In 2013 we had only 7 out of 52 speaker applications from women and other represented groups, and then 14% diverse speakers at our WordCamp (WordPress) Vancouver conference.
Several folks in the audience spoke to us privately or even wrote blog posts about it publicly.
The thing is, it wasn’t that we weren’t accepting them, it’s that they weren’t applying in the first place. One of the many causes of this is they were feeling like they’re not expert enough to speak on anything, or that they wouldn’t know what to talk about. Their Impostor Syndrome stopped them.
An activist friend suggested that I hold a brainstorming session, and from there I started leading the creation of a short, 4-hour, impactful workshop. It busts through Impostor Syndrome, helping them see hands-on that they are more qualified than they think. In one year, we had 3 times the number of diverse applicants and then 50% of our speakers.
I’m now the lead of a project in the WordPress community called Diversity Outreach Speaker Training that promotes and trains this workshop all around the world.
To give you an example of how quickly we’ve scaled and how effective this work has been, in 2018 alone we provided diversity support to 55 Meetup organizers in 26 countries. Twelve official meetups ran our speaker training workshop in 6 countries, and other WordPress-related groups have used it as well.
The results have been phenomenal. Those who ran it went from about 10% or fewer diverse speakers to typically 50% or more. The highest in 2018 was 63%. Can you imagine? This is incredible.
Even in Italy where WordPress had very few diverse folks in their community, I mean forget about even being speakers, after running the workshop and putting in best practises, in less than a year were able to bring up their women and other underrepresented speakers to 50%.
This is more than about just getting up on stage. This work has been a pivot point for many people’s lives. Many start to become organizers and leaders in their communities. They create new initiatives in their communities. They get hired by businesses who see them speak.
And things are changing at WordPress because of this. Having more diverse speakers has improved the brand and even the product itself. When more kinds of people are shaping the product, it:
- becomes inclusive for more people
- benefits from new ideas and becomes a better product for all
Our team’s next goal is to serve 100+ meetups a year by the end of 2020. There are over 800 meetups and we want to reach as many of them as we can.
In order to do this, we are looking for funding. I would love to discuss with you how we can create a win-win for us and for your company. Please contact me.
I am also expanding this work to other tech conferences and tech workplaces so that they too can benefit from having more kinds of voices. Please get in touch.
Want to get involved?
Do you run a WordPress Meetup? More information and sign up form
Would you like to be part of the team? Join the WordPress Diversity Outreach Speaker Training group
Would you like to run it for your conference or corporation? Contact me
Want to read more?
I wrote about my efforts to increase diversity in WordPress, at WordCamps, and in leadership positions on HeroPress: Accidental Activist, HeroPress