...and here I thought all Ruby coders could be classed as I minority.
The British Ruby Conference has been cancelled, after a row started over allegations the speaker roster at the conference is insufficiently diverse. The row seems to have started with a tweet from Josh Susser, a chap who, among other things, organises the Golden Gate RubyConf. Susser's tweet was as follows: “Nice speaker …
So does this mean we have to have a quota of women, vegans, black, asian, native American, gay, bisexual, transgender, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Coptic, Buddhist, Catholic, disabled Ruby speakers for every event? Perhaps to have a real set of diverse speakers, we ought to have somebody who doesn't even know Ruby at all just to make sure we hit the fuckwit section.
Why does diversity have to be built in from the beginning for a sodding conference? The conference is about Ruby, not about meeting quotas, or political correctness. I marched with the Anti Nazi League in the late 70's, I helped organise LGBT meetings, I helped provide support for people with mental health issues. There's a time and a place for everything and Josh Susser is plain wrong here.
Does anybody really care about this? If I went to an event like this I'd want good speakers, I wouldn't want them selected because they weren't or were male or white or gay or black.
I have two young daughters and I am encouraging them to study science and maths and so far they like it. I expect them to get along based on their merit, not based on some idea that because they're girls they get a free pass.
He needs to butt out, organise what he likes in SF and stop playing the minorities card.
I can't believe he's annoyed me so much I sound like a Daily Mail reader.
There was a country which used to have that on a national level. It was called Soviet Union and it was instituted by Sergej Bubnov on the orders of Joseph Vissarionovich Jugashvilli (after which he shot him for good measure).
I am not going to go into the motives for the national minority quotas in the USSR education system and what were they used for. Suffice to say that they _DID_ _NOT_ _WORK_. 50 years of providing positive action quotas for the "disadvantaged" minorities did not result in them suddenly developing a string of scientific geniuses and literary giants.
When I was a director in a large corporate, whose goal seemed to be political correctness rather than making money, I was contacted by HR and told they were 'disturbed' by the fact that my team consisted almost entirely of white males. I asked who they wanted me to sack and heard nothing more. We live in a strange world.
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I'd be fucked off if I'd have bought travel ttickets and paid for a hotel, regardless of my gender and skin colour.
It strikes me that John Susser is an American (from the Bay Area?) commenting on a UK conference. The UK is wonderfully diverse, but I'm wondering if he's ever visited a British university CS class or an IT company. I've worked in an IT company in the UK equivalent of SF; we only had one girl, no ethnic minorities represented.
“I don't think adding diversity at the end works. You have to start with it as one of your goals. Who wants to be the token female?”
So the difference between the two approaches would be what exactly? Diversity as an afterthought - you choose the speakers, then add a token female; diversity as one of the goals - you choose the token female first, then proceed with picking the rest of the speakers? I bet the token females feel much better in the latter case.
And the whole point of this particular statement is moot anyway, as there were obviously no token minority representatives on the speaker roster, which makes me think that Mr Susser, whose last name bears an uncanny resemblance to the famous disruptive worm, was merely trolling his British colleague. And quite successfully too.
The _only_ solution is to ask for anonymous briefs on what the speaker will discuss and pick from a shortlist.
Of course, this doesn't work when you want specific people to talk on a subject that they are well known for, as is probably the case here. But screaming "diversity" and getting such a conference cancelled helps who, exactly?
Specifically picking a female or minority speaker to replace someone from the original line-up is (IMO) more racist/sexist than not even noticing you'd done it to begin with.
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This objection seems to apply to most technical conferences, and especially those of the open source variety. All someone has to do now is claim that conference X doesn't have a "representative quota of minorities" on the speaker schedule where "representative quota" is a malleable value (looks like Susser was going for 1/3rd of all speakers - so good luck with that guys)
When I worked at IBM, doing much of my work through email it turned out that nearly all the Americans thought that I was a girl, even IBM HR believed this and sent hate mail to my boss trying to get me terminated because they'd decided that I might claim maternity benefit.
(If you think bimbo is a term of sexist abuse, you haven't met a male IBM HR)
That's not quite the same as being the recipient of sexism, but it gave me a taste of the situation. At a conference of high end geeks, I altered my talk to mention that the only women in the room were those handing microphones for the audience for them to ask questions.
But ... I've worked for decades as a developer, IT manager and now headhunter and I have to say that of the top tier of s/w devs I know, exactly two are women.
But there are a *lot* of every other type of "minority" in IT at all levels, some UK groups I know in the UK have not one fat white straight guy like me.
As a pimp, I would love to have more smart women, because I do it for the money, and I'd pay money to find a woman that could do hardcore Matlab for a bank, but I'm not holding my breath.
So in the utopian world of Josh we need to start with diversity, which in reality means quotas, which in turn means that if you are a white male, regardless of skills and merit you are at the bottom of the heap because you dont fit this utopian ideal.
All in all he is clearly a bit of a cock, I doubt he will pop down to his local afro carribean association and complain they dont have enough white guys in the place will he?
I am not a fan of twitter, haven't been from the start and I think they are twats for the about face on developers, but more seriously, i think it is harmful.
It is an electronic equivalent of a mob.
What Susser said should have been said to friends in a social environment (like an SF coffee shop) then a lively debate could of ensued and everyone would feel happy, no conference cancelled, no-one upset and I would not now be thinking that yet again Twitter has given the world something it could have done without.
This pisses me off... Is it their fault that the best people to make talks are white men? I happen to work in a team where it is all white men... why? because they were the best for the job...
Shock horror, the UK is a mainly White country, in a mainly white EU...
Shock horror, less Women choose to work in IT!
Shock horror, Men & Women are different!!!
Did you know if you go to china and work in an IT company, most workers are Chinese?
