Improving diversity at Foo Cafe
Today Foo Cafe hosts the last two events of the season before taking a summer break. Since January the umbrella organisation for basically all tech events in Malmö have hosted 46 tech events* with at least 57 speakers. Of those speakers, 41 are men, 5 are women, and 11 are unknown. That’s a stunning 9% of women speakers. NINE percent! We can obviously do much better than this next season. Here are some ideas what Foo Cafe, its partners and you can do to help improve the situation.
For those who don’t know about Foo Cafe, they partner with companies, user groups, organisations and individuals to bring the tech community in Malmö together. The events are almost always free for attendees, there is usually drinks and food served, and everything is financed by the companies Foo Cafe partner with.
Foo Cafe is THE place for meetings of all sizes, interests and levels of expertise within the media and technology arena. Planned or spontaneous, it’s up to you.
Clear paths and actions for improving diversity will allow Foo Cafe, its events, and the Malmö tech community to reach new levels of awesomeness!
Why do we need diversity?
Out of all the events I have attended this year, I can count the number of female participants across all those events on two hands. Often it is the same people attending too. Diversity is more complex than just bringing in more women, and we shouldn’t do it just for the sake of having more women attend. The statistics above only call out the ratio between men and women as that is what I could somewhat reliably count.
When you don’t really understand why having more women in technology is important, you don’t extrapolate and realize that having more of every underrepresented minority group is the true goal. — Kat Li, Why are you supporting women in tech
Increasing diversity amongst speakers will, I’m convinced, bring diversity amongst participants. It’ll bring new ideas to our community, and those ideas will be gauged by a broad and diverse set of minds. It will increase the talent pool that companies, many who are sponsors of Foo Cafe, can recruit from. And, I believe, we’ll have a lot more fun and learn way more than today.
Detta gör mitt liv lite tråkigare: Alla techtalks (oftast av män) som alltid _ALLTID_ alltid refererar till utvecklare som män.— Olgatron (@olgastern) 22 april 2014
What can Foo Cafe do?
Foo Cafe should adopt, and enforce, a code of conduct. All events hosted at Foo Cafe must adhere to it. Adopting a code of conduct is a statement that abusive behaviour is not OK. It lays the foundation to “be excellent towards each other” as Ana succinctly put it, and provides the organisers a clear mandate to address inappropriate behaviour, as well as a way to tell people to get lost if they don’t behave. The goal is to create a safe environment for everybody. Here’s what an organiser of !!Con had to say about PyCon’s code of conduct.
Foo Cafe should actively and continuously invite speakers with diverse backgrounds. Without doubt, Foo Cafe has a tremendous network. It is not enough to just want a diverse group of speakers, you have to actively encourage it. Specifically ask people if they’d like to talk about their latest passion.
OH: @zmagg: oh my gosh. outreach works.— Julia Evans (@b0rk) 16 april 2014
Foo Cafe can seek help from the community and experts. Foo Cafe, as we know it, only exists in Malmö. They’ve done wonders for the tech scene here and rumour has it that Stockholm is dying to have a Foo Cafe too. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help.
What can sponsors of Foo Cafe do?
Sponsor only events which have a code of conduct in place. Consider to pull your company’s sponsorship of Foo Cafe if they don’t establish a code of conduct. This implies that your organisation understands why a code of conduct is needed. If not, perhaps an internal review is in place too? I first saw this suggestion in a post called What Can Men Do by Shanley.
Get your company to only sponsor events with a code of conduct. These policies help to build events where women and other underrepresented groups are safe and welcome.
Educate your employees about diversity. There are several consultants and resources for companies that want to improve. A quick search gave me these: GenderPerformance, Eductus, AllCompetence, and Rättviseförmedlingen. There are surely more!
Encourage women to speak at events. Even if it is at other events than Foo Cafe! Another way is to suggest that women add their names to one of Rättviseförmedlingen’s many lists, like Apputvecklare, Civil engineers, Programmers, or Web Developers.
What can you do?
Help Foo Cafe by recommending speakers. Despite their magnificent network, they do not know everyone and obviously the current set of attendees consists a pretty homogenic group. Widen their net by reaching out in your own networks. See a colleague at work doing something awesome? Ask if she would like to present it in a user group or other event at Foo Cafe.
Give Foo Cafe feedback after EVERY event. Improvement comes through continuous constructive feedback, and it is our responsibility as participants to provide this feedback. If you don’t like beer and pizza at every event, tell them! If you think the times suck, tell them! If there are too few female speakers, tell them!
Changing the situation described above requires some effort from all of us. Even though I’ve been aware of the problem for some time I haven’t had a clear idea of what to do about it. We (men) need to start talking about the problem and the actions we can take to improve the situation.
Lets help Foo Cafe and ourselves for next season of tech events! I’ll promise to start doing more of the above and I’ll do a follow-up post later this year to see how we have improved. Foo Cafe appears willing to improve too.
@mljungblad great question. We are trying to get more female attendees at our tech events. Ideas are more than welcomed.— Foo Café (@_FooCafe_) May 27, 2014
Give them your best ideas!
Thanks to Olga, Joakim, Per, Erisa, and Maria for reviewing early drafts of this post.
* I selected all the events tagged “Code” and “Cutting Edge” as these are, primarily, the type of events I attend. It would be interesting to check the other types of events too. Also, speakers are counted for each appearance they made. That, unfortunately, makes it a total of four women presenting at one or more of the 46 events.
** I feel this post follows a binary gender-norm. Gender is more than that, but I need help formulating it.