As the organisers of Brewing Agile we are now faced with our first real issue we need to deal with. In the past things have revolved much more around tasks to be done and small decisions to be made, but in 2016 we faced our first issue that requires us to examine our values and take action of a really important question.
With only a month to go to the conference we received a message from one of our planned speakers that he was uncomfortable being put on a page with no female speakers at all. We had planned only male speakers and hadn’t even noticed...
In the past we have had a very high density of female speakers in our program, we are very fortunate to have so many in Gothenburg, and we were very proud to be a conference with so many. Something we were also fairly proud of was the fact that we had never set out to do this, we had an open call for speakers, selected the best candidates, many of them were female and we didn’t notice until someone had pointed it out to us. So it was the same when that was not the case.
We would have very likely felt ok with that since in both cases it was not by choice but rather on merit, but there was one very significant difference this year, we did not have a call for speakers, we selected all of our speakers and invited them. In doing so we have stumbled on our own gender bias and felt embarrassed by it.
The organisers of Brewing Agile believe firmly that diversity is a very important not just because it is a moral imperative but because we believe diversity actually breeds significantly better results. And while there is imbalance in the industry at the moment, we are not going to reach a balance that is beneficial for everyone unless an effort is made. We want to reach a point where diversity is the norm, and that no effort is required to make it happen, but until we reach that point in our industry, then an effort is required.
This is something that needs to be taken very seriously but we were also one month away from the conference and there is limited action we were capable of taking.
The first of those actions is being transparent in this matter.
The speaker who pointed this out to us offered to be replaced with a female speaker, come another year, and assist us in finding a high quality female sponsor to take his place. This we are also doing.
We will be transparent with this speaker about the situation as we do not want to add insult to injury by adding “the token women” to the program. While we are trying to rectify a mistake, we are not by any means lowering our quality standards, this person will be as high a quality as anyone else we have invited this year and would not be invited otherwise.
We are publishing a code of conduct for our conference to protect the safety and well being of anyone who attends.
We have started to reach out to women in IT communities to provide us advice and help us to understand this issue better so we can improve ourselves going forward.
We will also be taking steps to examine our processes to make sure that dealing with these types of questions is not purely reactive in the future.
We will be having an in-depth discussion about what our values are and how we intend to conduct ourselves as a result of these values. We will not just discuss gender diversity, but the question of diversity. Period.
We will be establishing, publishing, and following a speaker selection process for all future conferences.
Including this year. Some have spoken several times.