At the Linux App Summit I gave an unconference talk titles Hey guys, this conference is for everyone. The “hey guys” part refers to excluding people from a talk or making them feel uncomfortable – you can do this unintentionally, and the take-away of the talk was that you, (yes, you) can be better.
I illustrated this mostly with conversational distance, a favorite topic of mine that I can demonstrate easily on stage. There’s a lot of diversity in how far people stand away from strangers, while explaining something they care about.
The talk wasn’t recorded, but I’ve put the slides up.
Another side of diversity can be dealt with by statistics. Since I’m a mathematician, I have a big jar of peanuts and raisins in the kitchen. Late at night I head down to the kitchen and grab ten items from the jar. Darn, all of them are raisins. What are the odds!?
Well, a lot depends on whether there are any peanuts in the jar at all; what percentage is peanuts; whether I’m actually picking things randomly or not.
There’s a convenient tool that Katarina Behrens pointed me to, which can help figure this out. Even if there’s only a tiny fraction of peanuts in the jar, there’s an appreciable chance of getting one (e.g. change the percentage on that page to 5% and you’ll see).
While that site can be used to illustrate topics around small percentages of peanuts, if you look at the text it has more application to conference speakers. Hold up almost any conference speaker list against a reasonable estimate of a quality that speaker list might have, and you can sort-of-tell if the pipeline leading to that speaker list is selecting fairly.
Check out the speakers at QtWS 2019, where 22 of the 72 speakers are shown wearing glasses. Igor is wearing sunglasses. About half of all people wear glasses (er .. the statistics I can easily find are for the United States of America, other sources suggest around 40%), so plug that in to the diversity calculator and see what you get.
.. very unlikely that the speaker selection pipeline is unbiased about glasses.
I urge you to read the accompanying text on the conference diversity page; I have intentionally picked “innocuous” characteristics here, but that’s not what it’s really about.
We can be better.