Web devs welcome in Wellington at WDCNZ

by Emily Fatali on May 17, 2011

WDCNZ is tech talks for web developers happening on July 14. You can tell it’s a proper tech talk, because there is only one female speaker in the lineup, and so far there are no females attending according to Lanyrd, except for the organiser. Sigh.

Apart from the lack of female representation, it looks like a great one day conference. For $269, you get 16 speakers doing 12 presentations, which is way sweet, and there are lots of friends of the ‘ista represented in the lineup…

I also want a pony. And to go along.

Robyn May 20, 2011 at 12:24 am

You can tell it’s a proper tech talk, because there is only one female speaker in the lineup, and so far there are no females attending according to Lanyrd, except for the organiser. Sigh.

I was idly thinking today, is it worth supporting conferences that hardly have any women speakers? Even the world of film and television, which can be a bit shit and sexist, still manages to have a good lady-man ratio. And yet with web, stuff like *this* happens all the time.

It made me think – should I support a conference that appears to have only got one female speaker, or is it a sign that it’s a male-dominated industry (and therefore unbalanced and no fun) and so I should stick to working in a more mixed industry?

keith May 20, 2011 at 11:53 am

Obviously I approach this conversation with trepidation, being a guy, but surely withdrawing support for conferences that underrepresent women speakers (absence overt evidence of them being sexist dicks about it) only makes the problem worse?

Personally I’d love to see more women speaking at conferences. I bet the WDCNZ folks would too. But if I were organising a dev conference I have to admit I would have a very short list of female hackers I could approach. I know of two, and one’s in Europe.

I’m not saying that’s anyone’s problem but mine, but my point is that I know I don’t know many female hackers, but I don’t know _who_ I don’t know. So who is out there? Who aren’t conference organisers asking? What else can they/we do to make speaking at conferences more attractive?

There are doubtlessly some assholes out there, but I think on the whole the Wellington web community would be absolutely delighted to big-up its female members. How can we make that happen?

Joanna May 20, 2011 at 11:59 am

I saw on Twitter that they were replying “Well no female developers volunteered”. I wonder how many of the people speaking approached them, as opposed to being approached.

keith May 20, 2011 at 12:12 pm


Yeah, that’s some bullshit.

Owen Evans May 20, 2011 at 8:57 pm

@Joanna, yes that was a very quick reply as I’m on holiday in the UK at the moment, in hindsight perhaps not the best time to try and formulate thoughts into 140 characters.

I’ve explained a little below, but there are a number of presenters who came from volunteering, and submitting talks to our call for topics which was publicised for a month before we finalised the speaker list.

John C Barstow May 20, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Really, it’s not that hard to find them, as Geek Feminism points out tirelessly.


And Brenda Wallace created a site just for that purpose: http://geekspeakr.com/

If it was actually important to them, ten minutes on Google would have found plenty of potential speakers – but it’s clear they don’t even see the problem, let alone a solution.

keith May 20, 2011 at 11:59 am

And a pre-emptive apology: I bet you’re sick of having to explain this to well-meaning but clueless men, and I’m sorry for making you go around again.

Owen Evans May 20, 2011 at 9:07 pm

I would hope that people would come to a technical conference because the topics on show are interesting and educational.

I’m happy for suggestions to make the conference better but if the content is not what people want then we’ve failed at the first hurdle.

I would hope that we can address the severe imbalance with time and forethought that we can put into a repeat conference, but even getting the current speaker list has been a monumental endeavour for this year.

I do hope you’ll attend and enjoy the conference and I’ll be making sure that we gather as much feedback as possible before the next event.

ideas can be sent to me directly or to suggestions@wdcnz.com

sue May 20, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Well if i look at a reverse event Handmade2011 – they have gone out of their way to get male presenters, becuase they don’t like and don’t think the stereotype of only women crafting/making things is valid.

So if a conference you’d expect to see dominated by women, goes out of it’s way to ensure that men are included, both as teachers and with streams that appeal to them, becuase they believe they are a better event by doing so.
So why can’t events that would stereotypically be male dominated in speaker line ups do the same?

John C Barstow May 20, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Webstock is held in Wellington, and never has any shortage of women speakers. Of course, they actively solicit female speakers when they put a conference together – I actually spoke to Mike and Natasha about this because the balance was unexpectedly a little off in 2011 due to cancellations.

Which is why just another reason Webstock is all kinds of awesome.

Owen Evans May 20, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Hey all,
First off let me say that the obvious lack of female speakers is a very valid point, and I’m glad it’s part of the narrative for the conference.

I’m not going to make excuses for the vastly male lineup for the conference but a bit of background.

WDCNZ was put together from an original germ of an idea to get a very technically focused conference, rather than the more ideas based conference of Webstock. As such when I thought about the possibility of putting together a conference I didn’t think I’d have to do it in a matter of weeks. But it turns out I had some friends in high places who were also thinking the same thing and wanted something put together on a much shorter timetable.

I must admit that putting together the conference the speaker list came less from trying to redress any balance in the sexes in what is an already gender-imbalanced field, but rather to redress the more easily fixable technology myopia that comes about in technical conferences all too often.

I therefor reached out to a few people I knew in all the different web technology fields (Ruby, .NET, Python, PHP) and opened up submissions for speakers. There are a few of the speakers who were picked solely because they submitted a talk, not because I knew them personally.

I also reached out to a number of international speakers to try and get them across, and focused on people actually cutting code, not on those who work in design or any of the other fields beyond software development.

So while I’m sorry there aren’t more speakers who are female, I am happy to say I met my first requirement which was to bring technologists from many different languages together,

We’d be happy to take suggestions as to who we should get to talk at next years event (of course having a next years event relies on this years event being successful).

This is my first conference I’ve put together, hopefully I get to redress this all next year.


Joanna May 20, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Thanks very much for responding to this Owen, I may have more coherent thoughts tomorrow, but initially, I do really understand the difficulty of finding a lot of women in tech, based on my search for female developers in my current CMS of employment.

Owen Evans May 20, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Just a quick point that if anyone wants to provide constructive ideas to help us out for next year (people we should approach and encourage) please send them through to me directly or to suggestions@wdcnz.com

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