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Friday, May 5, 2017

New data shows only 25% of speakers at tech events are women

New data shows only 25% of speakers at tech events are women
Part 1 of a series examining the gender gap in the tech industry
by Sandi MacPherson

Last Saturday, I had an idea.

It was prompted by a problem that I often encounter when creating content for my company Quibb. Others content folks I know (i.e. event organizers, writers, panel moderators, podcast creators, etc.) industry regularly ask me about it as well…

How do we find more great women contributors and speakers?

As a startup founder, I’m a fan of small actions that yield big results. I’m all about leverage. So in thinking about potential solutions to the problem of low representation of women speakers at tech events, one fix seemed the most reasonable — a directory of women in tech who are interested in speaking at industry events.

To test out interest in this idea, I created a quick Google Form, and posted it to Twitter.

In the past 10 days, over 850 women have added their names, all interested in being listed in the directory and speaking at tech industry events. Some amazing women from Google, Kickstarter, Pinterest, Facebook, BuzzFeed, Twilio, and many other impressive companies have added their names, from software engineers to CMOs.

Pretty great.

Stepping Back

Before going into exactly why I think this is a high-leverage project, and details on what the end product will be (that’ll be a separate post, or two), I wanted to understand the current numbers and establish a baseline. So, with a couple of hours on Sunday night, I set out to answer the following question:

Of the big, notable tech industry events currently happening in the Bay Area, what percentage of speakers are women?

Which tech industry events?

I reviewed the following list of 25 top-notch conferences in a 1y period in the Bay Area. They are hosted by a variety of startups, incubators, and big tech companies, and cover several sub-industries within the broader tech industry (e.g. AdTech, VC, Design, UX, Bitcoin, On-Demand), along with those I’d classify as role-specific, and general ‘tech industry’ events.


Here are the results of my tallies from the Speaker pages of the listed conferences, in order of lowest percentage of women speakers to highest:

Also, a histogram showing distribution of the 25 events based on percentage of women speakers looks like this:

Interactive version here:

Overall % of women speakers at Bay Area tech industry events

The Average of the above percentages is 26.8%, with a Median of 26.1%.

The total overall Average (sum of women at all 25 events / sum of speakers at all 25 events) is 25.0%.

Optimistically, this data shows that the current baseline for Bay Area tech conferences looks something like this:

However, considering the speaker pages of the various events often include the journalists leading the panels and interviewing the experts, the baseline might actually look a bit different…

What’s next?
Women working in the tech industry

If you’re a woman that works in tech who’d like to speak at industry events (or know someone that fits that description), here’s the Google Form to stay up-to-date on this project. If you’d otherwise like to help out, or know someone I should connect with, let’s chat on Twitter.

Event Organizers

If you’re an event organizer that’s trying to increase the number of women speakers at your event — please reach out on Twitter. I’d love to hear more about how you’re working on this, and how a directory could help.

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