Gender Biased Newsweek Article on Unconferences

This week was a great week for unconferences with the publishing of a two page article in Business Week. I was debating weather I would blog about the clear gender bias I felt in reading the article. However since Chris brought it up I thought I could chime in too.

I did want to take issue with his singling me out of “two fellow Web2Open organizers”, and bring some attention to gender blindness in media stories such as this one.

And I’m sure that Scott didn’t intend any malice, but that Ross and Tara, who both stood on those chairs with me went unnamed strikes me as a missed opportunity to highlight not only the hard work that lots of folks have put into building this community, but in particular undermines the credit that Tara deserves for the incredible amount of work that she did to make Web2Open happen. If anyone, she’s the one that really deserves to be called out in the article.

I wrote several well linked e-mails to Scott regarding Open Space and the unconference work I have been doing in identity community including sort of unbelievably at the ITU and in other tech contexts. I also spoke to him for about 45min at Web2.0 Expo regarding this work. He chose to quote Doug Gold extensively and not mention me even though I have facilitated all of the Mass Events Labs unconferences to date. I “the woman” doing the more feminine role of facilitation – a key part of what actually makes an unconference run was made invisible in the article. So there were two women who were closely related to this story Tara and myself and neither are mentioned.

Promoting women when they’re doing great things in the tech community has to become a top priority. Providing and seeking out the women who are serving in backbone roles within our community and bringing the spotlight to them and supporting them must become a shared priority. Working with women’s groups to create both inviting events and interesting opportunities to draw out and inspire the reluctant or hidden female talent is something that conference and *camp organizers alike must attend to.

Thank you for saying this Chris. It is really important that this “allyship” be more common.

I should hope, and moreover expect, that it would be the BarCamp community to take the first worldwide steps towards addressing this critical matter and setting some baseline priorities for how we’re going to improve this situation.

In this spirit of making *camp events welcoming I invite the *camp organizers and community to consider the nature of the ‘rules’ that are currently held up as those that *camp events should be guided by. Perhaps the ‘rule’ that everyone who comes MUST present is intimidating to people and perhaps particularly women who might come but are shy or unsure. In a culture where low self-esteme is so prevalent a more welcoming frame and ‘rules’ might encourage more women to experiment with coming to a *camp event. It may be as simple as including at least a reference on “the rules” page to Open Space and its guiding principles might alow some *camp organizers to experiment with more welcoming ‘rules’ or guidelines for their events.

Perhaps this whole thread can be a topic of conversation face-to-face at the SuperNova OpenSpace Workshop.

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