An alternative to affirmative action
Affirmative action is bootstrapping. We’d love to eventually have an organic, natural balance of gender represenation in all roles, but in the meantime, we may need to force the balance. That’s affirmative action.
If you run a conference, you could choose to bootstrap your selection process in this way. However, explicitly setting aside speaker spots for women is bound to start a heated debate about whether affirmative action is fair, and whether it achieves its goals.
Whether you feel affirmative action is unfair or not, the fact is some people percieve it as unfair. There is an alternative: to actively encourage women to submit conference proposals, especially to conferences that have blind selection processes.
As an industry, we could insist on taking affirmative action. Or we could jump over the topic of affirmative action entirely by instead actively and aggressively encouraging women to submit talk proposals to conferences.
This brilliant, so-obvious-why-has-no-one-else-done-it idea was recently executed and blogged about by Courtney Stanton:
The easiest way I saw for getting more women on stage at the actual event was to get as many women to submit speaking proposals as possible.
So our call to action is now clear: recruit as many women as possible to submit talk proposals to as many tech conferences as possible.