The Future of White Boy clubs

White Boys

As a white boy who attended yesterday and today’s Future of Web Apps summit, I feel compelled to speak up about a disturbing element of an otherwise well-produced event.

In fact, when I got this fortune the other night, it made me realize how important it was to speak out:

You have remarkable power which you are not using.

Clearly the issue that I’m presenting is a familiar one — one of the perennials that comes around with the regularity of seasons. In the relatively short time that I’ve lived out in San Francisco and become immersed in the Valley culture, I can recall this topic presenting itself at least once a quarter. At least.

And the reason is simple: the issue of diversity in culture is intractable and unsolvable. It needs constant work and attention; it’s a matter of mindfulness and inclusivity, because regardless of how diverse you become (or think you are), you can always do better. No, really.

We can and must choose to make diversity a top priority, one that’s up there with attracting quality talent and quality attendees; it will not simply happen on its own and truly, it’s everyone’s responsibility.

But it’s not that simple, as much as I wish it were.

I talked to Ryan Carson and Lisa about this — about why there was so little diversity (especially gender diversity) at FoWA. Apparently they did try to recruit some women speakers, but the two that came to mind didn’t respond in time; so the Carson crew got tied up organizing everything else and the matter fell by the wayside. Once they had their final speaker line up, it was too late.

Perhaps if the issue had been raised far enough in advance, something could have been done (take for example the upcoming 45:2 AJAX Experience conference — all but 3 are white — apparently their trademark “No Fluff, Just Stuff” refers to minorities). This is what Elisa Camahort of BlogHer, says:

The solution is for event organizers to care about diversity in their own planning stage, not after they’ve already spent the time securing and then announcing dozens and dozens of speakers.

Totally.

And so then I talked to Matt yesterday and he pointed out that, well, maybe, the speakers represent the make-up of the community.

Which of course is a logical argument to make. And a complete cop out (sorry Matt).

There’s something important here that needs to be impressed upon us white boys by a white boy — one who happens to find himself uncomfortably in the white boy club (just coz you’re born into it doesn’t mean that you’re not responsible for being part of the change that needs to happen). It goes back to that fortune I got and to the point I made at 20×2 at SXSW last year: as it stands, we, as white men (of course I include myself in that), have a tremendous amount of privilege and power — power that many of us don’t know we have, power that many of us choose to ignore, power that some of us disclaim or shrug off. The utter reality is that whether you want it or not, you have the power and the potential to be part of the ongoing solution.

Now let me suggest an elevation of the topic, because there’s really something practical and motivating about this power that we have. First of all, it’s not something shameful and it’s not something that we ought feel bad about; admitting and owning our historically exclusionary behavior will not emasculate us. On the contrary, to my thinking, taking responsibility and doing something shows a degree of chivalry that can reveal where true insecurity lies.

But it’s not about chivalry. Because the act of diversifying should be done because of merit, not in spite of it. In fact, there are three concrete benefits to be gained from proactive inclusivity:

  • For one thing, FoWA would have been more representative, more interesting and more engaging (and better attended) had their been wider diversity. If Drupal is any indication, monocultures produce monotonous culture (think Art with a big A). And the very last thing that I, personally, want to see in the real future of web apps is a lack of diversity.

    The greater the diversity in the folks who are participating, creating and discussing the future of web apps will bring result in more diverse ideas, approaches, beliefs and experiences to be built into the tools of tomorrow, leading to an environment a whole lot more exciting than the alternative.

  • Instead of having to duck for cover whenever you’re exposed as a hapless ignorant fool, there’s a whole lot less guilt and worry in doing the right thing (imagine that!). You can actually feel proud of yourself for making diversity a priority (which will improve your event anyway — and likely increase the demographics of those interested in attending).

    So wow, doing the right thing feels good and is economically beneficial?! No way!

  • Lastly, by giving away and spreading out our power, it actually improves our position in culture while increases the visibility of our peers. I’ve long believed that in a networked world, by giving everything away, you gain more. It’s kind of the principle upon which P2P networks work.

    So this power that we white men have? It’s only power if we actually give it away and spread out our privilege as much as possible. In whatever form it might take, this potential power means nothing unless we actually use it — so by working to fix the problem, we’re actually proving what kind of man we are.

So let me be bold: the future of the white boy club is in inclusivity one-upmanship. Not just because it benefits everybody, but because it benefits us. We simply can’t stay hidden in our isolated little geek enclaves and plead ignorance or expect things to get better by themselves; there’s too much at stake, too much to gain and too many interesting voices out in that great bazaar that we’re missing out on that we must do more to encourage, support and welcome them where in the past we have failed.

It won’t be easy, but dammit, nothing worthwhile ever is.

And, as a first step, I’ve set up the page to collect ideas, thoughts, examples and techniques to improve BarCamp — because, frankly, we must be most critical of those things closest to us that we have proven power to change.

131 thoughts on “The Future of White Boy clubs”

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  2. Chris

    What do you think the makeup of the crowd was? Do you think it was representational of the speakers?

    If the speaker lineup was different, do you think it would have attracted a different audience?

    Jeremiah, an American Chinese Boy.

  3. Sooo, I’m half Indian and half Puerto Rican… Do I get the job?

    Seriously though, I’d expect more Desi’s in the mix.

    Interesting post, though not the least bit shocking.

  4. Chris, thanks for being brave and discussing this. I have friends who are women and non-white that see this is homogeneity as a big problem and make it their business to attract more diversity to the tech world. They’ll be happy to know you’re thinking about this stuff.

  5. Chris, how do you think past BarCamp’s have rated as far as diversity? For BarCampMilwaukee, we currently have 66 people signed-up, of which 5 are female. (On the flyer I created I actually made sure I used a diverse range of photos showing men and women, hoping it would attract both sexes.) While BarCamp is an open event, I’ve still invited specific people, but I can certainly try to search out more diversity in my next round of invites. It’s definitetly a tough problem…

  6. @Andy: agreed. Cal too.

    @Jeremiah: I don’t know that I have a set-in-stone answer, but it did seem to me that there was an overwhelming majority of folks who-looked-like-the-speakers in attendance. My feeling is that it might have a made a bit of a difference if the speakers were more diverse, but it would not have guaranteed it.

    At the same time, the presentations would have covered a wider of array of areas of expertise, I think, and at least been more representative of the real future of web apps.

    @Praveen: No, not shocking, but not pointed out often enough. In fact, the BarCamp that I went to in Bangalore was noticeably inverted, as “us white folk” were in the minority. There was still a predominance of males, but it did feel that, on the whole, the culture was more accommodating of women.

    On top of that, the event itself was organized by a woman!

    @Josh: Thanks man.

