Conferences make for an excellent way to educate, build new connections, acquire new knowledge and enjoy the company of like-minded people. Despite the spark and buzzing atmosphere, gender-inclusion is still lacking in these events.
Unfortunately, web3 is not immune to the unconscious bias that dominates society and the tech industry.
Unconscious gender biases are social stereotypes that are defined as unintentional and automatic mental associations based on gender, stemming from traditions, norms, values, culture and/or experience.
Why make Web3 conferences more gender inclusive?
According to this Harvard Business Review article, teams solve problems faster when they’re cognitively diverse.
Diverse teams also spark innovation and collaborate more efficiently.
Beyond this, creating a culture in which more and more folks feel comfortable in spaces increases overall growth of movements and spaces. Representation matters, and has been proven a strong reason why folks choose to adopt beliefs, systems, and more.
How to make Web3 conferences more gender-inclusive
There are many aspects to consider in regards to gender-inclusivity when planning an event.
Here is a list of what to consider:
- Code of Conduct
- Gender inclusive language
- Don’t create a ‘diversity’ track
- Offer non-alcoholic beverages
- Gender neutral bathrooms
- Offer childcare
- Diversify your speaker selection committee
- Offer economically accessible options
Establish an explicit code of conduct
It is important to let attendees know that they are safe. Reassure people that they are protected and it will not be overlooked should they experience any inappropriate behaviour. Emphasis should be placed on the code of conduct by including it in promotional material and with reminders during the conference.
This set of rules also makes it clear to your guests what to do and who to address about an issue. Upon entry to your conference, guests should read the code of conduct and sign the document to acknowledge their awareness of the conduct. Keep this on file.
It’s not enough to just have a code of conduct. You need to enforce it too. This means that there should be a standard procedure should anything occur. You should also give your employees adequate training on how to handle the issue sensitively and responsibly. Additionally, employees should be trained to answer common questions.
Check out these code of conduct examples: OURSA , donutjas & recurse
Gender inclusive language
When addressing people, make sure to be mindful of language. Rather than using terms such as “ladies and gentlemen” when greeting, address groups of people using terms such as “folks”, “everyone” or “friends”.
Being mindful of language makes people feel acknowledged, welcome and safe. Such an experience is motivating and will surely encourage all to participate!
Name (and pronoun!) tags
Everyone should be required to wear badges with their name AND pronouns, not just people who ‘need’ to.
Don’t create a ‘diversity’ track
Diversity tracks such as “Women and Non-binary speakers” are a major no-no. Though it may seem like a good way to bring unity, piling all groups of underrepresented people together is lazy and offensive. Inclusivity is about valuing difference. By grouping everyone together you assume that all underrepresented minorities are the same whilst consequently also othering them.
There is no need to create a ‘diversity’ track for an event that is actually diverse. People of all genders should be highly visible throughout your event.
Furthermore, give underrepresented people an opportunity to speak on any and all topics. Just because they are underrepresented doesn’t imply that they would like to speak on the topic. Acknowledge their other skills and give them a platform.
When planning a conference, look for venues with gender neutral bathrooms. If you cannot find a venue which meets this requirement, you can simply enforce that the bathrooms are gender neutral with signs that are temporarily placed for the duration of your event.
*insert pic / gender-neutral restroom sign with braille.
Offer non-alcoholic drinks
Make people who don’t drink alcohol feel welcome and do not question them about the reasons. This reduces the pressure to get drunk at your event whilst also making pregnant people and others experience certain medical conditions feel comfortable.
This, too, requires some effort. Having soda on offer is low-effort. A better approach is to have mocktails on offer that will surely add a positive experience to your event.
Drunk people more often cross boundaries of acceptable behavior and can be difficult to manage. So, you may want to consider not serving alcoholic beverages altogether.
Make water easy to access
When people have access to other refreshments they won’t be so inclined to alcoholic beverages. Provide bottles of water on tables or water dispensers with cups. If opting for water dispensers, make sure to always have cups available. A water dispenser with no cups is truly infuriating.
A big factor for many women and parents not attending conferences is that it can be hard and costly to organise childcare. On the other hand, some parents might prefer to remain close to their children. Write a blog post or announcement on your website explaining what sort of childcare will be offered at your event and with a section for frequently asked questions. To make sure that this information reaches everyone, consider sending a similar email to those who have purchased tickets.
Offering events at different times throughout the day ensures that parents are able to attend. Providing on-site childcare is also as necessary.
Diversify your speaker selection committee
The key to having a gender-inclusive panel of speakers is to start off with a diverse selection committee. As a committee, find ways to encourage diverse applications. You may need to boldly advertise that you are seeking diverse applicants.
Once you’ve selected your speakers, make sure to publish their preferred pronouns ahead of time. This allows people to be informed on how to correctly address people ahead of time and is another display of the effort being put into acknowledging important details.
Attracting a diverse audience
People won’t just come to your event because you want them to. Because of this you might end up with a diversity on stage but not in the audience. To reach the desired outcome of a diverse event you need to promote and connect across diverse channels.
Make the discussion about gender-inclusivity a part of the discussion as you promote your event. Let people know about your offerings, code of conduct and other plans to include them.
Use promotional content that represents diverse people
If your promotional content features real people, make sure it reflects the gender-inclusive essence your event is striving for. Media representation is very influential and could be the main factor which makes people decide to attend your event.
Offer scholarships and economically accessible options
When planning your event, keep in mind that not everybody has the same economic privilege. Women suffered more job loss than men during the pandemic, creating a widening the gender wage gap. Queer people also suffer significantly from the wage gape disparity.
Many women have noted that they often find the cost of attending conferences to be quite steep, therefore, they would not attend.
Economic accessibility can be implemented in a number of ways, such as:
Scholarships: These are very common for tech conferences to provide, however, they may not always be known about. Promote your scholarships across diverse channels and ensure that people are aware of the opportunity.
Various ticket options: Offering tickets at different prices for different selections of events gives more people
Hybrid events: During the pandemic, we saw a rise in virtual events. They proved to be very popular because they finally created an affordable way to attend events. By hosting a hybrid event, you give people the option to pay for only the virtual component of the event.
Inclusivity must start internally before it can be successfully promoted externally. Diversifying your event planning team will help you cover any blind spots and make you able to fully cater to the needs of a diverse crowd.
Be prepared to answer questions about your inclusivity policy, code of conduct and enforcement.
There are ample examples to learn from. Web3 can definitely learn from Web2’s success in creating gender-inclusive events. DevOpsDays London is a Web2 event to take notes from:
We all make mistakes but you should be determined to get it right the first time.
The solution to making web3 conferences more gender-inclusive requires a lot of work. There is no instant solution. Be prepared to be criticised, challenged and corrected. Be ready to rectify your mistakes.