Tech conferences play a significant role in the success and development of many big businesses. The networking, education, and communication that takes place at a tech conference facilitate business and personal growth. Attending a tech conference, regularly or even just once, can transform an individual’s career. For those in tech, these conferences are goldmines of opportunity.
However, when it comes to tech conferences, it’s unfortunately still a man’s world. Statistics show businesses are less likely to send their female employees to a tech conference than their male counterparts. And it’s not just businesses feeding this industry bias; in-person tech conferences are designed to cater to men rather than women.
As we transition into a new, uber digital era, we’re asking, does this style of online living and communication lend itself to equality?
Fortunately, our shift to digital living has encouraged better gender equality in the industry and left behind outdated unconscious biases. “Speak Up 2020: Redesigning Tech Conferences with Women in Mind”, an annual report that looks at attitudes towards gender at tech conferences, highlights promising, progressive changes relating to gender equality at tech conferences in 2020.
Ensono, the company behind the Speak Up report shone a light on the systematic struggles facing women at in-person tech conferences that discouraged them from returning. These struggles include no baby changing rooms for nursing mothers, inadequately sized podiums, and A/V equipment that is suited to traditional men’s clothing. Their research even found that 71% of women who have given keynote believe these conferences are designed with men in mind. In addition to this, 61% expressed that their company would be more inclined to send a man to a tech conference. These statistics make it clear that women in tech are facing overt and unconscious bias in their work environments.
A new era of virtual and hybrid events provides a beacon of hope for these outdated systems and attitudes towards women in tech. When the world went digital, those passionate about encouraging gender equality in the industry took the opportunity to encourage female attendance at tech conferences.
The introduction of online conferences enables women with young children to stay at home and participate in their children’s needs. Virtual and hybrid events also allow women to use their own tech equipment, helping them feel comfortable and confident with their resources. More women attending online conferences sets the president for women being valued and noteworthy participants in these events. Higher attendance from female workers is also inspiring companies to invest in and better equip their female employees in the way they do with their male counterparts.
Canapii data also showed that there was only a 2 – 4% difference when comparing the number of female and male attendees. These events typically had around 200-500 attendees. After analyzing a selection of these events there was no huge disparity between the number of female attendees compared to males, some events had more females than males attending. When comparing this data to face-to-face conferences, we noticed a significant difference. For example, one of Canapii’s largest clients previously had 75% male attendees and 25% females during their flagship conference before the pandemic. However, during their recent virtual event with the same number of attendees had 52% of female attendees and 48% male attendees. This clearly shows how virtual and hybrid events will mean greater inclusivity for women.
As the world faces another transition, and many in-person conferences begin again, employees, conference runners, and business owners are paying attention to their female associates. Instead of turning a blind eye to tech conference gender inequality, these establishments are hoping to maintain an upward trajectory of women speaking and attending tech conferences.