The simple premise of the pledge is that male speakers at tech and science conferences should refuse to participate unless there are women on stage with them.
It received a lot of attention as Rebecca details in this follow up piece.
So much so that Radio 4's Women's Hour ran a segment under the title 'Male Geeks Rise Up for Women' (make of that what you will) a couple of weeks ago. You can listen again here (about 20 minutes in) to Dr Tom Crick and Aral Balkan discuss the pledge. It also has a lovely short segment about Amy from Manchester who takes part in Girl Geek events at Mad Lab.
I don't speak at conferences and my participation of them is always as an attendee and most of the discussion going on seems to be around what speakers can do. Which got me thinking about my role as an attendee and what I can do to help change the ratio. Is there an Attendee Pledge equivalent of the Speaker Pledge perhaps? We as attendees can vote with our feet by not attending a conference or event that doesn't have an accurate representation of women.
It's a pretty volatile topic and I want to take the time to stress that it's not about Men v Women…at all, I think that Faruk Ateş describes this best when he writes
think of it all not as “quotas” (or tokenization) but as a passion for seeing diverse viewpoints fairly represented on a stage.
Which is spot on, as an attendee I want to experience the most diverse, challenging and inspiring viewpoints on topics. As Sara wrote on our blog a couple of years ago
I don't want to sit at an all-female table any more than I want to listen to an all-male panel. So to those of you who plan events, host conferences and generally play a part in shaping the future of this industry: enough of the force-fed monoculture. We're a diverse lot – represent us accordingly.
What do you think about an attendee pledge? The challenge is a mix of different factors and I think that an open discussion on the matter might lead to some helpful insights on how we might improve the situation.
If you want to read up on this from people who are a lot more eloquent, experienced and informed than I am I would recommend the following pieces.
Aral Balkan's excellent post - On false dichotomies and diversity
Lauren Bacon's - Women in Tech and Empathy at Work
Jess Gartner's - Unpacking Male Privilege
Faruk Ateş - The Problem with a Slate of White, Male Speakers
Matt Andrews - Diversity in tech: still an issue in 2013?
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