Growth in Diversity


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Tarek Ziadé recently announced the schedule for the Python track at FOSDEM 2013, where he’s one of the organizers. They have some interesting talks lined up by some excellent speakers, so if you’re going to FOSDEM, be sure to check them out.

The bigger part of the post is about a complete lack of women speakers. Namely, it’s about how I edited his blog post before publishing it on the PyCon blog.

Jumping ahead to the last sentence in his post gets to the answer of why I did what I did. With PyCon, we’ve diversified our speaker list through a lot of effort, and a great set of allies.

There’s a reason we went from one woman on the PyCon 2011 schedule to six in 2012. There’s also a reason we went from six to at least 22 for 2013. We didn’t do it through words, but through actions.

We experienced that growth thanks in part to the proliferation of women’s technology groups and the relationships we’ve built with them. By reaching out and involving these groups, we’ve seen not only a rise in women on stage, but a noticeable increase in women in the audience.

Rather than saying “everyone is welcome, specifically women”, we’re trying to achieve an environment that is fair and equal. To do that, PyCon has been consistent in targeting an audience that includes everyone. I went back through many pages of posts on the PyCon blog, to early 2011, and we’ve stuck to this stance.

Even though 22 speakers sounds so much better than 6, read that again, only with more detail: 22 women on a schedule of 114 talks and 32 tutorials.

That really sucks. We’re not going to see that number increase to 35, 40, 45, or hopefully higher in 2014 by mentioning “women, too”. We’re going to see that growth by ensuring women feel like first class citizens in our community. That goes for within PyCon, Python, all of technology, and on and on.

On one hand, it’s great that we’ve seen this growth in PyCon. I’m happy for what the community has done to welcome this growth, and I’m happy for the people who helped achieve this growth. Most of all, I’m happy for the individuals who are a part of this growth.

On the other hand, what the hell is wrong with us that we can only get 22 women on the schedule? The answer has roots in a lot of stuff far away from and a lot earlier in the process than conferences come in, but we can and will do better.

We will continue to push for diversity by engaging groups that work with underrepresented areas of our community. As these partnerships blossom and new groups sprout, we will continue to engage them in hopes of realizing further growth. All the while, we will continue to market our conference to everyone.

I think I speak for the organizers in stating that while we’re happy with the growth trends we’re seeing, we’re not going to be satisfied until we’ve reached and maintain equality. Our community deserves it.


One thing I will apologize for is that I did not notify Tarek of the change to his post. I did it on my own because I had that change made to my posts years ago, and I’ve learned what I think are better ways to reach and incorporate women. I should have communicated my thoughts and worked with Tarek, but I did not. For that, I’m sorry.

Contents © 2014 Brian Curtin