Where are the women speakers? Here’s what we tried.

From the beginning of organising PIPELINE we’ve been dedicated to ensuring the diversity of the event, and so we have taken steps from the GeekFeminism Wiki and Ashe Dryden’s excellent posts to remove as much unconscious bias from the selection process as is possible. As such we reviewed the proposals as ‘blind’, i.e. with any identifying characteristics removed, either of the speaker or any companies mentioned. We felt that this would remove any potential for favouritism and each session would be judged on the strength of their proposals.

We also heavily promoted the conference to multiple women focused technical groups, including BCSWomen, Women Who Code, DevChix and were retweeted multiple times by the excellent CallBackWomen twitter account which aims to increase diversity of conferences by ensuring Codes of Conducts and promoting CFPs to women speakers. Despite these efforts we only received a single proposal from a female speaker.

There are five members of the organising committee who took part in the selection process, two female and three male. One of the males, Anthony, acted as a filter and conduit for the proposals. He would receive the proposal, anonymise it and make it available for the rest of the committee to review. Anthony did not take part in the review process and did not influence the choices.

The remaining four of us each gave the proposals a Yes/No/Maybe cursory judgement, along with a ranking followed by a comment. We then combined all of the rankings into a final selection order and picked the top 6.

Through the above anonymised selection process we ended up selecting an entirely male speaker line up. This was not our intention and we plan to do better next year. The speakers themselves are from multiple different countries, not just the local London developer circles and a variety of industries. As such we feel the process did ensure a degree of diversity and we are happy that the talks were chosen fairly and that the day will be very enjoyable.

We would welcome any feedback on the process we took and any suggestions that may help us to reach out and increase the number of women and other minority speakers in the pool of proposals for next year.

Also note, that alongside the talks we will be running Open Spaces which are open to all attendees, and we encourage everyone to take part.

We also run the monthly London Continuous Delivery Meetup group, so if a first time or beginning speaker would like to try out a talk we can give them a smaller, friendly audience to try it out and get feedback. It does not need to be a long talk, maybe a 10 minute grok talk. We’d very much like to support everyone, especially women and other minorities, to start speaking and sharing their knowledge.

Posted by Chris O’Dell


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