Disclaimer: I'm not an expert on diversity. These are just my thoughts based on my previous experience and on what other women have shared with me.
It happened again. Yet another tech event with a 100% white men line-up of speakers. And of course in the discussion afterwards other events' organisers complaining about the lack of women submitting talk proposals.
Sadly this is frequent. The other flavour of this issue is "I want to hire women but I'm not getting any CV's!". If you are employing dozens of developers and only one or two of them are women, you are doing something wrong.
It's just bizarre. The most diverse place I've worked at was a tiny London start-up, Inensu. We were doing social games and gamified apps, mostly related to music and fashion. The CEO was a woman, most of the people there were not caucasian and around 50% were immigrants.
Isn't it odd that a small start-up can achieve such diversity whereas some people find it impossible to have a few women giving some talks?
So why women are not submitting talk proposals for your conference? Or sending their CV for your job position?
- They might not feel safe enough –specially if you don't have a Code of Conduct in place, or it's a poor one.
- Impostor syndrome, which is more prevalent in women and minorities.
- Your culture –or the culture you're projecting– is not welcoming enough.
- They know –or think– that they will be the only woman there. Nobody wants to be the odd duck.
- They can't afford to go there since you are not fully covering travel expenses. Statistically women and minorities have a harder time getting support from their employers to attend / speak at conferences.
About actual selection processes, I see two problems here:
Biases. We are all more inclined to like people who are similar to us. As an example, I estimate I've done around 50 technical interviews, but I have only being interviewed technically by a woman once.
Your culture gets exposed. If all the people doing the interviews look the same, the message you are projecting is that your team / company / event is homogenous. It's appaling to ask "how many women would I be working with" and get "None" as an answer.
What can you do to make your conference or your team more diverse?
- Hire a professional. There are expert consultants about diversity issues who can help you.
- Stop complaining about "not enough women". There are hundreds of thousands of women writing code.
- Make an effort to reach out to minorities.
- Offer to mentor their proposals and talk deliveries.
- Make sure you cover travel expenses fully. If your budget is limited, give priority to cover expenses for minorities since they will have it harder to attend (i.e. pay gap).
- If you are a straight white man and are invited to speak at an event full of other straight white men speaking, step aside and leave space for minorities.
- Don't make sexist or racist jokes in your talk. Even if you mean well.
- Don't offer someone to be the "token" speaker.
- If you are only having one woman speaking, please let it not be a "women in tech" talk. The best way to set a good example to encourage women / minorities to give technical talks is to actually let them do technical talks.
- Make people feel safe at your event. Put a Code of Conduct in place and train your staff to handle harassment incidents.
I'm probably missing some other good points, but those were just the ones from the top of my head. I hope that helps!