Supporting Diversity at your event

One of the things I come across over and over again is how to increase diversity at an event, in particular tech events like meetups, workshops and conferences.

A number of years ago, I started a diversity programme for an Irish tech conference offering subsidised travel, accommodation, etc., and it was very, very labour intensive. I was going by what folks elsewhere (mainly Stateside and large European tech conferences) were doing. This includes accepting applications, reviewing them, discuss with organising committee on approving them or not, and following up with them. It’s not the best way, and many improvements can be made to make it easier on the organiser and applicants.

Since then, one conference in particular I always use as my reference point, the always amazing and friendly AlterConf:

AlterConf is a traveling conference series that provides safe opportunities for marginalized people and those who support them in the tech and gaming industries. By highlighting the powerful voices and positive initiatives of local community members, we build hope and strengthen the community’s resolve to create safer spaces for everyone.

Besides the Code of Conduct (which all events should have regardless if any issues happened or not), their attention to making sure the venue and event itself is safe not just for those who are attending, but for those who are hosting, organising, volunteering, speaking at the event.

See their Etiquette section via https://www.alterconf.com/code-of-conduct, it’s a must read if you are a tech event organiser.

I recently was in touch with a friend who’s involved with a conference called SaaStock and she wanted to highlight that they do not want to give away free tickets, they are offering a Diversity ticket bundle instead. This is a new approach, not just one, but a group of three bundled tickets.

Seek out other minorities and team up to help make the SaaS community more diverse.
Those could be gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability or any other diverse characteristic we haven’t thought of.

There is no application for the Diversity Stock. We trust you will do the right thing. Get the Diversity Stock Ticket.

You can read more on why they chose this route via https://www.saastock.com/blog/view/in-search-of-diversity-at-saastock.

As I come across various conferences via newsletters, ones that offer travel reimbursements, free or discounted tickets, I found another one that I haven’t come across before, the lottery system. The following is from Elixir With Love conference:

In spirit of the conference mission, we are able to offer an uncapped number of diversity tickets by providing them at a reduced rate for members of underrepresented communities in tech.

In addition, a limited number of free scholarship tickets for those facing economic, social, or other hardships will be made available via a lottery system depending on sponsorship support and attendee contributions.

More info: https://www.elixir-with-love.com/#registration

I’ve been trying to spread word of CFPs (Call for Proposals) to my various groups (which includes Coding Grace & PyLadies Dublin) in the hopes of encouraging more female speakers when I couldn’t ignore the problem of why so few women attend these events. One interesting feedback from a discussion panel on this very topic at Ireland Girl Geek Dinner was that these events don’t have the right message advertised to people from various different areas of the industry. Tech conferences or meetups conjures up programmers, whereas these events are open for people from data, research, front end, design, and so on. That was back in 2012/13, since then, I want to broaden this.

I really need help and advice on how to share news of these tech events to the wider circle, by which I mean outside my tech circle. It’s not just inclusive of gender. This is a good statement about diversity via Python Software Foundation:

In alphabetical order, some of these attributes include (but are not limited to): age, culture, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, national origin, physical or mental difference, politics, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and subculture. We welcome people regardless of the values of these or other attributes.

Attracting diverse community to your event could be with content. I’m currently curating for a tech event where I asked many of my community organiser friends for speaker recommendations earlier this year, and specifically asked if there were female speakers. In hindsight, I should have asked for PoC (Person of Colour) speakers also. The list after two months was impressive, nearly 140 speakers of all backgrounds. Recommendations by word of mouth, would this work? I don’t know yet, as the event is not happening till October. :-)
One thing I also did was invited as many user groups (or tech community meetup groups) to join us on stage to give a shout out about their meetup group. I wish I could fit everyone but there’s only so many hours in the day. Out of the 42 groups, 13 of them were diversity in tech groups. That’s really amazing support from the community. That’s why I <3 the tech community. It’s not always rainbows, but they come out and support you where it counts.

Ping me if you want to discuss more about this at vicky@codinggrace.com.

P.S. Little plug, the October event I’m talking about is called 404.ie. ;-)

 
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