How Can You Add More Diversity to Your Tech Conference

Last Updated on October 7, 2021

The notion that the tech industry has a diversity problem is right up there alongside “water is wet” in terms of startling revelations. By now, mentioning the issue of gender, race, and culture inclusivity in tech seems akin to beating a dead horse. Everybody already knows the problem exists, and they’re getting sick of hearing about it – but no one seems willing (or able) to fix it.

As an event management professional in the tech sector, you’re in a unique position to bring about change. After all, your events are (presumably) the place where influencers from all over the industry go to meet up with one another.  If they see you and your staff making an effort to be more inclusive, there’s no reason to think they won’t follow suit – especially if the alternative is to be ostracized from their peers. 

Institute Severe Policies Against Discrimination

Here’s the thing – your job is to act as a host to all your guests. Like any good host, you need to be capable of recognizing when someone’s presence is disruptive. Like it or not, harassment of any type (be it racial, sexual, or cultural) is one of the most disruptive situations any guest can possibly find themselves in; few things make someone feel more unwelcome than being singled out for the color of their skin or the biological make-up of their body.

For this reason, you need to make sure you’ve instructed your staff to institute a zero-tolerance policy against harassment in all its forms. Got a volunteer who cracked a culturally-insensitive joke? Fire them. A security guard who’s harassing someone because of their skin color? Report them to the firm for unprofessional conduct.

Even if a joke seems harmless to you, it might not be for someone else. Remember that.

Cover Topics Related To Inclusivity

Believe me, if you want to talk about diversity in Silicon Valley, there’s no shortage of topics to address. You could examine how people like Anita Sarkesian, Zoe Quinn, or pretty much anyone who dared to be a woman in gaming are silenced through derision, insults, or outright threats. You could look at how “white” is still considered the default in pretty much all forms of media. You could speak about the continued discrepancy in pay between female and male developers, or the role women and people of color have played in the history of tech.

My point here is that there’s plenty you can talk about, if you’re willing to do a bit of digging. While you’re at it, why not put out an anonymous call for proposals, as well?

Invite Proponents Of Inclusivity To Your Events

There are plenty of speakers and organizations out there who are fighting constantly to overcome the barriers in the tech sector. Ask around – you’ll probably find at least a few who are willing to attend your conference, regardless of what sort of stuff you’re covering. As an added bonus, their presence there will likely encourage a more diverse crowd to attend, as well, while encouraging active discourse.

It’s old news that Silicon Valley has a serious problem with diversity – an elephant in the room that’s been around so long we’re growing accustomed to it. What makes it such a difficult issue, I think, is that it’s a problem that can’t be solved by one person. If we’re to see real change, then everyone needs to do their part.

Event management is a whole lot more inclusive than it used to be, of this there can be no doubt. That does not, however, mean that the fields in which event planners operate aren’t still experiencing growing pains. As an event planner working in tech, you should consider yourself as much a part of the tech industry as the event industry – which means you’re going to face all of the challenges that entails.

Mind you, you’re in something of a unique position. Events are one of the most central components of tech – they’re how we get some of the best news, how we network; how we communicate. What that means is that you’ve the power to become an agent of change.

Whether or not you do is entirely in your hands.