    @Pete: I think that BarCamp has been pretty good overall, but could always be better. And I think that it is something that we as a community need to learn about and make efforts to further open up the model by really pushing the inclusivity bit.

    Even if we don’t get more diverse attendance right away, it’s important that over time our event become known as one that is generally better than most other geek gatherings (at least if it’s going to continue to spreading around the world).

  7. This is perhaps one of the best posts to date anywhere on this topic. You captured the optimistic spirit of “what can we do about it” rather than dwelling on guilt-stricken apologies. Well done Chris.

  8. I would only add: diversity of opinion/background is to be celebrated, encouraged and sought out by anyone in a “club” of sorts. It comes down to power, influence and “belonging”. Anyone who happens to be fortunate enough to have such influence could do better (and improve their “club(s)”, whatever it/they may be) by following your advice.

    You’re right that certainly in our “space” of web design/apps this happens to be mostly “white” (appearing if not also in background/ethnicity, distinction noted and appreciated :) males, but as you hint at with the BarCampBangalore reference, it is something that can be improved worldwide, regardless of skincolor, by men and women in any field.

  9. This is a wonderful post, Chris. Comprehensive, clear-eyed, practical.

    To answer this question: “If the speaker lineup was different, do you think it would have attracted a different audience?”

    Hell yes!

    Let me tell you the two things I think when I see a line-up that is completely homogenous:

    1. Sigh. I can’t imagine anything that would fill me with more ennui then sitting in a room being lectured by this homogenous crowd. (And that often means homogenous in gender AND in race, age, backgrounds…)

    2. (Because I’m a bit of a rabble-rouser) Damned if I’m going to give hundreds of dollars to conference organizers who couldn’t get off their butt and mix things up a bit.

    Let me tell you the third reaction that I personally have learned to just ignore/suppress over my years in male-dominated industries, but have heard numerous women and or minorities express to me when they see such a line-up:

    3. Same old white boy’s club. Not for me. The organizers are sending an explicit (or implicit, if you’re a believer in the Gladwell concept of “unconscious bias”) message that I’m not welcome.

    I had a talk with Hugh from SXSW on the eve of the Interactive Festival this year. They not only had a huge influx of women speakers this year (partly because of the BlogHer track of 5 sessions and ~20 speakers) but they also had a huge influx in women attendees. He believed having one cultivated having the other. Your message about inclusivity benefitting us all is right on target.

  10. Elisa

    Glad my questions are helping conversation. You’ve convinced me.

    Next Question:
    -What is the demographic makeup of the Web Industry? Global, Regionaly?
    -Should conference speakers match this demographic or should it be ‘best of class’
    -Should we apply this type of correctional behavior (Affirmittive Action)

  11. Chris,

    First I’d like to applaud you for bringing this issue up in a public way, something that I recently posted about – http://profectio.com/forde/2006/09/04/how-do-you-spell-diversity/ and live or see on a daily basis. The BarCamp Diversity is a good idea in theory and if it works then more power to you. However in my opinion the bigger area to attack or change that needs to take place is within corporations as that is where ‘most’ of the speakers for conferences get their start. Many times they will add diversity programs but that only extends to the call center or help desk – big freaking deal. To make an meaningful impact diversity (ethnic backgrounds, women, people disabilities) need to be added in high visibility places such as management teams. Both management and HR need to embrace diversity not as part of a PR ploy, but because it is good for business.

    As I organize conferences I do look to see if I can mix things up with the speakers, because I do believe that people from different countries can bring tremendous value as they look at things from a different point view, especially in this global economy of ours. It isn’t an easy thing especially when you look at internet related topics, the choice of good speakers is pretty thin.

    Bottom line a lot of this lack of diversity comes from fear, fear of change and fear of the unknown. You wouldn’t believe how many Americans think that we up here in Canada live in igloos, and that is as you say “white men� talking about other white men. Can you imagine what they would say if you ask them about where people in India or China live, they’ll probably tell you that they live a hut :)

  12. Jeremiah:

    “-Should conference speakers match this demographic or should it be ‘best of class’”

    That is what I like to call subtle fu-ism. (I used to say “xx-ism”, but people thought Iw as talking only about chromosomes.)

    Or, as I said in one of my posts on the topic:

    “Please consider the subtle ‘xx’-ism at play when you assume that proactively seeking speakers of color, or queer speakers or speakers over the age of 40 will result in a degradation of the quality of your event. Either you’re saying that NO competent, qualified speakers from those groups exist, or you’re saying you’re unmotivated to find them…which is it?”

    It indeed may take more *effort* to find such speakers, but please realize that is partly due to the fear factor Dave mentions. Conference organizers bring the same speakers over and over because they are a known quantity, and it’s a risk to find and give the mic to fresh voices. But that is exactly what perpetuates the clubby effect Chris is bringing up in the first place.

  13. Chris, like Dave, I too would like to applaud you for raising this issue in a non-defensive way. Kudos to you for presenting the other viewpoint so eloquently.

    This past weekend, I attended an unconference called Podcamp, which was held in Boston. It was a well attended event and I was pleased to have led two sessions and sit on a panel.

    There was very little egos in the room. It also wasn’t a white boys club and alot of that had to do with the spirit of the unconference. It’s bohemian – on purpose – and you get to listen to diverse voices, especially from those who are in the trenches, touching the code everyday.

    Diversity isn’t just limited to skin colour, but also economics, culture, language, nationality, disability, etc. etc.

    On the flip side, I noticed that for the women who did present at Podcamp (not many), they focused mainly on soft skills or co-presented with someone else. Although they had good material, I wanted to see a woman “represent” from a geek angle.

    On top of that, some of the other presenters obviously have had no training on how to present or speak in front of a crowd. They were excited about podcasting, however, got lost in the finer details of perl scripts and XML hacks. Just because you can speak, doesn’t mean you’re a speaker.

    If we’re doing diversity for diversity sake, please don’t insult me by putting some dud up on stage all in the name of affirmative action or some other ridiculous scheme. I’d rather be invited to speak because I’m articulate, I present with confidence and I have the credentials. If the colour of my skin is the only ticket to speak at a conference, I’d rather spend my time knitting a 7-foot scarf.

    So, here I am. Who will invite me to an upcoming conference as a speaker so I can be the nutella on technology’s white bread?

  14. Great courageous post Chris. Hats off and a pat on the back.

    We all see the gender gap at conferences, (and more importantly, the tech industry as a whole), but can we say anything about the underlying causes? I think a lot of these issues have roots in the education system. Go to most 1st year CS departments and look at the gender make up! Much can be done at a curriculum level to encourage diversity and gender equality. For example, the University of British Columbia computer science 101 course (http://tinyurl.com/o8p95) talks about “Historical, cultural, and gender perspectives of important contributions to the field.â€? This class is also cross listed with a second year woman studies course. To me, this seems like a proactive and essential move to encourage diversity in their CS program, and I’d love to see more of it.

