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!