This blog post was intended to be a recap of DrupalCamp Munich. It was a very well organized conference but the event was overshadowed by an intense discussion about diversity. This is why I want to focus this blog post on the learnings and takeaways from Munich regarding diversity at Drupal community events.
Setting the scene
On the day before DrupalCamp Munich, a discussion about diversity came up on Twitter and at the sprints venue where organizers were working hard on preparing for the conference. There were two related sources leading to the discussion. First of all, as Ekes pointed out via Twitter - out of 47 speakers there was only 1 woman on the agenda (2%). This is already saddening but the big attention came to happen when Twitter found out that copies of a men's lifestyle and entertainment magazine were about to be handed out to participants as part of the goodie bags.
The initial responses by the organization team were defensive rather than acknowledging the problem, basically stating that the event team can’t fix the problem of there not being enough female speakers at the conference. After a while penyaskito cancelled his session: he wouldn’t because of the two issues but mainly the lack of action and communication around them. By the end of the day, the DrupalCamp team published an official statement of apology.
Thinking about the facts
I’m glad to see that the issues have been taken seriously. Obviously there was a different perception of the severity of the problem. From my personal experience, bringing in diversity into tech events is a challenge, especially when they are organized by teams that aren’t diverse in the first place.
But if we look at the data, we can see that DrupalCon New Orleans (19% female and 81% male), DrupalCon Dublin: (17% female, 82% male) had quite similar ratios. Even though they still have a long way to go to improve this, they’re better than what we accomplished for DrupalCamp Vienna (13.6% female and 86.4% male). With DrupalCamp Munich only achieving 2% female speakers, I think this is a very alarming sign that we have to react upon and therefore support the call for action very much.
Everything back to normal?
The discussions were quite heated, especially on Twitter. Special thanks to Jeffrey “jam” McGuire for following up with a blog post on “Empathy, diversity, and open source”. Aside from agreeing on the problem, Jam acknowledged the hard work and best intentions of the local team to host a good conference. I think it is important to see & hear both sides of the conversation and from there continue the discussion.
Some of the important takeaways from the discussion for me where:
- Diversity needs to be looked at on all levels.
- Providing safe spaces is needed to support minorities in joining a community.
- A code of conduct is a good foundation but needs to be lived.
- We need to listen to the views of others before defending our own viewpoints.
Where can I get more help with this?
We are not alone in this. To figure out how to get better diversity at Drupal events in Europe, we can look at role models and the support they provide by leading by example.
JSConf for example, has documented how they reached 25% women speakers already in 2012. Their call for speakers highlights how they offer support to attendees to become confident about their wish to speak. They also embrace an anonymous submission process. If you want to find out more, you can check out “We Are All Awesome” for some great materials for both speakers and curators.
In Drupal, Ashe Dryden’s session from DrupalCon Portland provides a good overview of why diversity matters. If you want to help or join the discussion: Drupal Diversity is a working group discussing diversity & inclusion in Drupal and web development. They have extensive resources on why we should care and what we can do to improve diversity. On the Drupal slack, find us in the #diversity-inclusion channel with more than 100 members already. Also the Drupal Community Working Group is working on a response to the happenings. You can also follow them via Twitter.
What did I learn?
Since I joined the Drupal community, diversity has been important to me. One of the reasons why I joined Amazee was that I was looking for a more diverse team to work with. Working with a diverse team is still a privilege in our industry and I would like to see a bigger movement towards getting better diversity across the whole industry.
The recent incidents have made it clear to me that this needs to go further though. It’s not enough to simply say “we want more diversity”. We need to look at diversity as a common goal and everyone of us need to make more effort in order to achieve it.
The DrupalCon Baltimore call for sessions just started and shows a clear effort to inclusivity. Optionally, speakers can identify with underrepresented communities to help the session selection team ensure better diversity in the program. Also read their blog post about setting diversity as a DrupalCon goal.
As part of the Drupal Mountain Camp team, this discussion has inspired us to focus more on diversity. We agreed to think about it on all levels:
- Promote diversity and the code of conduct on all levels of the event.
- Set and communicate diversity as a goal for the session selection process.
- Actively encourage diverse speakers to attend.
- Offer support to speakers via coaching & mentoring.
- Provide a safe and healthy environment for all attendees.
- Educate ourselves as event organizers by reading materials stated above.
I’m looking forward to strive towards this goal for more diversity in Drupal.