A hot topic running around at the moment is the revisiting of the gender imbalance at major designer conferences. This issue had its flames fanned by Kottke, expounded by Eric Meyer, cross germinated to Zeldman, and ended up with Jeremy Keith and Nick Finck also joining the fray. So what's this really all about ? Gender ? Representation ? Or the fact we've got the same people always frequenting the podiums of the major web conferences around the world ?
Firstly, let's deal with the background statistics. Within the Australian IT industry, it is a male dominated domain, and women, by and large, do not progress down the IT or web focus field. This is reflected worldwide in approximate 10% figure regarding representation I've seen over at Joomla! and confirmed by various figures and studies from conferences given in the links above.
Yet the whole reason we see the same people giving the same or similar presentations, with small iterative steps between each version of the presentation, is that the A-list hasn't changed. Surely, as a web industry, there is the capacity for new blood to provide innovative and new directions towards web issues. The fact most of these issues relate to representation and having a voice within the web community also means that women, should, by and large, continue to gain a larger market share of the podium and mike space at these established conferences, the more the trend curve regarding adoption shifts towards a more balanced view of society and gender balance.
Eric Meyer is, unfortunately, right in this respect. It's not in his best interest to get B or C list presenters for his conferences. The only solution to this that I can see is that we equip our up and coming web designers and developers to deliver A grade performances, capable of showing innovative and clear direction in regards to the web for the future.
The challenge therefore is to blood new talent and to do it well, so that web conferences around the world have a wider array of choices as to who they fit on their tickets. The fact web adoption by women is a growing trend also will mean there is a larger talent pool to start with.
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