- While attending tech events, 39% of women who delivered keynote speeches at tech conferences in the last year say they have been sexually harassed, according to Ensono's Speak Up 2020 report, which surveyed 500 women in the U.S. and U.K. who attended tech conferences in the last 12 months. In the last year, 29% of women attending tech conferences experienced harassment.
- Almost six in 10 women of color said they experienced discrimination at a tech conference, compared to 43% of white women. Nearly two-thirds of women keynote speakers said they experienced discrimination firsthand at tech conferences.
- Women made up just 28% of keynote speakers at tech conferences over the last three years, according to the company's review of 18 global tech conferences. Women of color constitute just 8% of keynote speakers.
Tech events signify opportunities for professional development. For talent-starved tech executives, they provide an avenue to build skills among existing staff. Public speaking and peer interaction give tech workers a more robust professional profile, yet these spaces have grappled with issues of inequality.
The pivot to virtual events amid the coronavirus pandemic could help level the playing field, but not without intentional steps to make them safe, according to Lin Classon, VP of public cloud product at Ensono.
"Looking internally at initiatives, companies can create codes of conduct specific for virtual events that establish appropriate behavior and outline clear steps for reporting discrimination or sexual harassment," said Classon in an email.
Eliminating in-person interactions doesn't guarantee conferences can be safe spaces for women.
"Considering many people feel more comfortable being aggressive online than in-person, virtual meetings and networking events put female attendees in a vulnerable position, and employers need to ensure they equip their associates with the tools and resources to properly address any negative experiences," Classon said.
Virtual event organizers should learn from the faults of in-person events to improve the quality of experience for attendees, Classon said.
Clarification: Lin Classon is the VP, not director, of public cloud product at Ensono.