    C

  15. Chris, I think we also need to focus on stirring in civility and respect with our diversity because I am still concerned by how cliquey and exclusive it can feel. The back back channel “don’t bullshit me” mob mentality is very intimidating. Being a speaker is hard, and us geeks often are lacking in making it easier for people.

    It is easy to criticize,
    Lloyd

    PS. chivalry used to be one of my favorite words, until a friend pointed out that the beliefs are medieval and require victims ;-)

  16. I agree in principle with this post, but I have a different view of it (which is ironic, because I would normally be pushing hard for diversity.) I found this conference to be one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended, and I lost count at 50 conferences in my professional life.

    It was also by far the best value at $147.50/day (and I even got a special offer for a 15% discount!) Lastly, his company is tiny (3 people?) and they are attempting to do a tremendous number of things for such a small company. I have seen many other conferences run by much larger companies do a much worse job in almost every area so I was AMAZED at how damn good this conference actually was, white man or not.

    Could they have done a better job in diversity? Hell yeah. Did they do an incredible job in what they did? ABSOLUTELY! Did Ryan come across on stage as being sincere about wanting to address concerns and constantly do a better job? It appeared so to me. Were they probably overwhelmed by getting the conference implemented and possibly had the stress of organizing it cause them to accidently overlook some idealistic and feel good but hard to implement aspects? Probably. Do you think, now that it has been made a point that they will look to improve the situation in advance and do a better job of recruiting diversity for their next conference? Almost definitely.

    So I would propose that before you collect up a lynch mob for this one oversight (“She turned me into a Newt!” “A Newt?!?” “Well…I got better.”), maybe you could consider this post and thread a suggestion for improvement that I’m sure Ryan & Co will see, and then give them the benefit of the doubt until and unless they fail next time. Fair?

  17. I can only talk from my own experience, but it’s that I often hear about cool conferences after they’ve happened — or even worse, while they’re happening. If I could only hear in advance, I could make arrangements to attend/apply to speak/do whatever it takes to get there.

    When the usual crowd tells the usual crowd that they’re having a conference, no one should be suprised that the usual crowd is who shows up. It doesn’t mean that those outside the crowd aren’t interested (and in fact, it doesn’t even mean that they don’t consider themselves part of that crowd). Again — just speaking from my own perspective — I thought that I *was* part of the Ajax community, until I heard about conferences that I wasn’t speaking at (me: author of a best-selling Ajax book/co-lead of the WaSP DOM Scripting TF) as just one example. Would I like to be there? Absolutely. I just don’t hear about the possibilitiies until it’s too late.

    As I posted over on the BarCamp Diversity page as you asked, here’s my recommendation: go where the women already congregate and tell them about your event. It could be that they’d be happy to attend, if they could just find out about it in advance.

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  19. This is a great topic and one that is not dealt with and really should be. There are those who believe that they are the only ones with answers. Well there are a whole bunch out there with answers as well.

    I run a ministry for women where the goal is to build bridges to cultural healing and it has been an experiance.

    I can say this much as an African American Woman it is hard for me to lend my support to these type of events when my culture and gender are not well represented.

    Thank you for being “white boy” tyring to make a difference.

    LaTara

  20. I came to some of Future of Web Apps but ended up spending more time in the lobby networking than in sessions (in part to get reliable-enough-to-use wifi coverage). At one point I unsciously looked around and noted the usual lopsided male-female ratio. Of note: some of my most business-productive connections at the event were with women.

    This is a significant issue, one I’ve seen at any number of similar gatherings, as well as in my own real-world community (cohousing/aging in community/ecovillages) development work. My usual analysis is to go look at what the filters are, how people self-select, what economic and cultural factors are affecting who’s interested and then who makes through the hoops of personal/business time-allocation, resource, desire, et cetera to show up. I read the biases in the line-up as a symptom of all these other factors.

    Here’s one factor that may have been an amplifier: my impression is that the event was undersold, so to avoid having a half-empty hall, the organizers offered a bring-a-friend steep discount price for registrants. Most people’s friends look a lot like they do, and this filters for people able to make a quick last-minute decision. A different approach involving outreach to different communities might have produced a different result.

  21. I agree with all of the diversity questions and comments above and have an additional question that does not seem to be answered:

    Did any non-white-males or females contact the group to speak? I am interested in applying to be a speaker at the next FoWA summit. So I take my interest, and take action.

    What stats do we have on who else took action? And should CS be forced to find others?

    I have been to hundreds of conferences over the years and I am not sure I agree with the statement that having women/non-whites would have made the conference more engaging. What makes it engaging is the quality of the speakers. (and in my wrap-up post, I am going to discuss how the speakers really missed some good opportunities to be more engaging) What it would have done is provide another perspective. Even if they can’t find anyone in the web 2.0 space to participate, as I mentioned to someone, having perhaps a marketing person or a HR person next time might not be a bad idea. You have a group of 500 people who need that training. Open it to 3 days, and drop in some of the things that upcoming CEO’s need (like diversity).

    I think if you look at the web today, we are at a great point in time. You can launch a blog for basically free, a site for almost nothing, etc. People from all races, cultures, genders, etc. can do the same. Everyone is afforded the same opportunity. Years ago you needed money and so I could understand where that would limit groups. But even a homeless person in SF can start a blog for free.

    There are plenty of non-white-male leaders in this business/industry. They should raise their hand to speak out (same as I do), I am not sure I should have to raise their hand for them.

    I love the web because, online, we are all the same. Unless you see my picture or meet me in person, you have no idea what I look like.

    I also think Raines made a great point about friends bringing friends.

    Should CS not hold the workshop if they cant have 2 black men, 2 asian women, 2 white males, 2 turkish men, 2 israeli women?

    everyone has a voice, online its an equal voice. so use it.

    And maybe next time we could have an equal number of mac/pc laptops. My Dell felt very alone at the conference :)

  22. FYI, I have a few CEO interviews in the coming week and will ask each of them for their thoughts and ideas on how to address diversity at both conferences like this one and how they plan to address it in their hiring decisions.

  23. I have just read this with interest and as one of the few white females who attended the conference I just wanted to share my thoughts…

    Firstly I think Carson Workshops did an excellent job with the speakers. For me they represented some of the “best in the business”, they provided me with some great insights and inspiration.

