
When she saw the speaker lineup, she made her disappointment known:
Man, I could not be more disappointed at the lack of diversity in this speaker lineup. http://t.co/I9cFgMJMJt
— Lauren Ancona (@laurenancona) April 3, 2015
This isn’t the first time a local tech conference’s speaker lineup was overwhelmingly male. It’s not a Philly-specific issue, either. We called conference organizer Eric Bradlow to talk about the lineup. He said he and his co-organizers chose presenters solely based on the merits of their presentation proposals.
After choosing the lineup, “we absolutely thought about the lack of gender and other forms of diversity on the speaker lineup,” he said, but in the end, they decided to stick with their original policy of choosing speakers based on merit.
Bradlow said that the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative, of which he is academic co-director, is committed to diversity.
“Ideally, would we like diversity in speakers?” he asked. “That’s a ubiquitous truth. That’s a non-debatable issue.”
The team of four who chose this year’s speakers were 50 percent women, he said, referring to former WCAI Executive Director Elea McDonnell Feit and current executive director Colleen O’Neill. He also listed a number of diversity-related programs that he has a hand in, including the new Wharton Society for the Advancement of Women in Business Academia, Wharton’s Introduction to Diversity in Doctoral Education And Scholarship and the PhD Project, which aims to increase the number of faculty of color at business schools.
“I take great pride in our efforts around diversity,” he said.
When it comes to choosing speakers for future conferences, would Bradlow consider a policy that takes more than merit into account?
“I’m not going commit to a certain amount of slots [for specific types of speakers],” he said.
Still, he said, “we have to be more sensitive to this,” especially in a “traditionally male-dominated STEM-like discipline.”