Guest Blog - Showcasing Diversity in Technology

Liz recently guest blogged for d2Digital on on the lack of diversity at tech conferences, and how she was going to help redress the balance -

Here's a copy of the blog...
Recently gender has been the hot topic of conversation for many technology based conferences. Some even being cancelled, due to a barrage of negative comments online. Rightfully or not, people are voicing their opinions on the situation and it’s having massive impacts on the conferences, organisers, sponsors, participants, and potential speakers of the future.

The issue is, most technology conferences, have a heavy, if not all white male, speaker line-up. Talking to various organisers, brings up a variety of reasons for this, however the fact remains it doesn’t look good, that minorities are not being well represented. There are barriers at every stage of the conference process, be it interest, confidence to apply, or organisers not knowing the right people to invite to speak.

As a speaker who talks UK-wide on Digital Technologies and Women in Tech, I would always want to be asked to speak based on my skills and knowledge, rather than ticking any quota box. In April I spoke at Preston Social on “Geeks Not Gender” where I asked the audience the question “Quota versus Quality?” and what could be done to redress the balance. Research points towards a lack of women putting themselves forward as speakers in the Technology sector, rather than them not being picked to be in the line-up. So how could we change this?

There are groups out there for minorities and even niche interests, that support and nurture the potential speakers of the future, in a safe and comfortable atmosphere. Groups for women in SET (Science, Engineering and Technology) such as Plug-In-Lancashire and Manchester Girl Geeks also offer opportunities for networking and presenting short talks, to help increase confidence and track records.

As this is an issue I’m extremely passionate about however, I wanted to do more, to see if we could inspire and increase the diverse range of speakers at technology conferences and events.
Flicking through the contacts in my phone, it was easy to list off many females, who were in my technology networks, were key players in their chosen field and were vibrant speakers. When asked if they would speak at our event, it was telling to hear every single one say yes, and were incredibly enthusiastic about what we were trying to achieve.
SM4WConf is the first Social Media Conference for women in Lancashire, and it has an all female speaker and workshop leader line-up.

The aim of The Social Media for Women Conference is to inspire and support more women to feel confident in using social media. It also aims to highlight some of the inspirational women, already working with social media in a professional capacity. The conference is open to male and female attendees who wish to learn more about how to incorporate social media into their work, or learn more about what the next big thing may be.

We see this as the first step to recognising and promoting female speakers, but more importantly based on their level of expertise and not their gender.

So why not get a ticket and support our conference, and help promote more diversity in future conference line ups, we’d love to see you all there!