We know the stats of tech conferences when it comes to women and diversity. According to Ensono’s Speak Up: Bringing More Women’s Voices to Tech Conferences, Women have only occupied 25% of keynote or standalone speaking positions in the past few years at tech conferences. That means audiences are only hearing from a very specific group of people.
Understanding how to make sure your conference is representative of the larger population is key. Each step requires you to utilize “Marketing’s Diversity Equity, and Inclusion Playbook.” Here are three places to start:
Know Your Audience
As a Marketing executive, a big part of our job is to create personas of our target audience. This is something that should be done not only for product launches but also for conference planning. Who do we want to speak to? Who should we be inviting? Why would they care? Would they even want to attend? Understanding who is coming to our conference is the first step at knowing what kind of speakers and programming to put together.
For businesses, diversity is increasingly becoming a focus, but when we look at conference attendees, we know it is lacking. Look around your next conference, how many women do you see? How about people of color or better yet, women of color? With this gap in attendees, it becomes obvious that we aren’t being targeted to attend many conferences. Knowing who you want to show up is key to getting the results you’re looking to achieve.
For businesses, diversity is increasingly becoming a focus, but when we look at conference attendees, we know it is lacking.
Create an Inclusive Experience
Take into account the possible experience of all attendees. Ensuring attendees feel included and welcomed should be a priority. Attracting more women to your conference may mean offering childcare and nursing rooms onsite. Make sure the venue can accommodate people in wheelchairs and that they are able to experience and enjoy all elements of the event.
At the Grace Hopper Celebration last year, we hosted Laurita Tellado of the Spina Bifida Project and she shared her take on the accessibility of the conference and convention center. She pointed out the impact of the carpet thickness for someone in a wheelchair, the missing placards on the stalls designated for her use, and we very much appreciated her feedback and point of view in helping us create an even better event next year. Remembering that people attending your conference are each unique and different is key to making sure you create a positive environment for all.
Set Event-Specific Diversity Goals
If diversity is your goal, you have to commit to measuring and evaluating regularly. How do you know you created a successfully diverse conference if you don’t measure your progress? Data is vital on the road to diversity. You can’t improve what you don’t measure. While you are looking at audience attendees, this measurement and goal setting should also apply to your speakers. Take a look at who you feature and invite. How many women, how many people of color, how many women of color, how many LGBTQ+ are invited to speak?
Setting goals then stacking the agenda to help reach these goals will help you be successful. We often hear about the “pipeline problem” when it comes to diversity. An SVP at the Consumer Technology Association, the organization that puts on CES, once said: “As upsetting as it is, there is a limited pool when it comes to women in these positions.” This is false. Women in tech, diversity in tech exist—sometimes you just have to reach outside your pool of sources to find it. Companies who are committed to improving need to be looking at the data and making the necessary changes to their event planning processes.