    On arrival I was very aware that, as a female, I was in the minority but I don’t see that as a failing of Carson Workshops – I think it’s indicative of the arena I work in. Yes there are some amazingly talented “female” developers out there but I wouldn’t want to go to a conference where women were selected as speakers to balance things out. I’m likely to get flamed for my comments but I don’t like the idea of diversity for diversity’s sake and worry that if we think too much about gender and race (rather than people) we’ll start to host conferences based on how diverse they are rather than how fit for purpose. If we’re living in society where we’re supposed to look past gender and skin colour… then shouldn’t our only concern be whether or not we’re seeing the most appropriate viewers?

    I think this is a very interesting topic and an accurate observation but having worked in IT for 15 years with 80% of my colleagues being male… I think it’s just the way it is.

  24. This isn’t a matter of exclusion. This is a matter of interest. If people of other ethnicities aren’t interested in developing Web 2.0 apps, why should we say “We need to be diverse. Let’s force people of other ethnicities to be interested in what we’re doing!” There should be no sense of shame or awkwardness about this. In fact, there’s no need to even discuss this. I just felt the need to put in my two cents.

  25. My friend, you need to travel the world a bit. When some of the best mobile apps are being developed in Korea, some of the best gadgets in China, software in India, how can you say it is only a white dominated world? Or in the Valley go to a TiE conference and see the UN of entrepreneurs. About females in the business, Meg, Safra, Pattie – many others would disagree…

    High tech is one of the most color blind, competence based businesses in the world…could it be better? – of course, but it is not half as exclusive as some other industries

  26. You have to be rich to “play” in this space, and most rich people are white. Figure out a way to get the middle class involved and you’ll see more colorful panels.

  27. Hi Chris,

    got to this late (time zoned challenged :-) but as someone who has organized several conferences, albeit not at the center (just yet) I’ve got a fair bit of practical experience with this.

    Putting on a conference like FoWA, or Web Directions is, to put it extremely bluntly, an enormous risk. You put a huge chunk of money on the line, and you put your reputation on the line. A small company of 3 like Carsons, or 2! like Web Directions can’t hide if it all goes wrong, audiennces don’t show, speakers don’t deliver.

    This is not an excuse, it’s an explanation, BTW.

    What gets people to a conference like nothing else is the big name speakers. It’s like lolapalooza. Trust me, its true. They are known commodities, and people feel they aren’t taking such a risk if they know who they are getting.
    So, you need to stack your card with as many such names as you can afford. And that is not necessarily inexpensive – ‘specially if you have to fly them half way round the world :-)

    Also, such people have a track record, and for organisers are less of a risk in terms of whether they will meet your audiences expectation. Afterall, you want to run your conference again, and repeat attendees are absolutely crucial for this. If they are disappointed they won’t make the not insignificant investment again. You can listen to their podcasts, you have probably seen them speak, and yes, if you have been round a while like the Carsons and Maxine and I, you probably know them personally, or have one degree of separation. Even getting an email through to people and getting a reply can be hard, understandably, if it’s a cold email.

    So all these factors go a long way to explaining why things are as they are.

    That’s not to say it’s good, let alone right, and in fact, we $%^&ed up with our first conference, and while ironically foccussing on accessibility, and having speakers with disabilities, and with Maxine as one of the organisers, we had *no women speaking*. We sucked.

    We have subsequently addressed this, and at Web Directions in a couple of weeks have 40% women speaking, and two of our headline speakers are women. The only way you make this happen is by making is a real priority, a real issue and committing to it.
    We in fact had a discussion with the organiser of a recent conference in our field (not FoWA) about this, and like many, they very dissapointingly went on with all the crap about merit etc etc, and challenged us to name speakers in our field who could speak at their conference. Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating – we have 40% women speakers, so they are there. You just have to make a committment to it.

    But, we’ve yet to really address the issue of ethnicity at all. This I am finding a bigger challenge. And I fully admit it is my shortcoming, something I have to address about my networks of relationships, my way of seeing.

    Women make up a very significant % of the attendees at Web Directions – 40% plus easily. And there is a significant diversity of background, simply going by the people I see at our conferences, by the names as I glance at our attendance list.
    Perhaps this is particularly Australian, and doesn’t fit with the U.S, U.K and other national experiences. But at SxSW I definitely meet people from all over the U.S. and from all kinds of backgrounds – my memory is not of wall to wall young white men. And I know SxSW make a real committment to diversity with their speaker panels.

    Alright, I’ve gone on far too long. This is a significant issue in our industry and profession, and in some ways I am surprised more has not been made of it than a couple of flare ups associated with a couple of particular conferences.

    I look forward to a year or two from now, when it is just not an issue. But that takes committment and risks and leadership. Thanks for the timely, important, thoughtful and very valuable article

    john

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  29. @John — thanks for the long comment. The one thing that I would put to you is: why does it seem seem that all the “big names” are white men? I mean, how did it get that way?

    Oh wait, we all know the answer to that..! Which is exactly the point that I’m making. From this point forward, I could give a shit about excuses or reasons why things are the way they are.

    In my estimate, a better conference is a diverse conference, whether that’s measured by religion, race, creed, gender or any other multitude of human facets. Gender is a place to start; and it’s been pointed out for a long time. Why aren’t there more solutions and more opportunities? Why hasn’t this been resolved? I know that it’s not for lack of articulate, qualified women speakers.

    That said, simply making events open, is not enough. The dominant monoculture does need to go beyond the boundaries of its traditional network and really reach out. Which isn’t easy. But organizing a conference isn’t meant to be easy. Or cost-free. Ensuring diversity of attendees, of topics, or speakers needs to become just another aspect of running a show, just like providing coffee or making sessions available as podcasts.

  30. I just want to clarify my earlier comment. I was more replying to some of the other commenters. All in all, I think Chris’ post for fair and balanced (as opposed to another well-known mainstream media outlet that uses that tagline) but some of his commenters comments were not.

  31. Dude. Chris. You’re awesome! Great post! Very proactive and I hope people will really hear it and it will change the way people think and act.

  32. The problem with all of this is that I still don’t actually know what you bloody do about it. There’s clearly a problem with a lack of women at tech conferences, but I’m afraid I don’t think it’s a cop-out to say there aren’t very many women in the industry. You ask Gill and Ryan and they’ll say that whenever they do design conferences or web standards conferences, they get 50/50 men and women in the panels and in the audiences. That’s just not the case as things get more geeky or more businessy. I’m all for using the power of the white male to move in a positive direction, but having been on the panel for last year’s ETech with Paula LeDieu and Elizabeth Goodman almost with a specific remit to find more diverse people to talk, I don’t know that we managed to persuade that many more women to talk at all.

  33. Chris,

    “The one thing that I would put to you is: why does it seem seem that all the “big namesâ€? are white men? I mean, how did it get that way?”

