Sexism at WebDU

Mar
25
2007

As I have previous discussed this was my first . I was hoping that it was not going to be a “boys own web geeks club”. And thinking back on it now that I am sitting back here at home among those I hold dear, I think it was. I approximated while at WebDU that the percentage of female attendees was well below 5%. The room was just a male testosterone fest at some points.

As Katrina discusses there was a lot of sexist comments from the audience and speakers on the podium. Personally I didn’t find the adverts (case in point the Coldfusion one) offensive. As I took it in context of the 1950’s extreme stereotype that it projected.

However comments about people at the conference and other female attendees to me was just as disgusting. It was the level and type of sexism that would not be tolerated in a professional workplace. So why should it be tolerated at a professional web industry conference. The talk at the bar or later in the evenings is not what I’m discussing here. I’m not going to repeat the comments as I don’t want to embarrass the people they were directed towards.

It turned me off. To the point where I just couldn’t be bothered talking with some male colleagues at the conference (unless I knew them from before). Hence I think I may have over hassled any non-male at the conference a bit. Sorry if I did. I’m generally a social person I like to meet new people and talk. I feel very sorry for anyone that was offended by some of the comments, all I can say is that not all people at the conference where there for a geek testosterone fest.

I’ve said this before, but I also noted out of the wide range of talent (gender aside) only one female speaker could be found. This was frankly disgusting. I know there are a few star ColdFusion / Flex / and Flash non male gurus in Australia and New Zealand. Seems no one bothered to approach them that I know of.

(Edit – Clarfication : The Conference is not disgusting,  it’s the state of affairs, one female speaker,  surely the community can come up with more than that.  Come on stop leaving it to the organisers.)

Well we can’t change the attendees attitude, but we can change the environment and the presentation of what is cool by the industry leaders promoting the right attitude. We need the “Web Rock Gods” to lead the way on this one.

I know a lot of conferences run with a code of conduct, and at the speaker briefs (before the conference) they ensure people know what is acceptable and what is not. Forcing some speakers to redo slides or entire talks. This should be adopted across the board in the web industry

In answer to the criticism of the . Okay this is like web-geek open mic at the pub. The organisers have no idea what they are going to get. And to vet them would be unfair. The only way to stop some of the sexism at the webjam is to change the attitude in general.

So again I put out the call, what would help women attend these events.

Update: Kay Smoljak, veteran MXer has her say on the topic. With an interesting conclusion.

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