Why are there no women speakers at Nebraska Code Camp?

This week Nebraska Code Camp (NCC) was taken to task on Twitter.

“Nebraska Code Camp: 48 men speakers, 0 women.”

This stat is 100% true but is missing some important context. In the 4 years that NCC has been in existence we have never turned down a speaker for any reason. Crazy, right? Anyone who has submitted a topic, regardless of race, religion, age, disability, or gender, has been accepted as a speaker at NCC. If you are passionate about a relevant topic and want to share it with others we will give you a forum. This is an important frame for the discussion, because it changes the question from “Why are there no women speakers at NCC?” to “Why didn’t the organizers of NCC do more to attract women presenters?”

So, why didn’t we? Here are a few comments regarding this question:

“My position is that it’s irresponsible for conference founders to not actively search out and encourage diversity in their speaker lineups and event representation rather than throw their hands up and say “oh well, no girls wanted to play.”


“If you want a diverse speaker list in a white and male dominated field, you might just have to do a little work.”

Before we go any further it is important to understand the economics of NCC. NCC is a free developer conference. By free I mean the attendees pay nothing to attend. That doesn’t mean there is no cost associated with them attending. We buy breakfast, lunch, and have a big after party. We have door prizes and pay for the venue. We pay travel and expenses for the speakers and treat them to a nice dinner to say thanks. We have hosting costs for our website and printing costs for printed materials. None of that stuff is free and none of it is donated. So how do we do it?

I wish I could say magic, but I can’t. The truth is we beg. A lot. NCC is paid for by the generous sponsorship of organizations and individuals who appreciate what we do and want to be a part of it. This means that the majority of our time is spent fundraising. Without fundraising there is no NCC.

With that in mind let’s go back to the original question. Why didn’t we do more to attract women presenters? Why didn’t we actively search out individual women presenters? Why didn’t we do that “little work” necessary to get a diverse speaker list? Unfortunately the answer is fundraising. Time we spend individually researching and pursuing people is time taken away from fundraising. Fundraising is the lifeblood of NCC. Would it be better to have a diverse speaking pool, but no money to actually have NCC? I don’t see how that would benefit anyone. The organizers also have families, full time jobs, contracting work on the side, and other responsibilities. Time is not an unlimited resource. Should we skip spending time with our children to pursue a more diverse speaking pool for NCC? Those are the sort of real world trade offs that we have to make and it belittles our sacrifice of time and effort to reduce it to “might have to do a little more work”.

All that being said I do think we are in a unique position to address the issue of gender diversity in the software development field. While we are a little late to the party this year we are going to have a panel discussion at NCC to address this issue and brainstorm some ideas. If you know anyone (including yourself) that you think would be a good candidate to sit on the panel please get in contact with us or leave a comment on the blog. Moving forward we are going to form a NCC advisory panel to bring some more ideas and viewpoints into the fold. Again if you know anyone who could bring creativity and energy to NCC please let us know.

In conclusion I hope that this whole situation becomes a springboard from which we can grow as organizers and as an organization. It is our intention to keep bringing a great event that celebrates and elevates our community. We are always open to change and growth so if you are interested in getting involved please let us know. See you March 28th & 29th!



10 Responses to “Why are there no women speakers at Nebraska Code Camp?”

  1. Iris Classon

    Speaker/community-’stuff’ organizer here :) Located in Sweden (for now) but happy to help. You have my email, contact me (or twitter @IrisClasson )

    • adam

      Hi Iris,

      We met briefly at the Infragistics party at the MVP Summit. I’m Adam Barney, the other organizer of Nebraska Code Camp. We would love to have you, but as you correctly observed on twitter, our budget for international flights is a little tight. :)

      We’re very open to making more room for women speakers if we can get more to submit sessions. Would you be willing to draw some attention to our plight? We pay T&E for workshop speakers (within reason – Sweden is tough) and will request people via INETA, so that might help convince some speakers to make the trip.

      Also, we’re planning a panel discussion on women in technology – perhaps we can find a way for you to take part in that remotely? It might not be great if it’s too laggy, though.

      Thanks for chiming in here!


  2. Jaime

    It makes me unbelievably sad that someone who offers no ideas whatsoever for a solution to the problem can have so much reach with their uneducated opinions. It’s cool that you guys put all of the blood, sweat and tears into making a free event like this possible. If someone has a problem with how it’s organized, they do not need to register and attend. Alternatively, they could volunteer to help out instead of complaining without pitching ideas.

  3. JP Richardson

    You guys are doing an excellent job. Last year was great and I’m sure that this year will be even better! Our community needs this and I for one am glad that it’s available.

    Anyone that is focused on tearing down and vilifying instead of creating and bringing others up should not be taken seriously. Furthermore, someone that complains and doesn’t offer help via time or money, shouldn’t be taken seriously. Talk is cheap. Action, money, and time is not.

    For those of you out there who are passionate about this issue and you have ideas for how people can help, get in touch (my email is linked), as I do believe that diversity is a good thing.

    Adam & Ken, keep up the awesome work!

  4. Steve Jackson

    Wow. I wish the person who started this rant would take a chill pill I know the organizers and I know that they have diverse friends and family. What is a passion for them isn’t about exclusion, it’s about providing an opportunity for the community. As an African American male, I am not gonna cry about the lack of AA speakers. As Ken said, if I want to talk, I know that I can go to him and say “I’ve got something to share” and he would allow that. I also know that, if I had what I thought was a valid concern, I’d go to him with that. Not turn it into an attention seeking experience that ultimately makes me look like a whiny brat with a complex.

  5. NJ

    I must commend the way that Ken responded to this situation… to take an unfair criticism and turn it into an opportunitty for growth… that is being a true leader. Congratulations to the organizing team!

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