remote control for presentation program on laptop

LS In Conf’rence Land

Greetings to the reader or Lectori Salutem.

Texting and talking about diversity

This spring I was invited to speak at a known Dutch test conference. I had a good proposal, so I only had to say: “Yes”. But I had to ponder this carefully. I had a public promise not to speak at a conference with an all male line up.

I also had obliged myself to say: “No”, if there were too few female speakers. Women look different at tech and they need female role models.

This year several male speakers declined to speak at a conference with an all male line up..

There was only one way to find out. Just ask the program committee. I texted my dilemma and asked for the number of female speakers. There were only 2 female speakers selected out of 3. Selection took place on quality of the presentations, theme, and target audience.

I got my dilemma back. Is 2 enough? Looking at the last conference it was an increase of 100% in the number of female speakers. But still it bugged me.

The only way for me to improve the diversity was to make suggestions for the keynote speakers. I texted 3 names of female speakers and subjects fitting to the theme. At the end of the same text message I also agreed to give a workshop.

When I saw the final version of the schedule, I could not suppress a smile on my face: one of my proposed keynote speaker candidates was a speaker with my suggested subject. Yes, mind reading is cool. And there was a female co keynote speaker.

During the conference I saw a tweet about testing of blockchain. There were two speakers and the female one could really explain it. That’s why diversity is so important. Just for the record the tweet was sent by an experienced male tester. And it was not me.

Continuing talking about diversity

Same test conference. There was a representative of a European test conference. One thing about the conf this size fits only 1. And I could not resist the urge to talk about diversity. The answer was of course quality. And the programme committee decided about the talks. Also the names of the submitters were not shown to the reviewers of the proposals.

I was not quite convincing. So the woman offered me her email address to send more information. So I sent information about Karoline Sczcur and a link to  A Balanced Conference Card. I received a polite Thank you.

So what went wrong?
Time for a retrospective. Yes it is an agile thing to do.

I had not prepared some talk. So here is the rebound.
As an organiser you can give guidelines to the programme committee. And you can reach out to female speakers in a positive way. Yes it takes time.

More important is to realise what is diversity about. People who think alike come with solutions alike. This means that these people will fall in the same pitfall.

Back to the conference. If there are a lot of white male speakers, then afterwards the attendees will make similar white male speaker errors. A female perspective can add a different and effective approach.

Also. What works for a white male engineer, might not work for a female engineer. A suggestion from her can easily be ignored or stolen. This can be avoided by using number 10 of survival tips for women in tech from Patricia Aas.

What really baffled me, was that lot of these tips also can be used by people of colour. As a man of colour I have to invest a considerable amount of time in finding and talking with allies. To get things tested.

In the Netherlands the campaign #NietGenoeg was started to get more women in tech.

Jez Humble tweeted about diversity in a refreshing way. You can only make good programs with empathy at the core.
“Empathy is _hard_. It means listening openly and deeply to people with very different perspectives, accepting the truth of those perspectives, questioning and changing your deepest assumptions about the world, and changing your behavior.”