As some of you may or may not know, I founded a women's-only technology conference, She's Geeky. There has been a bunch of conversation in this past week about the lack of women speakers at tech events (in fields like web 2.0, social media, government where there is significant female participation).
It got started with this top 10 list put out by the Speakers Group that included NO women. Then O'Reilly published its first round of speakers for Web 2.0 Summit that was only 20% women. Allyson Kapin called him out, started a petition, and a whole discussion got going in Twitter. It continued with the inc500 conference.
This morning via a link I ended up on this website: The IDEAS Project. This is a site talking about the big ideas of the social web and the future of identity, collaboration, standards development, and norms on the digital web. The pictures speak for themselves.
For those of you counting:
- 5 women out of 50
- racial diversity by my observation 2 asian people and 2 black people
- No one under the age of 30 and not that many under the age of 40.
Many of the men here have written books or have academic credentials.
Of course it is a social media site, so any one can contribute. I just don't want to contribute to a place that is so skewed in one direction in terms of the starting point. This is not a hard core IT subject, this is social media and use of the web and the network in a forward looking way. Looking along the side, all the contributed ideas so far come from handles with male names.
It all makes me wonder:
- Who is a real "authority" on a subject?
- If you have a title and a position at an institution this means you must know, right?
- If you have written a book you must have it right?
Some friends are in this "talent pool" like Jerry Michalski, Clay Shirky, Doc Searls, Laura Fitton, Christine Heron, Esther Dyson, Bob Fankston, David Hornick, Robert Scoble, Kevin Werbach, Andreas Weigend, Ross Mayfield, Charlene Li, Jeff Clavier.
I am curious if they asked about the gender balance reflected in this project up front?
Have they worked to recommend that Monitor Talent pick up more women talent? or even proactively suggested monitor seek to develop women talent?
The web offers a huge opportunity to change who is seen and referenced as having authority and we need to take advantage of this change the web offers.
I know this... I I have never had a formal position at any company, yet IdM leaders at major companies like Microsoft, SUN, Novell, Burton Group, PayPal, Google, Yahoo!, etc. point at my blog, and I have, at least within that world, a lot of authority as a community leader - I have led 15+ events on the topic of user-centric identity in the past 5 years and and spoken about 3 times a year at other events. I am very very comfortable talking about the topics in my industry, this is what I DO - I am an evangelist, a communicator, but this alone didn't translate into being able to speak without training, practice or support. (I currently don't proactively seek to speak because I had a bad experience and it rattled me.)
I think we need to work on moving beyond just taking at face value "old" positional authority like having a title at a university and proclaiming expertise - it doesn't mean those people participate in the communities that are actually driving the innovation they speak about.
There is a systemic issue here. I hope that it can be addressed by the whole community.
Here are some talented women in identity if you ware wondering who they are.