Women contribute some of the most amazing developments in STEM – a female Google employee just added 9 trillion digits to pi, FFS – yet at tech conferences, it seems they’re still treated like some kind of sexual buffet.
New research from Ensono throws up some depressing stats: firstly that one in four women who’ve been to a tech conference experienced sexual harassment there, and secondly that almost three-quarters (70 per cent) of women who’ve sat on a panel at a tech conference found themselves to be the only woman on it.
Called Speak Up: Bringing More Women’s Voices to Tech Conferences, the study interviewed 500 women in tech across the US and UK. It also audited three years’ worth of speaker lineups from 18 big tech conferences around the world, and found that for every five speeches, four are given by men.
Things are improving in this arena, but slowly: the report shows the number of female speakers went up by just 5% between 2016 and 2018.
The study was inspired by Ensono Director of Public Cloud Product Lin Classon’s own experiences at tech conferences, where she takes photos of empty women’s spaces:
I’ve taken so many pictures of empty ladies rooms and selfies at these conferences. It was funny, sardonic for a while. It’s getting more and more like tired news though. We could do better. #reInvent #AWSreInvent #reinvent2017
— lin classon (@lin_IRL) November 27, 2017
“The lack of female speakers at industry conferences is a quantifiable picture of how women are underrepresented. The industry still has a long way to go, but it’s research like this that provides companies with data and tools to initiate change.”
If you’re wondering what those tools are, here’s a good one: the report found that 76% of women are more likely to go to a conference with a female speaker or panelist. There’s an easy way to improve the gender balance of your conference, tech organisers — put some women front and centre and you’ll attract others.
The full report also includes recommendations and strategies for redressing the balance. Read it here, and if you’re not the boss, send it to them too.
Main image: WOCinTechChat