No women speakers? No Bother!
That might surprise you if you listened the Eurostar Webinar last week where Fiona Charles and I explored the numbers of women speaking at software testing conferences. If you didn't hear it you can now (Spoiler ahead it's roughly 25%*)
Considering that there are more women in testing than other technical professions you might be surprised by this.
Unfortunately I'm not surprised. Fortunately, I'm not bothered by this. In fact, I'm not even bothered that in 2015 the percentage of women speakers has dropped in some conferences, or that the number of women on program committees for many conferences is a big fat zero.
I'm disappointed of course, but I'm not bothered by it.
That's because there are some phenomenal women in software testing and they're taking the matter into their own hands.
Rosie Sherry working with Anna Royzman for example, has dropped the teaser that women makeup ~50% of TestBashNY 2015 using a merit based selection process. They had a lot of women submitting proposals and I think it's clear why. What female tester wouldn't want to speak at a conference run by those two phenomenal and respected women?
There's more though:
Maaret Pyhäjärvi & Adi Bolboacă have decided to create a conference that they would want to attend. It's called the European Testing Conference
Mieke Gevers & Nadine Raes run Belgium Testing Days and there's typically a high percentage of women speakers (30% this year).
I'm sure there are other examples too.
It's simple folks. When you create an culture where women feel welcome to speak, the submissions come flooding in. What does that mean? Well, perhaps women no longer need to be concerned about being underrepresented at dinosaur conferences. Instead, women can focus on conferences that are already offering a healthy environment. Conferences were women are compelled to submit.
I suggest that for any conference in software testing, if the trend of women speakers is decreasing or wildly fluctuating, if the percentage is consistently below 25%, then conference organisers need to rethink how they are attracting talent.
In this day and age, I think there is little excuse for poor female representation. Conferences such as CAST have demonstrated it can be done. CAST has high calibre talks and a high percentage of female speakers. Who would have thought?
How about you, do you think conferences organisers need to rethink how they attract talent?
*figures were taken based on information on websites. We may have made errors in counting, but we think they are fairly accurate representation. Please let us know if we've made any glaring stuff ups.