Conferences, Code of Conducts, and Being #ThatWoman

Kissing tiger cubs
Credit: Flickr / Tambako The Jaguar

Like a lot of people, I took the Code of Conduct pledge (so I was really pleased to see GHC add one this year), firstly because I see it as a sign that the event is committed to making it a welcoming space for women, and I do really only want to attend events where that is the case. Secondly, because I want to support the general idea that events should have Code of Conducts.

A common thing to hear when organisers are thinking about a Code of Conduct is that it can be taken as a sign that things do happen there and make people more worried about stuff happen.

This blows my mind, because as a woman in a male dominated industry I’ve found the default to be that something happens. I expect something to happen. That doesn’t mean that it’s something appalling, or dangerous, or that I am constantly braced for it (although in certain situations or after a bad run of events I have totally been in this place – and it is not healthy). It usually mean that whenever something does happen, I’m unsurprised.

Honestly, the surprise is usually when the organisers deal with it really well.

I have called out things to organisers at three conferences. Two as a speaker, one as an attendee. Every time, I’ve been really happy with how things were dealt with and found the experience reassuring.

The Code of Conduct may have little effect on what happens. The process and rationale for calling things out is the valuable part. And for me at least, a well handled minor incident actually makes me feel safer than nothing at all.

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