Apparently, finding women to speak at conferences is not always easy. At least not as easy as finding men, especially in the tech space.
The evidence is in the number of events that continue to be organised with a heavily male-dominated line-up, as well as the panel sessions that continue to be all-male affairs.
TConf 2016, an upcoming event in Melbourne, has seemingly struggled, with all nine of its speakers on the program online being male. The event promises to deliver “everything about software quality”. It’s “run by software testers, and it’s for software testers”, with “a strong desire to advance the Quality function.”
But finding women hasn’t been too difficult for the Geelong Pivot Summit coming up in December, which has managed to find eight female speakers among its lineup of 13. Those speakers include the CTO of NewsCorp Alisa Bowen, the Linux Australia VP Kathy Reid, and the founder and CEO of Adorebeauty.com.au Kate Morris.
It’s an excellent effort that’s created a stellar line-up for the event, bringing a wide range of talented men and women to the region. It proves that organisers who’re proactive in inviting female tech role models to their events will ultimately organize better events – and help inspire both men and women in the process. Martha O’Sullivan, the Head of It for Trading and Supply Chain at Target, kindly pointed out the lineup to me via email. She’s on the Pivot Committee, lives in and loves Geelong, and is clearly proud of the event.
Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen some advanced awareness on the need to create gender-balanced events, particularly via social media where all-male line-ups can quickly and visually be called out – embarrassing event organisers who either then go on to apologise, or claim they simply couldn’t find any women, or try a little harder and change their lineup and marketing materials. Some in-demand male speakers are also doing their bit to help, with five of the country’s most prominent male speakers on leadership coming together to publicly boycott all-male panels, and the Male Champions of Change signing a pledge to push orgnanisers to find more women.
But women are also needed to help shift the balance, especially in tech.
So in recent months we’ve been asking a number of different women in tech how they build a personal profile in the sector, thereby helping to create visible leaders to the next generation of women.
And often, we hear many are talking at events, as many events as they can. As Sidekicker co-founder Jacqui Bull told Women’s Agenda earlier this week, she accepts as many invitations as possible: “I say yes to every opportunity I get offered to speak, to be a panelist, or present at events,” she said. “It’s a great way to share your experiences and hopefully inspire other to choose a career in startups, and as a bonus I get to build the awareness of Sidekicker.”
She’s not alone. Many female tech entrepreneurs have told us they put themselves out there on the speaking circuit as much as they can, in whatever format they can.
So put your hand up and say yes.
And to all the tech conference organisers, take a look at the Pivot lineup to see what a gender-balanced speaker line-up actually looks like.