Women Speakers at WordCamps

One of the things we’ve worked on in the past year is trying to increase diversity in the project, starting with gender. We’ve reached out to more women about contributing, we participated in the Gnome Outreach Program for Women, and we taught workshops for women both on our own and at events like the Grace Hopper Conference Open Source Day. Cool! One of the things we talked about doing but never did was putting something together for WordCamp organizers on having more women speakers — why it’s important, why it won’t magically happen just because you include the line “women encouraged to apply” in your call for speakers, and how to do the (hard yet underrated) work of increasing diversity on your speaker rolls. I’m sad to say that our lack of attention there shows. I’ve tallied up the speaker numbers from the past two years, and we’ve just barely moved the needle.

A note about these stats: They are not perfect, because some events didn’t post all their speakers, or in a couple of cases any, since they posted things to an external site. Moving forward we will make sure to tell WC organizers to use the speaker listings built in to the WC site so that we will have consistent speaker data. In cases where I didn’t already know the gender of a speaker or couldn’t tell based on a combination of picture/profile/pronouns in bio, I asked the organizer or someone else who was there to let me know the speaker gender.

2012 Percentage of Women Speakers at WordCamps

  • Surveyed 66 WordCamps.
  • Lowest: 0% women
  • Highest: 47% women
  • Mean: 19% women
  • Median: 19.5% women
  • Mode: 3-way tie (4 events each), 0% & 25% & 29% women

2013 Percentage of Women Speakers at WordCamps

  • Surveyed 69 WordCamps.
  • Lowest: 0% women
  • Highest: 50% women
  • Mean: 21% women
  • Median: 21% women
  • Mode: 2-way tie (6 events each), 0% & 25% women

So the overall numbers didn’t improve too much. We should really get to work on that guide this year. Any volunteers?

What’s even more disappointing is that in looking at each event’s speaker lists, I saw a number of WordCamps that went from decent percentages in 2012 to dismal percentages in 2013, and a lot of the ones with dismal numbers had a high percentage of “circuit” speakers — folks that speak at WordCamps all over the place, often giving the same talk. This is a touchy subject, and I don’t want to dive into it right now — we have enough touchy subjects on the docket already — but it’s something to think about.

Note: For the sake of this I went binary based on the people we had on stage. My gut tells me that in 2014 we will have some speakers who identify as trans in a non-binary way, so moving forward will look at gender in a slightly different way.