We Speak Too
I began a research project earlier this year that examined the gender gap in speakers at professional data and tech events in Washington, DC. The absence of women speakers was striking. In response I created the website wespeaktoo.org, a website that allows women and non-binary individuals in the DC region to indicate their interest in speaking at such events and their background.
In the short span of nearly two months, over 70 people have added their information and the effort has received much local press attention (http://dcist.com/2016/12/this_data_scientist_showed_that_wom.php; http://dcinno.streetwise.co/2016/11/09/can-a-new-website-end-tech-meetup-sexism-in-dc/; http://technical.ly/dc/2016/11/09/gender-diversity-speaking-events/). It has also been used the local event organizers to field women speakers.
With this grant I hope to accomplish three things:
(1) Improve the website and maintain its growth. I built this website in a single afternoon of frustration. This grant would allow me to improve the look and experience of the website, making it easier to find and contact individuals on the list as well as add information.
(2) Grow the website to other cities. I have been working with women in Austin and Boston to create versions of wespeaktoo.org for their cities. This grant would allow me to expand the website to other cities, both through working with local advocates and redesigning the website to accommodate multiple cities.
(3) Expand the website to include a focus on improving the community aspects of tech and data professional events. WeSpeakToo has a double meaning - first that women can, and should, be speaking professionally and second that women speak amongst themselves about negative experiences at these events, such as not being taken seriously or being hit on. These experiences are unacceptable and further discourage women from being a part of the data and tech professional scene. All such events should have Code of Conducts to set guidelines and act upon unallowable behaviors. These negative experiences, and particularly their frequency, is often underappreciated by men. This new addition to the website would anonymously collect women's experiences and visualize them as well as provide resources on code of conduct best practices.
The presence of women at data and tech professional events is central to building and maintaining the pipeline. They provide a space for networking, establishing a professional 'brand', and connecting with recruiters. The goal of this project is to track and increase women's presence at such events. This has already started, but with the help of this grant I hope to expand with improved website functionality and design, growth to other cities, and a new focus on creating safe spaces for everyone at professional events.