Here's a step-by-step guide for getting more women speakers at tech conferences - Technical.ly Philly

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Sep. 15, 2015 9:28 am

Here’s a step-by-step guide for getting more women speakers at tech conferences

Thanks to Philly developer Corey Leigh Latislaw and others, 22 percent of the speakers at a recent Android conference in New York were women. It's not 50 percent, but it's a start.

Corey Leigh Latislaw keynotes DroidCon NYC, August 2015.

(Photo via Twitter user @auditty)

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.)

Two other Philly devs were part of that 22 percent.

SnipSnap’s Audrey Troutt talked about meta-programming:

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.)

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.

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VIEW COMMENTS
  • Thanks for posting this!

    The only part that missed the mark was this quote:

    “Organizers say they’re having a hard time finding women speakers? Then do the work for them and give them no excuses.”

    The impetus behind the effort was to show organizers that it’s possible — and not that hard. The underrepresented in this field already do the majority of the diversity work and don’t get paid a dime. We don’t advocate expecting an unpaid conference diversity squad to do the work for you — the responsibility doesn’t solely lie with us.

    The message for the conference organizers should be it’s definitely possible. You have to just decide that you care, reach out, and follow up. If you don’t have the bandwidth, *hire* someone to help with this as their sole job.

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