By virtue of being a woman in tech, the topic of diversity is one I end up discussing a great deal. I’m actually very happy to do so, even though I can’t claim to have all or even any of the answers. Although my role in the discussions is usually from the perspective of a woman, my true desire for diversity is all-encompassing – open and welcoming for everyone, including currently underrepresented minorities.
I’m proud to be an active member of the Eclipse community, and sometimes a little sad that I’m one of very few women at the conferences. Not on a personal level – I adore our community and always feel welcome. My sadness comes more from the question of “could we be taking steps to do better?“, and I believe that the answer is yes. Tracy Miranda gives an excellent coverage of why in her blog. From my own research, according to a microcensus from German office of statistics, 23.5% of IT workers in 2014 were women. Since we don't gather statistics on this for Eclipse Con Europe, I can't say where we are on this scale. Nevertheless, I believe that making IT communities more welcoming and diverse may contribute to encouraging diversity in the people choosing an IT career in the first place.
So when, at the EclipseCon Europe planning meeting this year, I was charged with coming up with a list of recommendations for improving diversity, I jumped at the opportunity. My first step was to ask some fantastic women in the community to join me on my quest. Even within a small group, we noticed that there is a lot to talk about – and also differing opinions on some aspects of diversity. Nevertheless, it wasn’t hard to find a list of things we agreed on:
- That diversity improvement is a long-term commitment. We are unlikely to achieve a large leap in women this year just because we’re starting to look at ways of encouraging diversity. But we need to start now, and we need to continually improve.
- That we recommend partnering the conference with organizations whose main focus is to encourage diversity (particularly gender-diversity). As well as showing a strong commitment, this also opens up the conference to new speakers and participants who may never have heard of it or considered coming.
- That we should find out what is stopping women from joining EclipseCon. This could take the form of a survey, and we will also be organizing a diversity BOF to gather ideas and suggestions from within the community at EclipseCon.
- That we should make it easier for people to come with their children. We’re not sure how many people are affected by this, so our aim for this year is to offer a way for parents to self-organize via the EclipseCon website – either looking after each other’s’ children, or helping to coordinate and recommend local child-minders.
- To invite women keynote speakers.
- To offer a “rookie“ prize for new speakers.
- Continue with the mentor meetup and the speakeasy partnership
- To improve the marketing images used for the conference. At the moment, they don’t paint a very diverse picture – even less diverse than the truth!
- Have a diversity champion. What we’d really like to see is a person whose job or role it is to coordinate efforts and teach about diversity, someone who is a main point of contact for this. This is understandably more of a mid-term suggestion, and is also dependent on finance. But we’d like to see it happen.
It’s easy (ish) to come up with a list of suggestions. Making it happen can’t just take place within the bubble of the people who proposed it or even within the current community demographic - we need outside feedback and insights.
So here’s the part where everyone gets to participate and do their bit:
- If you know of reasons why women (or other minorities) do not come to EclipseCon, tell us.
- If you have an idea or a suggestion, let us know.
- Spread the word – we are actively recruiting women participants and women speakers for EclipseCon Europe. We can offer mentoring for speakers who request it. I’m sure that there are many women out there using and working with Eclipse for their projects – let’s get them involved. Use your networks!
There is an Eclipse Mattermost group about Diversity under:
This is the place to add your suggestions and comments – I encourage you to help get new faces into our awesome community.