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Do Tech Conferences Want Female Speakers?

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#1 cre8pc


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Posted 22 January 2013 - 01:44 PM

The question of whether there are enough female speakers and attendees at tech conferences erupted again, only this time Marty tried to get some data on what's happening.

Female Online Marketing Speaker Stats: 13 True Evangelists Discuss The Data

gathered some people to discuss the issues, including Brett Tabke and Danny Sullivan. The comments are revealing and varied.

The discussion continued on a commenter's Facebook page - by Carrie Bugbee

It annoys me a little that this topic still exists and that some people seem to think it's all new. The fact is that many of the top women in the SEO industry have already been down this road, raised the issues, discussed the situation and then went back to work.

Because my skills include usability, I'm not sought after by SEO conferences. Therefore, I don't feel as though I have a say or much to contribute to the discussions taking place again. The only strong feeling I have is that if conferences want more women to speak, they need to ask women what they need to be comfortable. Not every woman feels that a professional gathering should include a bar. There's no child care for any parent who wants to speak but is the primary caregiver at home. The conference content doesn't vary much. There are few topics of interest to women or that address marketing to women. Web design itself is treated in site reviews rather than sessions on online marketing and user centered design, or design for organic SEO, mobile, UX and different types of user behavior. If there were, more women might be inspired to pitch because they work in these areas or their company does.

Conference organizers claim that women don't pitch but they never seem to ask why. I offered some ideas in Marty's post but I don't feel confident anything will change. I do pitch by the way. The last 3 conferences I pitched to ignored me. They never tell you why.

#2 iamlost


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Posted 22 January 2013 - 02:29 PM

I agree that (not that I've ever been to one) webdev conferences, especially those centred on SEO, seem thin of women including presenters. And it does seem somewhat ironic that conferences and people who decry Google's lack of 'why' behave similarly.

I see a hint of why in your post...
* the conferences need 'wow' and that tends to equate to gaming a system - those who believe in incremental, holistic, user centred et al approaches simply fail to meet that enthusiasm threshold.

* I don't know how webdev conferences are costed but do know that other industry conference agreements include a liquor consumption (there is money in booze) section; the room/hall cost varies according to specified liquor sale amounts.

* the conferences are increasingly swinging to accommodate corporate, enterprise clients and that is a quite different game. And presentations need to adjust accordingly. And that may be making things harder for women as well as for smaller webdevs generally both at the interest and the presentation levels.

I should like to point out that years back I did go many a conference but not webdev or SEO ones, rather marketing, advertising, niche gatherings. Frankly, while there are a lot of webdev folks I'd love to meet a conference is not my choice of how. Instead I view conferences as means to improve my business and that doesn't mean 'the club', it means the people and agencies to whom I want to sell ad space; networking within my niche with manufacturers, wholesalers, retaillers, researchers; etc.
Note: I get the 'impossible' links because I know the people and they know me. And that is not something an SEO conference can offer - unless that is your niche.

#3 tam


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Posted 23 January 2013 - 12:48 AM

Is it an actual issue? I'd have thought being mostly introduced to people online, half the time it's hard to tell what gender they are and odds are you'll like or dislike their stuff way before you remember their name.

What the article doesn't do is compare the wider pool that speakers come from - e.g. take the 100 most popular tech blog posts in 2012 - what is the portion of female-male authors? Is there a 100 best marketing blogs somewhere that rings a bell and would be a quick run down to count up. I'd bet it's not going to be a neat 50/50, most job roles aren't.

If it's about 25/75 then the conferences are spot on - it's not doing anyone any favours to choose speakers by quota instead of skill.

#4 jonbey


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Posted 23 January 2013 - 06:25 AM

Interesting. I went to a content marketing event last year and there were a lot of women, both presenting and listening. Content is where the fun is, the tech stuff is a bit boring really isn't it? :)

#5 iamlost


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Posted 02 July 2013 - 05:26 PM

Thanks to Joe Dolson's Twitter stream read this echo of Kim's concern; Speaking Up About the Voices We Don’t Hear at Tech Conferences by Yesenia Sotelo, 30-June-2013.


She uses a series of info images to make her point...making it easy for all you skimmer scanner non-readers out there :D


What is especially interesting is the difference in replies about the homogeneity of speakers received from conference organisers (bet it sounds familiar, Kim!) and a group of women in tech. Are these conferences shooting themselves in the business foot by re-running the old boys network every year?


To quote my daughter: Women rule, men drool. And expect the women to clean their chins. Silly men.

Edited by iamlost, 02 July 2013 - 05:26 PM.

#6 cre8pc


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Posted 02 July 2013 - 06:39 PM

Okay.  Using the latest PubCon Speakers List for Las Vegas 2013 I counted up 200 speakers (i subtracted Brett but otherwise it would be 201).  


Of the 200, 41 are women.

Of the 23 past keynote speakers, all 23 are men.


(I was interrupted a few times counting so feel free to double check.)


I don't know what this means, other than nothing more than there are just not that many women in the industry?  Or not many pitched?   


I do know that there are many mini-Pubcons and women who are not on the Las Vegas list were at some of the smaller ones and Melanie Mitchell has keynoted one, maybe two of them.  


Other factors are the company costs of sending speakers conferences where they are not paid to speak.  Flights, food and hotels in cities like NYC are ridiculously expensive.  Las Vegas was the affordable one and to its credit attracts a high caliber of speakers, exhibits and attendees.  Add to this the cost of losing valuable employees for a week or a few days.  We don't know if the women ARE those valuable employees and simply can't be released for travel.


Men and women with kids at home and other family obligations can't hit the road unless they have someone taking over for them when they leave.  Not everyone has that luxury.  I know I didn't!

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