Recently a supporter (not a conference organizer) tried to encourage speaker submissions from demographics who are often underrepresented at conferences.
I applaud the effort, we want to receive as many submissions from qualified speakers as possible.
Unfortunately it was widely interpreted as discouraging submissions from white males.
We want submissions from all qualified speakers. We don’t ask about race or gender. And we will support all our speakers and attendees and do our best to make everyone feel welcome.
Corporate PR would stop right there. But I personally want to add a plea for moderation and try to explain where I think the misunderstandings are happening in this conversation.
Diversity is a polarizing topic and it’s easy to form opinions quickly without spending the time trying to empathize with multiple viewpoints. It’s a very personal and emotional topic for many people.
But we’re a profession full of intellectuals, and thinking deeply and analytically is what we do best so I’m proud that we have these kinds of discussions. I just want them to happen with more compassion.
The thing is, the barriers are higher to submitting talks if you don’t feel you’re part of the group for whatever reason. Public speaking isn’t easy. You’re taking a risk by doing it. The more you feel part of the group the more you will likely take that risk.
So for us to be able to access the best talks that the whole community has to offer we need to encourage everyone, and it’s not bad to make a special point of asking for submissions from people who are often reluctant for whatever reason. Do you have a shy friend? Please encourage them to give a talk at a conference or local event and support them if they would like to.
As conference organizers the steps we need to take are clear:
So can you help? Here’s what you can do:
Thanks for reading this with an open mind.
In case you didn’t see it, here’s the original tweet that started the whole thing: