5 things women in tech want to see at an event

Holly Brockwell
clock • 5 min read

'The fact that women want to be treated equally doesn't mean we all have the same needs, and it definitely doesn't mean we have the same needs as men.' Holly Brockwell discusses how tech events need to change

The fact that women want to be treated equally doesn't mean we all have the same needs, and it definitely doesn't mean we have the same needs as men.

There's been lots of discussion over the last few years about how to create events that are welcoming and inclusive for women in tech. But as ever, it's better to talk to women than about them, so we asked the women of Twitter to tell us exactly what they want to see from an event - whether it's one designed specifically for women or for everyone.

Here's what they said.


1. A code of conduct (CoC)

As the brilliant Ashe Dryden puts it in her indispensable Code of Conduct 101:

"To be considered an adequate code of conduct, it must have four complete parts:

● statement of unacceptable behavior
● how the policy will be enforced
● how and whom to make an incident report to
● training and reference materials for organizers, staff, and volunteers on how to respond to incident reports."

Game designer Jennifer Scheurle told us "I'm straight-up not going to conferences anymore without a decent code of conduct that is easily accessible."

Software engineer Samathy Barratt adds, "The biggest one is having a real enforceable CoC which details what one needs to do, how they can do it and what action is taken. And remind everyone that you have a CoC at the start of the day."

But of course, just paying lip service isn't enough. Character artist Shay wants to know where to go if someone breaks the code: "I would want it to be made clear where i could go privately if [the CoC] is breached. Sometimes you can't just go to any event helper or security guard with an issue. I would feel calmer knowing there was someone explicitly that I could go to."

Finally, software engineer Kelly Ellis points out that it's important to report violations and reinforce that your event's code of conduct is actually being enforced - "I want to know the CoC is upheld and isn't meaningless."


2. A comfortable temperature

Women are constantly undermined at work by freezing air con temperatures which not only leave us shivering at our desks, but actively impairs our thinking.

The same goes for conferences. Designer-developer Jessica VanDusen explains, "I was at a conference where one only room in a huge conference centre was freezing. No idea why, but it made it nearly impossible to pay attention to the talk."

Kelly Ellis adds, "I'm at a tech conference right now and it's a huge issue for me. It's so cold in there, and I didn't bring a jacket (just a dress with no tights) that I decided to skip the keynotes. I can't even absorb information when I'm that uncomfortable."


3. A distinct lack of 'manels'

No surprises here: women in tech would really rather not see the male-and-pale panels that make up the ManelWatch Twitter account. As UX specialist Fiona MacNeill puts it, "If you cannot build a representative panel then you are asking the wrong questions and should change or bin the idea."

On a similar note, digital marketer Emily says " there should be ZERO assumption of someone's credentials or capabilities based on gender" because "getting to a tech event and immediately being talked down to [because] I'm a woman is a common occurrence."

UI engineer Stephanie Vacher makes the excellent point that dress codes should also be carefully considered: "no sexist/racist dress codes (natural hair is allowed, makeup is not mandatory, not forced to wear heels)."

And finally, games composer Zofia Domaradzka would like to request a women's cut of the free conference t-shirts. Preferably not in sizes XS and XXL with nothing in between...!

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