Software Development

How CocoaLove booked a speaker lineup that was 50 percent women

Key lessons from the locally-organized iOS conference. Plus, details about their 2016 scholarships.

CocoaLove 2015's speakers.

(Courtesy photo)

We were impressed to hear that CocoaLove, the locally-organized iOS conference that says it’s about “people, not tech,” had an equal breakdown of men and women speakers at their 2015 event. With 10 speakers, it’s a smaller conference than some, but it’s still a victory.
“I wanted to make sure if nothing else, even if we failed to keep the conference going, we at least did this part of it right,” said organizer Curtis Herbert.
Here’s what he wrote to us when we asked him how he did it.

Getting 50% gender balance is very hard. Our first year we only hit 33% despite my best efforts. One of the biggest problems is that when you have a call for papers it’ll be skewed 90% men (largely because I think the iOS community is skewed more towards men than say web dev).
What it came down to was making a lot of personal connections and asking for a lot of references from people. SiNae Pitts [the CEO of Center City’s Amphetamobile] was the only woman speaker submitted through the call for speakers, all the others were ones I invited to speak without asking for a proposal.
We’re one of the few iOS conferences to cover travel for speakers, too, and I think that does help us attract a more diverse group of speakers.

Still, Herbert acknowledges the group still has work to do: “I’m really proud we were 50/50 on gender last year, but we only had one non-caucasian speaker,” he wrote. “So many things to balance!”
The team is currently in the process of booking speakers for this year’s event — if you’re part of an underrepresented group in tech, get in touch. The organizers want to hear from you.
CocoaLove is on Oct. 14-16 at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. Early bird tickets are $479. Women, people of color and underrepresented groups can apply for a scholarship.
Get tickets
You can also donate to CocoaLove’s scholarship fund.

Companies: CocoaHeads
Subscribe to our Newsletters
Technically Media
Connect with companies from the community
New call-to-action