It seems obvious that speakers at tech events and panels should represent the world we live in.
However too often we still see panels that feature only white, male speakers and conference line-ups that feature virtually no women.
Thankfully, growing numbers of technology speakers and companies are saying 'enough is enough'.
One such company, Softwire, has launched a new initiative called the 'Minimum Viable Diversity Pledge': a commitment to never actively support a paid event or panel that has zero diversity. You can sign the pledge here.
It's a bare minimum, but the aim is to totally stop the worst offenders. Softwire's MD Zoe Cunningham says "we'd encourage people to go further".
"The world we're aiming for is one where every event organiser gets at least two or three of their speakers accept the invite on the condition there's at least some diversity in their lineup," she says.
"This won’t solve diversity overnight, but does make life far more difficult for those who totally ignore it, and provides steady pressure on every event to actively put in at least a little effort towards this issue," Cunningham adds.
Here are her tips for event organisers to help them to make their events more diverse…
- Analyse. Look back at your past events and evaluate the speaker diversity. How many of the experts didn’t fit the stereotype of the middle class white male speaker? This will give you a starting figure and a goal to aim for.
- Set your goals. What mixture of people would be appropriate? Do you need to include 40 percent female speakers and what proportion from under-represented groups?
- Expand your network. look further than your own network for diverse speakers, this will take time.
- Get online. If you don’t have the contacts there will be those out there that do so use social media to harness interest in upcoming events and speaker engagement.
- Commit: As an organiser, commit yourself to improving your selection process. Reach out yourself, build a rapport with potential speakers and engage in a meaningful dialogue with those from under-represented groups.
- Lead by example: As a panellist, commit yourself to sharing the stage with a diverse panel. If you notice the panel is homogenous, ask the organisers if they have considered including speakers from underrepresented groups. Be prepared to offer suggestions on who the organisers could approach to build a more diverse panel.
- Mobilise resources and support: Speakers from underrepresented groups may face the issue of underfunding. If you can, set aside some budget to ensure you are able to support their participation.
- Practical support: Women and speakers from underrepresented groups may not have as much experience participating on panels and may need support in preparing to effectively deliver.
- Offer speaker training: You may want to consider providing guidance to help potential speakers perform at the level your attendees expect.
- Make your events accessible to all. This includes live web feeds, using social media channels and consider accessibility for those less able, to ensure that your events reach a wider more diverse audience.