    We do market research. We ask people formally and informally who they’d like to see and hear. This is across a diversity of people we know, or who have come to our events, or who read our blogs, and so on. Those names DO turn up time and again. And in reality, conferences don’t happen if people aren’t willing to turn up and pay good money for them. And in our relatively considerable experience, big names really help. It’s a vicious cycle. But one we also think is important to break and one we have taken many steps to proactively break.

    “From this point forward, I could give a shit about excuses or reasons why things are the way they are.”

    Earlier you said

    “issue of diversity in culture is intractable and unsolvable. It needs constant work and attention”.

    Understanding the situation is really important to trying to solve the problem. You aren’t going to change things by not giving a shit as to why they are as they are.

    “But organizing a conference isn’t meant to be easy. Or cost-free. Ensuring diversity of attendees, of topics, or speakers needs to become just another aspect of running a show, just like providing coffee or making sessions available as podcasts”

    Indeed. And I think my comment hopefully demonstrates that we have definitely made that a very significant priority. Having done so, I do think our experience, being grounded in that experience, is hopefully of some value to moving this issue forward.

  34. If you take people as individuals and not as members of a collective, then there is no problem. I disagree with your original premise and the viewpoint that what is significant is the collective. The blogosphere demonstrates – every second of every day – that what is significant is the individual and the network. Collectives are irrelevant.

  35. Hey Chris,

    Thanks for bringing this up. Sorry for not responding yet. I’m formulating a response and will get back shortly.

    Ryan

  36. @John — thanks for your followup. You’re right — knowing where we came from and how we got here is important and that isn’t what I intended. Learning from what’s come before is a central tenet of progress, so looking at what has been done in the past is important.

    I guess there’s a fine line in the bits that I’ve been reading lately between excuses for not being diverse and honest reasons why diversity ended up being elusive. What I don’t care to hear about is excuses — or ignorant rationales: “women aren’t interested in technology so why should we try to solicit their involvement?”.

    I do appreciate your experience though, and your contribution to the conversation — this vicious cycle you speak of needs to be derailed somehow though, and I think that’s what we’re grasping at.

    @Ryan: thanks for stopping by; as I did contact you before posting this, I did want to give you the benefit of the doubt and indeed, it’s a very difficult problem. I’ve not tried to single you guys out or FoWA, but only use it as a symptom of the problem — and not necessarily the cause.

    IMO, the AJAX Experience is a much worse offender from a superficial perspective.

  37. Early-adopter communities are often non-representative of the population at large. If “Web 2.0″ does have the promise that so many of us think it does, it will reach more and more people over time, just as the larger Web has been doing. (I remember being on Yahoo! Chat years ago and finding that my chatmates were largely “trailer trash”.) And this will be reflected in speaker lists, as companies work to reach a demographically expanded market.

    As Vinnie Mirchandani comments above, there’s already a lot going on – outside the Valley. Perhaps the only “problem” here is the Valley’s insularity. As someone who greatly appreciates what the Valley has given us, I would hate to see it go down the road of “affirmative action” where the cure is worse than the disease: the disease will heal slowly on its own, and imposing an artificial “cure” will only institutionalize discrimination. No such extreme steps have been suggested above, I’m happy to see, but I’d like to make this warning just in case. This Web 2.0 world is far too new to conclude that there are social problems requiring bureaucratic solutions.

  38. Chris,

    no worries – sorry if I sounded in any away negative in the last comment.

    I posted something at my blog about this last night, after a long day just before going to bed

    http://westciv.typepad.com/dog_or_higher/2006/09/diversity_in_th.html

    (BTW, any reference to “you” is the reader, not Chris Messina, and I didn’t mean to “make an example” of you by pointing out that you went to FoWA, rather to make the point that it’s a compex system where the behaviors of organisers, speakers (including those invited who are in a good position to say – “hey, doesn’t look like a lot of women … on the roster”) and of course the attendees.

    This has spluttered to life a couple of times before, in particuliar with the Ajaxian experience, but I think this time round it’s now firmly on the agenda.
    I’d like to think it is no longer publicly acceptable for a conference to blithely have little or no representation from the non Young(ish) white male club, and that is in no small measure thanks to your post, which I think arrived at a most conducive time.

    I guess our experience also shows – it is feasible to put on a successful web technology conference with significant non YishWM representation (and we are 12000 miles from the US). But it is something that has to be put firmly on the agenda, as a number of people have mentioned right from the outset. And the excuse that the speakers just aren’t out there can’t work any more.

  39. @Chris, et. al.

    Some questions to ponder…

    I find it odd that you chose to blog about after you cracked open your fortune cookie as opposed to well before the conference began — when you (and everyone) had the chance to see the speaker lineup mugs on the site? If you want to raise awareness of an issue you think needs some light, why wait until after the fact?

    To those who feel strongly negative about the white maleness of the lineup, why did you go? Might it have had anything to do with the fact that you saw who was going to be speaking to you, and decided to spend the time and money to listen?

    Tom Coates brings up a brief but good point IMO, when he mentions the nature of this and other conferences like it in terms the geekiness and businessiness. And being of a design background myself, I think he’s right on about design- and CSS-minded conferences/workshops. Women have been and continue to be represented in these types of web ‘subcultures.’ And we don’t have to look very far – the very Carson Workshops have Molly Holzschlag with Andy Clarke speaking about CSS in November — and for a hell of a LOT more money than it cost you to attend FOWA-06. Seven women could be heard at Flash Foward.

    Ali’s post also makes sense to me. I share her hypothetical reference to avoiding a conference that had selected women in an effort to achieve some type of balance. Would I rather listen to Molly Holzschlag talk CSS? Or a Jeffrey Zeldman or a Dan Cederholm? Call me a white boy, but I think I might take Zeldman.

    Check out the Ajax Experience conference in Boston next month.

    Thirty-two dudes + Molly. Props to her, I’m sure she’ll be great. But hell, it doesn’t help the cause of ‘evening things out’ if she herself was surprised that they wanted her despite her inability to even write Javascript.

    Take a look at the roster at any HOW design conference. How many of you have been to one of these? I’ll bet not many.

    Just because we listened to two days of white guys talk about a certain aspect of the Web doesn’t mean we need to throw up our arms in outrage and extrapolate that homegeny to all areas.

    If somewhere some female-authored blog becomes the next Techcrunch — great, I want to listen to what she has to say. If, however, you end up hearing Mike Arrington instead, I guess I’m not that interested in hearing people whine about it.

  40. @Aaron — more or less agreed in terms of the “quality” argument — but I still believe that you can get quality and diversity… and that, in my view, the two reinforce one another. In fact, it would have been *great* to have some design folks in the mix at this summit — in terms of content diversity!

    And, in terms of my timing, well, I actually threw this up on the 11th, 4 days before this post, but it took me a while to collect my thoughts and actually write the darn thing out! So my bad for not being more timely in my commentary…

    Oh, and again, I’m not trying to torch Carson Systems — I really like those folks and don’t think that they were trying to be exclusionary. They just created a good example on which to center my opinion.

  41. This is one of the reasons we started Tumis, a tech design firm in the East Bay, California. We are often the only web dev folks who get to check the POC and Female boxes at conferences.

    We addressed some of these issues at the Designs on Democracy Conference in March 2004 and hope to grow this into greater things.

  42. Other than the obvious privilege– (try and fix that)– there’s no real reason why black women aren’t coming out in droves forming the newest and hottest tech companies.

    Black women. The untapped technical resource.

    But no. First you have to address some certain other fundamental things. You’re trying to invent quantum physics here when society can’t even add.

    There was this book called The Bell Curve. It was roundly discredited. At the time of its publication, I scoffed too. But since then I’ve often really wondered to what extent it might be correct.

  43. Aaron, you addressed your comment to Chris Messina, but I hope I can also respond.

    I agree with you, in that I for one can’t understand why anyone would go to a conference where the one is concerned about the lack of diversity. We women have long stopped going to such, when we see face after face of men. It becomes a chicken/egg thing then: we don’t feel welcome at the conference to attend, so then we’re not familiar to the presenters to be picked to speak, and therefore there are no women to pick as speakers, to then encourage women and so on.

    Some do, I have in the past. And when I have, with few exceptions, I’ve never felt particularly comfortable in the ‘hallway’ discussions. Usually because it’s hard to have a conversation when you’re not seen or heard.

    Why did the Ajax Experience pick Molly? No idea. She is well known, and an accomplished speaker, and the conference has come under fire for lack of women. There are a few other women involved with Ajax, and considering how much it crosses over into the area of design, I’m surprised there aren’t more. But then, I’ve found the Ajaxian community to be pretty intolerant of ‘different’.

    I do know that the majority of Ajax libraries are feats of over-engineering, unecessarily complex in order to make JS look like another language and so on, and I can’t help thinking that if there were more diversity perhaps some of the obsessing over morphing JS would actually translate into Ajaxian effects that are valid, accessible, and don’t bog down one’s page.

    I do agree with Tom Coates. This is a problem that goes way beyond just a weblog post or a wiki, and agreeing that it’s ‘bad’ is equivalent to “being agin’ sin”.

    But we are out there, using the applications, making the buy decisions, using the libraries or creating ones of our owns, writing the books, building applications. To continue to exclude our voices is to cut off half your audience, many of your peers, perhaps even some of your instructors. That doesn’t make sense. Frightfully inefficient and rather uninteresting, don’t you think?

    I would think you’d feel cheated if a conference didn’t give you the full experience.

    As for being the next Techcrunch, good lord, that’s not a tech site. Arrington’s a lawyer who writes about business, which happens to be associated with tech. Why would you possibly use his site as an example? Because of his popularity? That implies then that you don’t value experience over ‘recognition’, which kind of undermines your argument, doesn’t it?

  44. Tom: in the case of Etech, you may also have had to deal with the fact that the previous speaker-choosers had actively discouraged women speakers (long story which I won’t repeat here), so it might have been more difficult to get initial applicants. I’d still bet I could come up with women who you didn’t even ping about speaking, though. And as always, holding it that close to SxSW hurts you, as there’s a lot of women who always do SxSW and can’t go to two conferences back to back.

    Aaron: okay, the Ajax Experience people hired a whole bunch of guys + Molly. Now, take a look at the best-selling books in the field — would it have been so hard to have asked some of the authors to speak? A quick look at the current top 100 JavaScript bestsellers on Amazon shows Tina Spain McDuffie, Shelley Powers, Ellie Quigley, Emily A. Vander Veer, Kate Kalata, Makiko Itoh, Janet Burleson, Laura Lemay, Vivian Neou, Andree Growney, and Janice Winsor [1]. Okay, some of those books are old, but not all of them.

    If what matters is how recently she’s written, look at the new JavaScript books by publication date. Again, in the top 100 are Emily A. Vander Veer, Ellie Quigley, Tina Spain McDuffie, Andree Growney, and Adele Hayward [2].

    It’s not hard to find the women in this field. You just have to look. I have to say that if your speaker list for a conference on Ajax includes zero women speaking on Ajax, it’s because you aren’t interested in having them. They’re out there, and it’s easy to find their names.

    [1] I’m also at #s 3 and 14, but this isn’t about me.
    [2] I’m also at #s 1, 11, and 14, but it still isn’t about me.

  45. Hello all,

    As one of the three members of Carson Systems (the company behind The Future of Web Apps) I feel compelled to reply. Although I’m sure Ryan will have something to say on the topic too.

    Firstly, let me say that we never set out to build an all white male line up. When we first decided to do the conference we went to a coffee shop and we made a list of dream speakers. There were about 25 people on the list. Two of them were women and one person was a
    non-white male. We weren’t surprised when we saw this. As Matt said, that’s just the way the industry is in the USA (which is where The Future of Web Apps took place).

    We contacted all of them, some said no, most said yes – so we ended up with the line up you see.

    We had a couple of speaking slots to sell. Two for our main sponsors (Google and Yahoo!) and a bunch for our five minutes of fame section. As they paid for their slots we had no control over who they sent to speak. They all sent white males.

    So if this is the pool of speakers we have to work with, the big question is should we, as conference organisers, try to redress this imbalance?

    If you’d asked us that before the conference we would have said, ‘no, who are we to try to change the industry. Yes we can celebrate it but not change it.’ After discussing the topic between ourselves and with others at the conference we have changed our view to think that maybe we should use our power positively to promote diversity, somewhat.

    I say somewhat because we’re not interested in putting someone on stage just because they are a woman or we need to bring up the non-white count. We believe that’s counter productive for everyone involved.

    What we are interested in is producing a conference that is full of great speakers, who have contributed hugely to the industry and come full of ideas and inspiration willing to share their knowledge. And if we can do that with a diverse range of speakers then all the better.

    So when it comes time to organise the next conference we will still make our dream list and our standards will be just as high. But as conference organisers, aware that a diverse line up is better for everyone, we’ll be trying harder to convince the women and non-whites on the list to speak.

    So in a nutshell:

    Yes, the web development industry (in the USA) is mostly white male
    Yes, our conference reflected that.
    Yes, we will try to provide a platform for people outside that demographic – but we won’t compromise on our standards.

    Please post the names of those outside the “white boy club” that we can consider for future events. Thanks!

