For an industry that portrays itself as enlightened and progressive it’s amazing how sexist tech companies are. Women comprise 30% of tech industry employees and only 26% of American coders in any industry. They also make 30% less than their male peers. We don’t need a reminder but Seattle’s second largest venture firm fired a managing partner for inappropriate behavior. I’m not going to claim a thought leadership position on this topic, but I do have a creative idea. We need more public humiliation of the people and organizations that restrict women.
We launched a tech conference in 2014 and strived to recruit women speakers for at least 50% of the agenda. That’s much harder than it sounds. Think about the stats above. Among cloud and DevOps startups, the founders were more like 95% male. You have to say no to a lot of male speakers before you get to 50% female. We said no to a lot of speakers.
But most conferences are far more worried about getting heavy hitters who will drive ticket sales. Nearly all of the senior titled speaker candidates are men. Male speakers reinforce traditional culture and make many women feel excluded from the conversation.
What if we had a way to rate events on diversity? It would help if a gatekeeper like Meetup or Eventbrite flagged events based on their posted speaker schedules. Label those conferences for what they are, discrimination enablers, on the same Web page that takes the attendee’s credit card information. That hits conference producers where they live and would have a huge impact on the event-happy tech industry.
This is only the beginning. Events are a small piece of the industry culture. And women don’t have it nearly as bad as blacks, who represent about 1% of Bay Area tech companies (source NYT). But women of every color are 50% of the workforce, so there’s ample opportunity for improvement. An “enlightened” industry like tech would respond well to public shaming.