Evantage Consulting is about 75% female. I know a lot of women personally who work in technology, and yet I still see that the majority of the “experts” in our field are male. Of all the technology conferences I have attended, there have always
been more men than women attendees and presenters. I’m not entirely sure why this is. There are two sides to this debate: whether women submit for conferences or whether conferences don’t do a good enough job of recruiting women to speak. I recently attending a one day conference for women in technology, and it was interesting what bubbled up to the surface on why women don’t submit or why women submissions aren’t selected.
First, let me give a quick overview of the conference. She’s Geeky was a two day conference of women interested in technology and science using an un-conference format: attendees propose topics in the morning and then attend whatever they find interesting.
One of the sessions I attended at She’s Geeky focused on the number of women who present at conferences. Sara Hurley, one of the organizers of MinneWebCon, proposed the session. MinneWebCon is an annual web design and social media conference that takes place in the Twin Cities. Since she spends a lot of time reviewing submissions and researching keynote speakers for this event, she has numerous tips for women interested in speaking at conferences. I have highlighted the ones I think are most important below for women to be aware of.
- The most obvious tip: submit something. Anything. One of the biggest barriers to not having female presenters is the lack of submissions from women. Hopefully, tech conferences will get better about balancing gender, but women can increase their chances by submitting proposals. Sara mentioned that fewer than 30% of the submissions to MinneWebCon were from women
- Challenge yourself to talk about technology that is cutting edge even if you don’t consider yourself an expert…yet. Consensus among the women in the session was that we really want to know our stuff before submitting for a conference. But how many sessions have you attended on cutting edge technology where you knew at least as much, if not more, than the presenter and you still didn’t consider yourself an expert? If you sign up to present about cutting edge technology, you’re going to learn even more about it. Even if your submission is not accepted, you are now smarter and are more relevant in your occupation.
- Have someone who has presented to a lot of conferences look over your submission before sending it in. They got in; maybe they can give you tips on how
to improve your submission to have it accepted.
- See if someone who has presented before will pair up with you. If they have presented often, their name recognition could help you get your submission selected, and they may be able to help you through any first time presentation anxiety.
- Submit as part of a panel rather than submitting on your own. The ability to prepare a shorter presentation paired with a more laid back conversation may be the best way to get started.
- Submit proposals to conferences outside of your occupation, but associated to the work you’ve done. For example, if you are a user experience professional who has worked in healthcare or
insurance, present at a healthcare or insurance conference. People in these industries value learning different ways to create better experiences for their
Not only was I provided with valuable tips; this session gave me some ideas about what I can submit to conferences in future. I’m now more motivated to submit to conferences and to challenge myself to tackle technology topics I may have previously steered away from. There are quite a few women in technology who are doing amazing things and getting out there to speak at conferences. Here is a list of just a few (part of this list is thanks to Anil Dash’s post) and I hope there will be many more in the comments of this post:
- Kristina Halvorson
- Jen Kane
- Meghan Wilker
- Nancy Lyons
- Rashmi Sihna
- Whitney Hess
- Danah Boyd
- Mitchell Baker
- Caterina Fake
- Mena Trott
- Liza Sabater
- Amy Jo Kim
- Linda Stone
- Kathy Sierra
- Lynne Johnson
- Jane Pinckard
- Meg Hourihan
- Heather Champ
- Susannah Fox
- LeeAnn Prescott
- Charlene Li