JSConf EU 2012 got 25% Women Speakers with 3 simple techniques

JSConf EU 2012 writes:

tl;dr: we copied Courtney Stanton’s approach verbatim. It is good and it works.

… We found Courtney’s blog post on how she managed to get 50% women speakers for her game developer conference No Show and we decided to flat out copy her approach and see how it works.

Does it ever work. The ingredients are as simple as they are obvious:

  • Open an inviting call for presentations (CFP).
  • Select talks anonymously, and state in the CFP that you do so.
  • Encourage people from under-represented groups to submit to the CFP.

The key point of the whole procedure is an anonymous talk selection. That means you evaluate each proposed talk on the title and abstract of the talk, but not on who submitted it

The final tally:

  • 40 speaking slots (100%)
  • 30 men speaking (75%)
  • 10 women speaking (25%)

There is a lot more work involved to get women to submit to a tech conference. However, the work pays off in spades because the submissions from women (for us) ranked significantly higher on average than men’s submissions. Again, this is with an anonymised, unbiased talk selection.

Our highest ranked talk is from a women and we know we wouldn’t have gotten that talk without the outreach we did.

Congratulations JSConf EU on successfully reaching out to potential women speakers! Technical conference organizers looking to increase women’s speaking appearances might also find the Geek Feminism wiki page Women speakers useful.

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