Presentation WISE women in computer science

But Unfortunately, As You Know, People

Credit: Wikimedia
We’ve been relatively public with Technically Speaking about our commitment to inclusivity. We only include conferences with a Code of Conduct, and we heavily weight whether travel costs are covered in our consideration.

There is something we haven’t talked about (although I touched on it a little in this podcast). A Code of Conduct is not a high bar of inclusion, and as a result we absolutely do blacklist people and events (that meet these standards) from inclusion. Clearly, this system is fallible – it is our best effort, and unfortunately that is insufficient.

If we see things happening, we highlight them and will not include that event again. For instance, in January of 2016, we included Lambda Conf – before they went full Nazi apologizer. We highlighted the trashfire in March and April and will obviously not be including that event again.

If problematic people are associated with an event, we do not include it. An event we included the past two years was not included this year because they invited a person who attacked me personally, and extremely viciously another woman. Notably after good representation of women in recent years, they reported that no women applied for 2017. We have also excluded other events because of their association with this person.

If a problematic person wrote something, we will not include it. There are certain high profile men who despite the fact that everyone knowns continue to get a platform. We don’t feel the need to include them in ours.

But we don’t know everything and sometimes we include things only to find out after the fact. Whisper networks are not global, they are local. Whilst in particular affinity communities or locales everyone knows about that guy, often it doesn’t make it further out. The consequences for the victims speaking out are typically more severe than the people they speak out against, and many – understandably, rationally – choose not to.

As someone who was harassed, for – of all things – refusing to speak at an event without a proper Code of Conduct, I know what it is like to be reminded of the event. There were people who I had to mute or unfollow on Twitter because there is never a good day to see someone I used to like, who is aware of what happened, with their arms around that person taking a cute selfie. Sometimes people tag us in tweets together and that is invariably a horrible surprise.

When it comes to harassment, there is no neutral, there is only tacit acceptance of the perpetrator.

We endeavour for active support of all victims. And where we fall short, we apologise.


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