  46. Gillian Carson, wasn’t it more a case that you didn’t necessarily look for the best, but those most well known? You had Arrington, and how many times must we repeat the fact that he doesn’t know anything about tech? He knows business, but it used to be that tech conferences were about tech, not business.

    You mentioned you had two women on the list, yet Dori just wrote out how many women have been involved in just Ajax technologies, as a specific field. I would say that your focus was more on ‘names’ than capabilities.

    If the folks putting on conferences only go by the name factor, that’s not going by quality. That’s just going by who markets themselves better, or who gets promoted to the top of the list by those already at the top of the list. Guess who is the top of the list among the A listers now? In the tech community, other than Kathy Sierra, it’s men.

    The tech field, if you include all the associated fields, has at least 1 in 4 as women. There are an amazing number of women in tech who weblog. We’re not seen because the men circle around each other giving each other the respect they don’t give us.

    This post by Chris Messina demonstrates this. He wrote what we’ve been saying for years — over six for me. Yet people have been responding as if they’ve never heard of this issue before. Astonishing.

    One in five tech workers in this country is a woman. If you expand what is ‘tech’, it drops to 1 in 4. You’re just repeating some same old tired excuse.

    How can we make change if we can’t even get people to admit that this is all broken?

    Here’s a bet. I bet there was absolute nothing new at your conference. No new insight, no different viewpoint, no revelation. No one was made uncomfortable, or felt challenged. But your audience of typically white males listened to the typically white male speakers, and thought they were getting the ‘real’ deal.

  47. Hi Shelley,

    The Future of Web Apps is a conference about building web apps and everything that goes with that. I wouldn’t describe it as a tech conference. We asked some people to speak specifically for their knowledge of business, Mike Arrington included.

    We didn’t just pick big names, we picked big web apps. Those that are successful, have the most users in their field, are doing something different and are either making money or attracting venture capital.

    For example, we chose Cal Henderson because he developed the world’s most popular photo sharing web app. We felt he was qualified to talk about how to scale large web apps. I don’t think Cal has ever set out to market himself, he’s well-known because he’s good, and that’s why we asked him to speak.

    No more, no less.

  48. Mike Arrington bases his decisions on who benefits him, and who doesn’t. Anyone who buys stock from that pretty deserves what they get.

    Yes, most business need to know how to scale an application that shares photos. Yes, most businesses need to know how to create a site where a bunch of people with way too much time on their hands ilnk to a bunch of stories, and then allow others to come it with barely literate comments. Yup, this is all really useful stuff for most people developing applications in the ‘real’ world.

    You created a superstar show, and when people noticed it was white male (and primarily the same faces we see at way too many conferences this year — really who _pays_ for this) you pulled the ‘quality’ card.

    Don’t fly with me. Nope, not a bit. Next time, just say, “We wanted to make money, so we went with sure things: superstars and Google and Yahoo”. That’s cool, and a heck of better statement than saying there are no ‘quality’ women who you could have invited.

    Scott, I’m with you. The more people attend these, the less I’m impressed with them. They obviously have too much time and too much money.

  49. Shelley – I have to say I develop applications in the “real world” and found the conference extremely useful.

    I would have paid twice the amount to listen to the founders of some of the most popular websites sharing their experiences. As far as I’m concerned insights from Google, FlickR, Yahoo etc. are the real world. These are the applications people are using every day and understanding how these sites (above others) attract such large user bases is very beneficial to me.

    I couldn’t care less how the line-up looks at a conference – I only care that I’m seeing the very best that’s out there and I believe that is what I got for my money!

  50. Ali, you’re not seeing the ‘best’. You’re seeing what’s public and what’s deemed cool.

    What software runs your bank? How about the medical records at your hospital? The devices that save your life, run your road systems, your lights?

    How about the defense system of this country? The communication network? The power grid?

    That runs the major dams? That handles distribution for the food you eat?

    That allows you to use a credit card to pay for this conference. That allows you to fly to it if you did?

    Now, do you think its a good idea if all of these run in a permanent state of beta?

    I’m glad that you had a great time. But you know some of these people have been doing pretty much the same talk for two years now. When are you guys going to hear it enough to ‘get’ it, so that someone else who had good things to say has their chance?

    Or do we want to hear about how Odeo blew through a bunch of money without any understanding of client and deliverable another few years? Actually, I wouldn’t count on this one.

    You see a small picture, and you’ve been sold its the only picture. And you affirm and reaffirm that this is the only picture that matters. Rather than innovating, you’re stagnating.

  51. Shelley – I can only speak from my own experience but I did find the conference innovative.

    I’m sure every one of us would wish to see a slightly different line-up based on our interests and experiences but I wouldn’t wish to get into a debate as to who should be included because I think it would be different for everyone.

    Getting back to my original point though – I think people should be selected on “merit” and not on gender or race. I would like to think we could live in a world were we could look past all of this and simply ask the question “were they fit for purpose?”.

  52. so you’re saying, the people are definitely there, they are just not being invited to speak at events such as this? a call for affirmative action picket/protest/rally at the conferences eh?

  53. Michael, I’m not sure who you’re addressing your comment to, but in my opinion there are some really great, unique conferences that haven’t happened, and if things continue on the way they are, they’ll never happen.

    I don’t think anyone needs to call a boycot. I think people will eventually wise up to this fact, and just stop going. Well, other than a small little group in California, until the VC money runs out and they have to start working at companies that use vowels again.

    My prediction? This is the last year of “Web 2.0″ conferences. Liked curved corners and pastel, it’s old.

  54. Gillian said: Please post the names of those outside the “white boy club� that we can consider for future events. Thanks!

    I haven’t seen anyone respond to this point yet. Clearly they didn’t set out to create a panel of “white boys”. Sure, there are a diverse group of talented people in this industry, but if they don’t market themselves or have some experience relevant to the event topic (or simply don’t have the desire to be a speaker) then how can anyone be surprised at this outcome?

    I am Latino myself and looking at the panel my first response would not have been “wow, look at all those whiteys!” but rather, “hey, I’ve heard of a lot of these guys and would like to hear what they have to say.”

  55. Names outside the “white boy club”.

    Dori Smith, Rachel McAlpine, Kelly Goto, Donna Maurer, Heather Hesketh and Kathy Sierra all spoke at Webstock in May this year. And if a volunteer, non-profit group can get these speakers to New Zealand, don’t tell me it’s impossible to do in some of the bigger countries!

    Others. Annalee Newitz, danah boyd and who cares if Majora Carter is tech-related or not, she’s “as good as Steve Jobs”!

