4 ways companies can improve gender diversity at tech conferences

Only 25% of speakers at tech conferences are women, according to an Ensono report.

4 ways companies can improve gender diversity at tech conferences

Women in tech have notoriously been underrepresented and underestimated in the tech field, which is reflected in their representation at tech conferences, according to an Ensono report released Tuesday. The report uncovers the lack of gender diversity in tech conferences, as well as the bad experiences women in tech have faced at these events.

SEE: Hiring kit: Chief diversity officer (Tech Pro Research)

Only 25% of speakers at tech conferences are women, which is no surprise, considering women only 20% of tech jobs are held by women, and the representation of US women in tech has remained stagnant over the past three years. The majority (70%) of the women who do sit on tech conference panels reported being the only female on the stage, the report added.

The lack of female representation on conference panels only perpetuates the gender diversity issue, the report found. Some 76% of women said they are more likely to attend a tech conference with a keynote speaker, panelist, or other programming that features a woman. And 94% of women who have attended tech conferences said female representation is crucial to have in keynote speaker lineups.

Unfortunately, women often don't feel comfortable attending these conferences. One in four women who have attended a tech conference reported experiencing sexual harassment, the report found. Some 41% of women also said they've had an experience at a tech conference that deters them from attending future events.

However, there are ways for companies to mitigate and prevent the problem. The report outlined the following four ways companies can be a part of the solution:

1. More engaged marketing departments: Marketing teams should make all employees aware of upcoming conferences and events that it plans to send employees to, and make opportunities to attend available to everyone. Teams can also celebrate and publicize the associates speaking at events, which might encourage more employees to attend.

2. Better training and preparation: The lack of women on panels is not due to lack of interest, the report found, but rather a lack of opportunity or preparation. Companies can help women by offering to pay for presentation training, or creating a mentorship to help women prepare to speak at events.

3. Internal code of conduct: Companies should form their own codes of conduct and require all employees to comply. There should be a clear explanation of consequences for inappropriate behavior, as well as information on steps to take if someone experiences or witnesses sexual harassment, the report said.

4. Associate support: Employers should offer additional support for employees representing the company at conferences. Whether the support includes days off to prepare for the conference, or paying for preparation materials, companies should make employees feel able to attend.

For a look ahead at the tech conferences coming this year, check out this TechRepublic article.

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