We're still looking for those women

The debate regarding the lack of women speakers at conferences continues. I have added to this conversation in the past, and a few people have picked up on that post during this current round of debate. On that post Lori gives some of the reasons why she doesn’t speak at conferences often. One reason being,


Lack of confidence. I always assume that because I’m not Eric Meyers (or Drew McLellan, for that matter), I have no business talking about CSS. I forget that though I know less about it than many gurus, I know more about it than probably 75% of attendees (at some conferences, anyway).


Elsewhere, Nicole Simon describes how many women are not comfortable in ‘selling’ themselves, how they are less likely to approach conference organizers to get themselves a speaking slot.

Other than the logistical reasons I have described in other posts these are the real reasons why I don’t put myself forward to speak. When it comes down to it, I’m not all that sure what I have to offer to the sort of high profile conferences being discussed.

I’m not someone who has ever come up with an outstanding new CSS technique, I don’t design beautiful things, nor have I launched the killer app. When I write I come from the perspective of a regular web developer. I write as someone who has taught herself, is still teaching herself, who sometimes wonders how she ended up doing this, and certainly doesn’t deserve any kind of guru status. My real skill as a writer is the ability to take all that ‘stuff’ I have sweated over until I worked it out, and explain it, in simple terms. That is great for books and magazine articles, but is not what my peers want to see on the conference stage.

That said, I’m sure there are plenty of smaller scale events where a person (a woman even!) who can put forward a common sense, real-world approach to standards based web development might be a useful person to have on board. I have to admit responsibility in not being as self promotional as perhaps I could be on that front.

Perhaps the message that conferences organizers could take note of from these exchanges is that there may be good people out there who would need some encouragement to come and speak, would need to know that their input is valuable. I love Meri’s idea of successful speakers mentoring and encouraging others. It may be that some of the quieter voices out there just need some help to get started.

Lori on the 27 Feb 2007:

That’s it. That’s EXACTLY it.

Nicole Simon on the 27 Feb 2007:

I posed the question if, not said they are feeling that way. ;)

But i think it boils down to a lot of facts and I for example do the same with my speaking appearances – I know a lot about many things but am not that guru in one special thing.

But I do feel comfortable for many reasons (main reason: I am done when I go on the conference) with my pre conference podcasts. I would assume there are more ways than just speaking on such events to get peoples attention. :)

Kimberly Blessing on the 27 Feb 2007:

The thing is, most of the men out there are also self-taught and struggle with the same issues we women developers face… it’s just that they’re more vocal and more self-congratulatory about every little hurdle they figure out a way around.

More than once, when teaching CSS techniques, I’ve had someone say, “Oh that’s [insert male name here]‘s solution.” And my response has varied from “Yeah, whatever,” to “And I’m sure about a hundred other developers discovered the same thing for themselves at some point.”

Meri and others are spot on when it comes to the need to mentor and encourage other women. Beyond that, it’s probably a matter of finding time to be self-congratulatory.

Meri on the 27 Feb 2007:

Glad you like the idea of established speakers mentoring others. It seems to have struck something of a chord and so I’ve set up Make Me A Speaker! as a place for people to offer to mentor others and to put themselves out there as someone keen to speak more and in need of some mentoring. Please pimp it if you like it :-)

Lea de Groot on the 27 Feb 2007:

(Psst, the Make Me a Speaker link is broken :( )

Conference speaking is something that occurs to me occasionally, but then I have a good laugh at myself. I think of myself as one of the worker bea who is busy implementing all the snazzy solutions. In the unlikely event that I was asked to speak I would run around in circles with the question ‘What could I speak about’ rather then ‘OMG, I have to speak in public!!’ ;)
Topic would defeat me, rather than presentation.

Meri on the 27 Feb 2007:

Whoops! Make Me A Speaker!

Andy Budd on the 01 Mar 2007:

The fact that you are coming at problems from the users perspective and explaining things in a way most developers can understand is exactly the reason why you should be talking at conferences.

attack monkey on the 11 Mar 2007:

One of my female friends says the same thing about the games industry. She does a lot of high profile speaking at games conferences, but she says a lot of women who work in the industry (and there aren’t that many of them) don’t do it, for the same reasons as you outline above!

Peter Hyde-Smith on the 20 Mar 2007:

As a self-taught web “hack”, I simply like to hear what others do to continually raise their game. It’s these snippets that help keep me streamlining, optimizing, standardizing, and learning. I guess what I am trying to say is, that if you know web development, and have kept up with and implemented its standards, it is useful and informative to talk about the process. Especially since that process is unique (to you).

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