    And re the point about needing to go with popular/well-known speakers to pull in the punters. Yes, that’s true to a point, but it doesn’t have to be all the speakers, or even a majority. Get some big names and take a risk with some others. Delight and surprise your audience by getting speakers you’re passionate about or that you know have a message people should hear. And especially once you’ve done some conferences well, you’ll get a reputation for putting on quality events. People will trust you and your judgement. Use that to take a few chances in your speaker lineup. Chances are it will work.

  56. A famous someone once said (about 2000 years ago) that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. I think Chris hit the nail on the head for the interpretation.

    I’ve been reading Tara for months now (that’s how I got turned onto this post). I’m adding factoryjoe to my rss feed now after reading this…

  57. When I met with Ted (dogste) last weekend, we talked about this for a moment. One of the things I mentioned is that there was an audience of people “wanting to be a CEO”. (ok probably at least 80%). And I think as leaders in this area, we have a duty to train/teach/mentor/lead this new group. When one puts out a great web app and goes from developer to CEO in one day, what does he/she do to learn?

    How do you handle the books, the HR, the management, the legal aspects, on and on. Luckily I started as an accountant so I understand the financial hurdles and have been in people management but many have not.

    What I would like to see at the next one of these events is perhaps a person or two speak about the issues in these other areas. Get some others to round out the conference.

    As for these diversity talks outside the realm of a conference, I still stand firm that we are in a place and time where anyone (and i mean anyone) can become a leader in this industry. Heck, you can create a huge blog using a pc in a library. You can sit in a free wifi spot using a $200 laptop to create content and become a star. I am not sure we have ever seen a time where this was possible before. And I hope that CS sticks with bringing in the best possible talent to speak, not just because they are one race or one color or one weight size. Now damnit, get the f’ out there and create something. Everyone.

    If you read my post about what the summit/speakers can improve on for next time, one of them would be to hold a panel discusison. Then topics like this and others can be discussed in an open forum and we can see what many feel on the same topic (not just diversity).

  58. Pingback: CenterNetworks
  59. Mega Kudos Chris on a superb, well-written post!

    Can I pin a little male tag on each of the pictures too?

    I am a woman and it “amuses” me to no end how male-centric goings-on can get here in Silicon Valley. This impression is only reinforced by planned conferences and gatherings where the roster is predominantly male.

    In the Future of Web Apps, we get to see a fairly complete homogeneous cast of speakers. The funny thing is I *did* consider attending, only something stayed me from registering. I have noticed that over time I have developed a deep-rooted tendency to turn away from those events shaping up to be all-male geekouts or sausage fests. Why? Because I don’t relish feeling like the odd-woman out and homogenous events do sport an exclusionary vibe.

    Yes, organizers would be wise to facilitate some gender-diversity instead of taking the easy route.

  60. Excellent, excellent post, Chris. Thank you so much. I stopped going to all white-boy-only events years ago. Although I’ve been in this industry for over 20 years AND I am completely conversant in current technologies, I am NEVER treated the way a man of my experience and abilities is treated. There are plenty of people who do want my talents on a daily basis and I contribute to a couple of very important projects, so the problem isn’t me.

    For some reason if an experienced programmer looks like your older brother or your uncle, it is assumed he knows what he’s talking about. If a programmer with the same experience looks like your older sister or aunt, it’s assumed she’s from marketing and doesn’t know crap about programming.

    Personally I’ve stopped hiring white boys who can’t relate to people of other ages or from other backgrounds. As a result, I run some innovative teams that can think outside the frat-boy box and who bring fabulously diverse points of view to the project.

    So to the white-boy-only crowd: get over yourselves or don’t – but you are missing out if you don’t.

  61. Leesa, I agree with you. I am a male jewish-buddhist-peacenick (ashkenazi semitic)……does that make me “of color” or “not of color” or “white” or “not white”? :-). I don’t know what category that puts me into.

    You said “Diversity isn’t just limited to skin colour, but also economics, culture, language, nationality, disability, etc. etc.”

    I agree; here here!

    I hope that discussions like this and attitudes like I’m reading on this site will help to gain a footfhold on diversity within SV. If SV companies take a lead in creating diversity by searching for it as part of their hiring process and in caring for their diverse employees through their beneifts, perhaps we can create diversity as part of the SV culture. For instance, I do think that one way to create a more diverse workforoce in SV is to treat our parents equally (not just try to care for mothers) but instead treat parents equally in the way our companies give benefits to their employees. (if i’m confusing you, please read my article on this topic: http://blog.plaxo.com/archives/2006/05/on_paid_parenta_1.html).

    I like to read howard zinn http://howardzinn.org/default/ and hope that the diversity and the fight for diversity he has spent his life researching and documenting can help to open some doors and add some “color” to SV.

    humbly submitted, stuart liroff

  62. This was a very interesting post. I commend you for addressing the issues surrounding the ‘White Boy clubs’. As a black female semi web geek, I love going to various trainings, workshops, and conventions, and never see diversity. I find it discouraging to see a panel that doesn’t reflect the real world – perhaps the local community but not the real world.

    I attended the New Organizer’s Institute training in Washington, DC last month and commented on out of close to 120 people, three were nonwhite.
    http://www.rochellerobinson.com/digest/detail.php?news_id=100

    Again, I commend you for acknowledging the issues surrounding diversity!

  63. Wow, I can’t say I’ve ever seen this brought up before, I come from a multiracial background myself, and would have to agree that as far as a lot of these events go I don’t see many female or minority speakers.

    I was just curious do you have any examples of this comment, “If Drupal is any indication, monocultures produce monotonous culture”
    I’m a Drupal user myself, and I never noticed this; the community seemed pretty diverse to me.

  64. What about the straight white guys that truly are the next best person for the conference, but are cast aside because you want to make room for the “diverse” mix? Diversity cannot be “fairly” defined by numbers. Lazy people use demographics to define diversity. Diversity can really only be measured at the individual level.

    If we’re going to use numbers to define diversity, then the NBA is not “reaching out” to “non-blacks”. Nobody questions that…

  65. If white guys were in the minority, I would be equally concerned, as I was when I was in India. But that’s typically not the case and not the issue at hand.

    Proactively making room for diversity is something important to me and worth pursuing; it’s fine if other people don’t think it’s important, but that not the kind of conference or event that I want to be associated with.

  66. I think the bigger question is ….why do we need so many conferences about web 2.0?

    Joern

  67. Assuming that BarCamp sites are going to preferentially draw more white men (and the women they already know), and noting that the links are broken in several places, I made this:

    http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Women-and-People-of-Color-Who-Are-Speakers/122213821134908?ref=ts

    Not sure it will take off, but it took me 30min, and it’s where the community actually is. Please encourage women who are already “known” to throw their bio in it. If critical mass occurs, I’m sure someone will emerge who will turn it into a better fb app.

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