As I listened back to a recent podcast, just to make sure I hadn’t said anything horrendous while speaking off-the-cuff, I noticed something interesting: three of the four people I referenced in the podcast were women. When thinking of people who I admire or look to for advice, when reaching for readily available examples to illustrate whatever point I was talking about, I came up with women most of the time.
Thing is, this would absolutely not have been the case maybe three years ago. Certainly not over five years ago. So what’s different and what have I changed over the past few years? Well chaps, here’s the magical secret technique that will help you find diverse mentors and authority figures in just one easy step: put some fucking effort in. Don’t be lazy.
Our first Codemania in 2012 had one woman speaker out of 12 total. 2014 had three. Last year we had 7/12 women. We’ll need to run that ratio (or better) for several years to make up for our shitty approach in the early years. We also need to do a much better job of representing Maori and Pacific technologists. I need to put in more effort there for sure.
It’s trivially easy to run a conference full of dudes: you just have ask for people to speak and white dudes will come tumbling out of the woodwork, chests puffed out, legs manspread, ready to bloviate about anything you could require. The same goes for seeking advice & mentorship, or looking for technical leadership: men will be readily available.
It takes effort to look past that wall of dudes and make sure that you’re at least getting representation from the 20-25% of women in the tech workforce. It takes effort to go above and beyond that to ensure that conferences and awards ceremonies are places that women and minorities can see themselves as speakers, leaders, and luminaries. Because that’s one of the first steps: visibility. We forget as white dudes that we can see plenty of ourselves in those positions, so it’s easy to imagine ourselves there. Imagine if you never saw someone who looked like you speaking at a conference.
So yeah, it’s not hard, it just takes some effort, so when I see manels and dudeferences, I feel utterly disappointed in the laziness of the organisers. Stop letting yourself down. Stop letting the dudewave roll over you. Put your head above the dross and take a look around.
- Follow women and minority technologists on Twitter. Shit I’m not even going to share the lists because you can just Google and find hundreds.
- Follow the people *they* follow.
- Run open CFPs and at the very least use a Rooney Rule to make sure your selection is diverse, even if you can’t get over your own biased “meritocracy” hangup.
But most simply: don’t settle. Don’t say “well we tried emailing three women and they were all busy on the day so ¯_(?)_/¯”. Go back and put some more effort in. You wouldn’t finish half of an if-statement and just throw your hands up because “the else clause is too hard”.
I’m comfortable saying all this because I was that guy. I’ve been that lazy dude. Don’t be like me. Please.