1. Michelle Schulp

    As a person who I suppose qualifies as both a female and a “circuit speaker” as well as a WordCamp organizer, I think that there’s always a few things to think about. It’s awesome as an organizer to be able to bring in some “big name” or well-traveled speakers from other cities into your WordCamp so that your local community can hear from some people they don’t usually get to see at meetups. It’s also awesome to hear from a wide variety of voices (both local and non-local) from all sorts of different backgrounds (not just gender), but difficult to do if the organizers don’t know where to look. Always looking for help on that front! As far as wordpress.tv goes, it’s a fine resource and all, but I think it’s way more valuable to have a speaker there in person to be able to meet with, ask questions of, etc., so I am always going to be in favor of a speaker traveling and giving the same talk at multiple camps so that we can meet each other IRL more often. :)


  2. Pam Blizzard

    I agree with Michelle and Angelina, we can help each other at a local level a great deal, and these local connections have been invaluable to me. However as a local group we can only “self teach” ourselves to a certain limited level. We can benefit from selectively picked “circuit” speakers to show us the 30k foot view.

    Given a choice, I would prefer circuit speakers who come from the WordPress organization, or do product demos that show how a product actually works, (rather than telling me what I can already see on their website) or a WP advanced user sharing how they achieved great results in a unique way.


  3. J.D. Grimes

    +1 Jeffro. I think you wrote this very well, and I totally agree.


  4. twpressable

    Great article. I think this is an issue that is much bigger than just the WordPress/WordCamp community. I agree, I do not think the WC policies should change regarding race, sex, religion, etc. and the WC should stay local and have the autonomy they need for each one to be successful. However, I think conversations like this are great for encouraging women to take on more leadership roles in general. Kudos.


  5. Helen Hou-Sandi

    Without forcing diversity on WordCamp organizers, what are they supposed to do if no women submit speaker applications? What if the speaker pool they have to select from are all white males?

    Some interesting thoughts on that here: http://www.dogsandshoes.com/2013/12/make-more-meritocratic-decisions-improve-diversity.html


  6. chris

    It seems to me that if attendees at local wordcamps didn’t find value from circuit speakers that they wouldn’t attend. It just shouldn’t be at the cost of presentation resources for more local presenters.

    I think that the perception that “women need more help” might be more an indicator that the WordPress community is more welcoming to less “traditional” community members than others, not necessarily that women need more help. And really, how does that sound when the community diversifies beyond gender and “people of this-or-that level of melanin need more help” ?

    While I recognize that being a helper comes with the best of intentions, personally, I tend to avoid gatherings where my presence is viewed as a cry for help rather than as a collaborative learning peer. Not because helping isn’t of value to others, it just doesn’t work for me.

    Kudos to you for braving a difficult topic :)


  7. janrossico

    As a person who traveled to another city for WordCamp and then did it again near my own city and saw some of the same speakers I will tell you that the circuit speakers are a little lax. Even they get tired of their presentation and it really shows. At one of the WordCamps the person (a female) made sure we all knew she published a book and we saw that slide for quite some time. Then she talked in generalities about WordPress and only presented about 10 minutes of her actual presentation and ended with….well it’s all up on my website – just go there and pull the slides. Have a great day everyone! It was really bad. She just got complacent. I would encourage the local areas to really try hard and source locally first. Some of the circuit speakers are looking at it as a pitch fest and that type of meeting is not good.


  8. Ian Stewart

    If you’re a male WordCamp organizer, consider having one or more women be part of the conference organization group. A recent post by The Atlantic highlights a study that shows having just one woman on the organizing committee for a conference greatly increases the likelihood of women appearing at the front of the room.

    I shared this with my local WordCamp organizing committee. It’s a great tip.


  9. Caleb

    I plan on writing a full rebuttal to this article and would be happy to link back to this when I do, because honestly I have a lot of problems with it. In part this is because while I see the intention of encouraging more women to be active is there, it also includes some generally harmful assumptions and assertions that actually reinforces the problem. But in brief, I have one priority comment on the following section:

    “Our general policy is that we don’t consider the race, sex, religion, or any other factor of the speaker to play a part in our selection process.” If organizers are pressured to start selecting women speakers based on the fact that they are women, it would invalidate policies like the one referenced above.”

    This statement suggests a concept of blindness to diversity, which unfortunately is neither an anti-discrimination policy nor one committed to equal opportunity. By saying that the background of a speaker doesn’t matter, that the alternative experiences of living in the world as female, or as black, Hispanic, Asian, gay, transgender, disabled, all of the above, etc. doesn’t potentially contribute to a unique and essential point of view, you ultimately silence that point of view. The problem is saying that “it doesn’t matter” when no, actually, it really does matter. And ultimately, those who are relegated to the margins systematically in the first place remain on the sideline. Forever and ever in a damaging cycle of unequal opportunity.

    Which is why policies like this NEED to be invalidated. Until these “blind” policies are also recognized as damaging, the richness of diversified experiences will never be able to inform and educate within the walls of familiarity. The answer is simple and it’s this: Yes, we (men and women) should all be actively working to ensure diverse representation at the table.


  10. Morten Rand-Hendriksen

    Harvard Business Review just published a huge piece on how to get more women to speak at conferences and why this is so important. The article includes recommended steps to get a more representative group of speakers. http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/01/theres-no-excuse-for-all-white-male-panels/


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