How to give a gender inclusive (IT) presentation or conference.
By Jenna Gretsch

Creative Commons License
How to give a gender inclusive (IT) presentation or conference by Jenna Gretsch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

 PDF Version

On average I attend around 5-10 IT conferences per year. With the exception of conferences specifically geared towards women it is a blase observation to note the lack of women or the lack of an environment that is anywhere near gender balanced. In fact I often wonder how it affects my psyche to see, read from and listen to such a surfeit of men on both a daily basis in my regular job and also at the conferences I attend on a regular basis. Sometimes while daydreaming at such conferences my mind will ache and wonder what it might be like to go to a library conference or a dental hygienist conference or an educational conference. Do people at those conferences pine for more men to be present? And then there are the conferences where I forget that I'm an anomaly and I forget what it is like to be in a room with fifty percent women. In other words, I acclimate. How horrifying.

What is to be done? This question is also a rather perennial indulgence in the sense that I'm privileged enough to be able to consider it and attempt something, anything in response to it. But I am, and I must, so here goes.

My goal is to give the people (sometimes organizations) in charge of the conferences and the presenters at such conferences more options, or maybe more understanding on the differences between neutral and radical. And maybe to stir the pot a bit regarding which types of practices bring about change.

There are many conferences that do an ok job. They will make the effort to get women presenters on the docket. They will make t-shirts available in small. They will do what they think they can to be gender inclusive. I applaud them. This is not a chiding. I simply think we need better fortification, better understanding of the powers of conformity and convention and more creative multi-faceted solutions even if they are not complete solutions.

The following is a list. The left column is what I think acceptable, a baseline, what I think Neutral should be. We'll call it Neutral. The right column is radical, we'll call it Radical. Presenters and organizers can choose their model, to be Neutral or Radical. Or to be shades of both. Perhaps people will add to the lists, or contend them. Perhaps they'll think it's a shortsighted vision that needs altering; bring it on!! Discussions are encouraged. Implementation remains the goal.

Return to top