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4 min

Fireside Chats: Making Women Welcome

Words in different languages in blackboard.
Written by
Edafe Onerhime
Published on
October 24, 2018

Hello and welcome readers to our Open Heroine fireside chat on making women welcome. I’m Edafe Onerhime, speaker and veteran attender of events.

Joining me are Heroines:

  • Kate Vang, Data Scientist at ONE Campaign and Chapter Lead at DataKind UK
  • Ayomide Faleye, Research Analyst at BudgIT Foundation
  • Dama Sathianathan, Tech for Good at Bethnal Green Ventures and during the day — ICT4D London and Open Charity at night
  • Mor Rubinstein, Founder of Open Heroines, Data Labs and Learning manager at 360giving. Board member at Open Data Kosovo, Editorial board at State of Open Data
  • [Anon] contributors

Edafe: Diversity. Inclusion. We’re talking about it. We’re campaigning for it. We know it’s a good thing for events, but what can event organisers practically do to make women welcome at events? And when I say women, I mean all women — women of colour, women with disabilities, femmes (non-binary who present as women), women who find themselve the only one in the room. So Heroines, what can event organisers do to make more women welcome?

Anon: I think you are likely to get a bigger ethnic profile by hosting in diverse cities — London, Birmingham.

Kate: We hosted Becca Bunce last week in our office who gave an amazing talk about inclusive campaigning. One tip I learned from her: in sending out communications about events, always be very explicit about the accessibility to the venue so that people don’t have to follow-up separately. Is it accessible? Are the toilets accessible? Information is power!

Ayomide: As Kate mentioned, when communicating information, it is very important to be very explicit. Break down every detail of [event] information in the simplest way. It helps to avoid a lot of back and forths.

Dama: This might be minor, but sometimes it’s annoying if you’re the only minority and end up being the diversity picture (e.g, official conference photographer taking your picture time and time again). I find it quite helpful when people mention that there will be photographs taken and that you can let someone know if you don’t like your picture to be taken.

Edafe: This is a great time to mention the awesome methods used by EasterCon. Your attendee badge can be colour coded to say “No photos”, “Please keep your distance” etc. I loved these options.

Dama: Other points, if it’s not an accessible venue, commit to crowdsourcing other venue options for accessibility.

Mor: Also, state if you have breastfeeding room / babysitter for the little ones. It will help so many women to join the conference knowing that there are facilities like these! (and dads too!)

Edafe: And while you’re at it, let’s talk about ticketing to encourage diversity.

Dama: For ticketing, allocate a minimum of 20% [to encourage a more diverse audience] and reach out to groups and networks to promote tickets for events. For example, if it’s a tech conference in the UK allocate discount tickets to groups like YSYS, POC Tech, Muslim Makers, UK BlackTech, Adaslist to name just a few.

Mor: Check the calendar to see that your event is not clashing with a major non-Christian holiday. We did it in the past to determine Open Data Day.

Dama: [Consider a] Pay as you Forward ticketing option, similar to what Mozfest does. Money generated from that fund should go into providing travel budgets for people who might otherwise not be able to join.

Edafe: OK, let’s talk about women speakers. Any tips?

Dama: Provide info on seating for panellists and mic info. Getting mic-ed up when you’re wearing a dress and sitting on a bloody high chair is annoying.

Edafe: Oh my gosh! I’d completely forgotten how annoying the skirt and high chair thing is!

Dama: Yeah, I was at an inclusive tech event last week (the irony) and the AV guy had to lend the female speaker his belt so he can attach the lapel mic to her.

Mor: It’s also a skirt and low chair. In general, conferences are not really good with furniture.

Dama: And commit to gender balanced panels.

Edafe: Thanks so much Heroines! Now here’s a request — do you have tips for event organisers we haven’t covered? Get in touch and let’s make this fireside chat even more useful.

Here’s a list of resources to find amazing women speakers:

And here’s a summary:

Tip 1: Consider hosting events in more ethnically diverse locations — make it easy for women from diverse ethnicities to attend

Tip 2: Don’t make women follow-up seperately about accessibility — be upfront with the information

Tip 3: Be explicit — provide a good level of detail to avoid back and forth conversations

Tip 4: Let women know pictures will be taken and give them the option to opt out

Tip 5: There’s no excuse for not having options for accessibility to your venue — ask for help finding options if you need them

Tip 6: Allocate a minimum of 20% for a more diverse audience and get in touch with groups who support women, disabled persons and ethnic minorities to encourage attendees

Tip 7: Make sure your event is not clashing with a major non Christian holiday

Tip 8: For paid tickets, consider a pay-it-forward model that funds travel for women who can’t otherwise afford to attend

Tip 9: Provide information on seating — and check the seating is comfortable for women who wear skirts / dresses

Tip 10: Commit to gender balance on panels — invite and support women speakers!

Tip 11: Let parents know if you provide breastfeeding or babysitting facilities to make your events child friendly and family friendly

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