As a panelist addressing entrepreneurship, it was a privilege to be a part of the agenda. As an industry veteran I was pleased by the number of women I saw on panels, in the halls, and as keynotes. It appeared to me that almost one third of the speakers were women. Cool and good on you SXSW for getting women to the party!
- We are the consumers of the technology: 55% of all "social gamers" are female and women comprise 56.2% of Facebook’s audience
- We are increasingly the founders and CEOs of these companies: last year 12% of venture capital went to women CEOs and Founders in both the US and UK; and we are the fastest growing sector of new venture creation in the U.S. (50% of all new companies were started by women), growing at five times the rate of all new firms.
- We are going to be the inventors of the technology in the future: in 2008 women were 57% of the undergraduate degrees, 18% of the Computer and Information Science degrees, and 15% of the Computer Science degrees; and 28% of computer scientist were women. (source: NCWIT)
There were some really basic things that should not be done at a professional conference that wants to attract diverse talent. Period. If we really want women and minorities to come to the party, the party must change. And I do not mean political correctness run amuck. I mean real change that includes some basic respect for people’s differences and what will or will not make them feel a part of the community.
I am going to make a HUGE assumption here that people would like to see more diversity at gatherings like South By. With that is mind, I thought I would get the conversation started by highlighting what I think SXSW did well and where they left me out.
What they did well:
- Every panel I visited had at least one woman.
- There were two female keynotes (one more than I have ever seen at a comparable conference) that drew big crowds.
- SXSW gets it that people need to connect in person and create real relationships that will last. This message resonates with women; we value our relationships and will invest time and energy in them.
- The program book was thoughtful enough to recommend I wear comfortable shoes (although I love my heels).
- Crowd sourcing of panel topics and speakers: the impact was that you hosted relevant conversations where women were represented.
Where they left me out:
- A corporate sponsor missed it when the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders were the headlined guests. Really? Really?
- Speaking of sponsor’s value alignment: Miller Light as a sponsor? Nothing screams college party quite the way that beer does.
- The emphasis on night-time activity came off as more college party than comfortable networking space.
- I leave it to my Latino / Latina friends to comment on the bag tag that said “nothing worth stealing in here, amigo” (included in the schwag bags). I won’t be using mine.
- Where were the female VCs? I know a lot exited their partnerships this year, but none?
- Crowd sourcing of panel topics and speakers: a not so great way to source topics from under-represented groups in technology.
I would like to hear from you – all of you – especially my female counterparts who found it difficult to find their own voices at SXSW and asked me to speak up. We each need to own our voice if we intend to create the change we desire.