I launched a grassroots campaign to bring more women to the stage of Droidcon NYC, because I was sick and tired of conference organizers saying that they tried to diversify their speaker lineup, only to see the same composition over and over again. I did it to prove a point, that it is possible.
Proof of concept
The proof of concept was a great success: we had 22% women at Droidcon NYC. But it was also a lot of work. A LOT of work. I published what I did so others can use it as a blueprint to do the same, because I cannot go make this happen again and again for other conferences. It is not scalable.
I need you to step up.
Up the ante
Conference organizers, you are not off the hook. The fact that I did it as a grassroots effort means that you need to do better. It does not mean that you can now offload the responsibility.
There are so many more things you can do in an official capacity:
- Clear guidelines. To diversify your speaker lineup, you need to encourage more first-time speakers, whose default is to believe that they don’t have anything worth talking about. However, if you give a concrete list of topics and provide the schedule and description to previous editions, chances are they will see something that matches what they do, and be more compelled to submit a proposal.
- Official feedback. An outside mentor can only guess how the conference curates content. As the organizer, you can work with the potential speakers to tweak their proposals so that they are more appropriate for the audience and avoid clashing with other proposals.
- Find more sponsors.To level the playing field for people from underprivileged backgrounds, cover the travel expenses for the speakers. This removes a major roadblock for many people, and is much more difficult for a grassroots effort to provide.
Doing is caring
Lip service is not enough to move the needle. You need to put in the effort, and keep at it. I hope my example at Droidcon NYC motivates you to step up and take action!