Playing in your walled wurstgarten

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Earlier this week, after my post about mesh‘s lack of visible reasons for a having a bunch of white guys as their keynote speakers, I had a conversation with Mark Evans, one of the mesh organizers. Based on this chat, my assessment is that the mesh organizers exhibit little or no commitment to diversity, and Mark’s stated reasons for no women keynotes are even less compelling than the ones that I wrote in parody. He said:

  • But the high-tech industry *is* a bunch of white guys. [Do you know how smug and stupid that sounds when you tell me, a woman in the high-tech industry, that the industry *is* a bunch of white guys, as if I didn’t exist?]
  • We tried! We really tried! [uh huh]
  • Will we try harder next year? Definitely! [Did I make this blog post last year? Definitely! Will I be repeating this blog post next year? Definitely!]
  • I have a lot of things going on right now, running a startup, organizing a conference. Have you ever organized a conference? Do you know how hard it is? [Oh, puh-leeze, enough with the patronizing “I’m busier/more important than you are” crap. If you couldn’t do a decent job, why did you take it on?]
  • Can you suggest any women speakers? [It’s the organizers’ responsibility to find the speakers, and maybe if you’d opened up a call for speakers, you’d get outside your walled wurstgarten — there’s a pretty direct connection from the “don’t call us, we’ll call you” message of your Contact page to the homogeneity of your keynote speakers, drawn from your circle of friends and their friends. Or if you looked at any one of the lists of women speakers on the web that have been developed in response to exactly this issue in the past. Or if you looked at my profile as a speaker, I’m even local.]
  • Can you suggest any topics? [What, like “breastfeeding 2.0”? Women in technology talk about the same things that men in technology do, we don’t need special tracks or topics. We just bring some different perspectives to the table.]

He ended up with “thanks for your feedback, stay tuned and I think that you’ll really like what we have to offer.” Hmm, do I detect a dismissal?

This is such a perfect echo of past conversations on reasons why white guys choose only white guys as speakers as tech conferences. Lots of people are seeing the problem, and trying to do something about it. Just not the group of white guys who are organizing mesh.

By the way, today is International Women’s Day. Do your part by sending the mesh organizers a suggestion for a woman speaker, or post it here in the comments. Or better yet, if you know someone at any of the mesh sponsors, have them do it.

3 Comments

  1. Pat Anderson says:

    One of today’s editorials in the Toronto Star:
    http://www.thestar.com/opinion/article/189419

  2. sandy says:

    Pat, great link, thanks for that. If the government is cutting funding for women’s programs, then we all have to become activists to compensate.

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