I usually like Mesh. I like the energy, the passion… This year, I am completely and utterly disappointed by their total lack of female gender representation in keynotes, never mind the pathetic 17% representation in speakership in general.
Let’s put it this way: women have had a really tough year online in the politics of being born without a penis. When it wasn’t a woman being beat up by trolls both figuratively and literally (in game form – link to Google search), it was women being harassed at conferences, on Twitter, on Reddit, suicides from social sharing of rape images… and they were all high profile regular, non-tech news worthy cases.
Let’s look at tech… take Google as one of the ubercompanies that have built an empire of innovation, rulers in the fail-fast-fail-often-to-succeed prototyping model. They focus deeply on diversity, with huge campaigns, grants and public oriented funding to ensure that their industry remains bleeding edge. If you aren’t thinking this way, you aren’t thinking about your future in innovation… or maybe even in the consumer market at all.
So Mesh… What gives? In tech, women are well known to be underrepresented in the STEM side (where your 17% lines up with industry representation), but happen to be extremely well represented in the social/marketing/production/art side. Dominant in fact. And you can’t seem to pull more than a piddly 17% of speakers to represent the breadth and depth of women doing great things?
As mentioned by Karen SD from MaRS – you can’t be what you can’t see, it isn’t that that we aren’t out there, but your message isn’t reaching us… your 50% of the market. I, for one, will no longer attend conferences that do not support diversity and innovation. I may be one small person, but I am not alone. I am joining an increasing group of women and men who have decided enough’s enough.
The problem with conferences maintaining this record, is that every conference organiser likes to think that their’s sets an agenda. Canada 3.0 sets the agenda for digital media in Canada, the countless gamer cons set the agenda for gaming, etc. I am troubled that Mesh organisers think this representation is agenda setting for the web. And if they don’t think that they are setting an agenda, then what is the purpose of their con? Is their future projection devoid of women in social/web/art/startup/tech? Very troubling.
Forward thinking and innovation depends on thinking the impossible, and pushing the boundaries to build out a dream that represents better things for us all… men, women, children, everyone included. Single gender dominated speaker lists in industry conferences reinforce the most regressive and mean parts of the tech world that better represent the likes of Nixon governance than the Cpt Jean Luc Picard world we all kinda strive for. I know Utopias aren’t possible but it doesn’t mean we don’t strive for a better world.
This reinforcement of a shameful track record is now officially in line with the most regressive and punitive times in the last 60 years after hellish year in tech for the largest group that engages in the social side of it. You should be better than this, Mesh.