Improving diversity at XML Prague
XML Prague is an awesome conference, very well organised and with great talks… but there's one point were it could do better: having a more diverse speaker line up.
For instance in 2017, for the 2nd year in a row, all the speakers of the main track where (white) males. Diversity is not only about having more women presenters, although that would be a good start.
This documents intends to present some thoughts and suggestions for improving the issue. Comments and commits welcome!
(disclaimer: I don't claim to have all the right answers, nor to say that it's an easy endeavor. If you feel this document is useless or otherwise wrong, please comment!)
We can surely do it!
First, let's start with the positive sides, which show that there's good hope the situation can be improved:
- it seems that the number of female attendees was higher in 2017 than in the previous years, which would be a good sign (about 30 women attendees + 4 in the staff)
- most people in the XML community are smart, gentle, and considerate human beings; the issue is obviously not one of intentional exclusion.
- organisers are very nice, welcoming, and thoughtful people, and explicitly asked for advice on how to improve the situation.
Suggestions wrt the speaker line-up
- XML Prague should adopt a formal policy on diversity, adopt a Code of Conduct, and explicitly link to it from all the pages on the web site. This would be a good signal that the conference is welcoming to all.
- XML Prague organisers should work towards reaching out to minorities when the CfP is announced:
- by explicitly acknowledging (on the web site and Twitter) that they'd like to improve the diversity of the speaker line-up
- by reaching out to well-known potential speakers and inviting them to submit (like Jirka recently did on Twitter with Debbie, Beth, Magda, but it should be re-done when the 2018 CfP is announced)
- by asking the community to spread the word and suggest name of speakers from underrepresented groups
- There could be a number of slots reserved to first-time speakers, to encourage newcomers (or people affected by the impostor syndrome, which is known to affect minorities more than other populations).
- Topics could be more extensively described (e.g. with subtopics, details or examples), to encourage people who would think their ideas are not a good fit (submitted by @franziiska)
- There may be a policy to prevent one person to speak more than once
- The program committee could be updated to present a more diverse group (it currently consists of 16 people including 14 males)
- Propose short talks (~20 mins), especially for first-time speakers (submitted by @Robbert)
- Make it crystal clear that speakers don't have to pay the conference fee. Possibly, provide some estimates and cover part of the travel costs for low-income speakers (submitted by @Robbert)
Suggestions wrt the attendance
Diversity is not only about women. We also want to be inclusive to people from any minority, which may include people who are actually not meat-eating, alcohol-drinking males.
- Provide a list of suggested vegetarian restaurants (or with decent vegetarian options)
- Provide a list of suggested non-smoking restaurants and/or bars
- Advertise alternative options to beer
- I guess beer jokes are fine, but they can also be the opportunity to remind people there are alternative options!
- Ensure that a variety of soft drinks are available at the social dinner (might be the case already, hum, the author of these words doesn't know… but for instance an alternative to the welcoming liquor shot?)
- Ask for sponsors to provide a scholarship targeted at people from underrepresented groups (something like le-tex's student sponsorship, but extended to other sponsors and/or targeted to minorities?)
- Increasing Diversity at Your Conference, by Ashe Dryden, contains an awesome list of ideas.
- O’Reilly Conference Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship Program