Bloody PC idiots like that need to be culled from our population.....
I never fill in a race section of a form, I leave it blank and refuse to give that information.
"some implicit bias crept into their selection process"
If 90-95% of developers are male I'm not surprised at all at an all-male panel. Not sure about non-white percentage of developers. I believe there's a fairly high percentage of Brits of Asian descent around Manchester, but maybe they really are under-represented in IT?
I dont know. Its one thing for a conference to only includes white male speakers if the community is exclusivly white male (although I'd be a little worried about any IT community that was such a mono-culture, but tats a different arguement) but if you can with relatively little thought come up with a list on non-white-male potential speakers then the fact that none of them appeared in the list of those invited is, well, unfortunate to say the least
If you invite a diverse bunch of speakers and only the white male ones want to come then thats a different thing entirely, but not to even invite a diverse range of speakers certainly doesn't encourage a diverse, open, and vibrant community.
note: I'm not saying any of this was deliberate on behalf of the organisers, I suspect they just hadn't thought about it, but this is one of those things where perception is everything
>"Everything" might actually have more to do with Ruby than with someone's apparently baseless accusation of sexual and racial discrimination.
I think you (deliberately?) miss my point, it doesn't matter if the accusations are baseless (I agree they probably are) what matters is how the conference is perceived by the outside world (both potential attendees and sponsers). If people look at the speaker list and think the conference is not a place they would be comfortable attending because of their race or gender then the organisers intentions dont matter, the perception of discrimination has done the damage.
The risk is then that the perception of the Ruby community is that it is white male only, and so non-white males dont get involved in it, which leads to the community actually becoming white male only. This is a thing no one wants.
> No, possibly the main thought in their minds was on addressing a Ruby conference, and who were the acknowledged experts able and willing to speak.
Probably. Except of course theres no evidence for the "able and willing to speak" part. If the organisers had invited a diverse range of speakers and only the white male ones were able to make it you might of thought they would have mentioned it in their defence rather then just pulling the conference. If they'd considered people but not invited them because they didn't think they'd come (or the expenses budget didn't stratch to flying people internationally for example) then they might have mentioned that as well.
Instead they seem to have without thinking about it organise a speakers list that made no attempt to reflect the community it was meant serve, then cancelled it when they were called on that. Its all a bit of a shame.
All this politically correct BS makes me sick. Morgan Freeman said it best. How do you stop racisim? STOP TALKING ABOUT IT!
So there were only white dudes as speakers. Did any of those non-white-dudes people who COULD have gone bother to say so? I mean you can't exactly blame the organiser if none of those other folks bother to come forward and say "Hey, here is my proposal, I'd like to make a speach" now can we?
You cant blame the organisers if they ask the ruby world for volunteers and only white-dudes propose talks, but the point is they *invited* 15 speakers and they only *invited* white-dudes and while the reality is probably that they hadn't even thought about it, the perception is not great and the perception matters.
Not talking about racism only works if people aren't being racist, but when they are then not talking about it is to tacitly accept it.
> but the point is they *invited* 15 speakers and they only *invited* white-dudes and while the reality
So, in your opinion, what would have been the "proper" proportion of sexual and racial diversity at the conference?
There is an awful lot of assumption here about the alleged motives unconscious or otherwise of the organisers.
What if the best 15 were actually white and male? It's not particularly statistically unlikely is it?
Even Susser has no specific allegations of bias.
>So, in your opinion, what would have been the "proper" proportion of sexual and racial diversity at the conference?
At what point do you think the proportions are out of whack with the community? At what point would you start to think that the organisers should have made a bit more effort? Would you be at all happy with someone looking at the speaker list and feeling that the conference was not the sort of place they would fit in because of their race or gender?
I dont really think anyone is accusing the organisers of any form of bias but they also dont seem to have made any effort to reflect the community or to even thought about the issue of how thie speaker list would look to the outside world. Avdi Grimm seems to have had no problem coming up with a list of non-white-dude potential speakers but the organisers seem not to have even tried. If they had considered the issue and decided it wasn't important, or invited people who said no this really wouldn't be a story.
if you are having an American presenter, is that not diversity?
After all they eat different "food" (more fat and salt than actually meat or veg), talk a different language (made up words, often containing a "z"), a different culture (none) and a different sense of history (everything prior to 1900 is ye olde world and where they invented / made / won everything)?
Is that the white male is actually a minority in this field.
When you take a global perspective across all of IT.
Regardless unless one can show that there was bias against a speaker due to race,sex, etc... Having all white male speakers does not necessarily mean that there was actual bias.
Ruby is a very specific topic and not everyone who uses Ruby wants to speak.
And in order to attract attendees, you want the best speakers...
OK, so we accept that white males are the majority and everyone else is a minority**. How do we decide on the quota for each minority?
The logic of positive discrimination suggests that representation should be in proportion to the degree to which a minority is disadvantaged. But minorities are not discrete sets, and disadvantage is additive (one-legged Lesbians are worse off than bipedal Lesbians or one-legged heteros). So the conference presenters end up entirely drawn from whatever intersection of minorities maximizes disadvantage. Almost certainly this will be just one person, who won't be able to communicate because an ability to speak is an advantage that not everybody enjoys.
** But there are quite a lot of Chinese, aren't there? And women in the world might actually outnumber men.
... the last thing I recall about equality legislation was that you were not allowed to discriminate on the basis of sex or race, etc. So as far as I can see, requiring there to be a black welsh lesbian jew on the panel would be illegal in this country anyway>?
And Chuck J Hardy's statement:
I stand by my decision as I will not condone or be apart of any personal racial and sexist accusation.”
seems a bit of a hostage to fortune. I'm not sure precisely what it means, but it seems to imply that all we have to do is make an accusation of something racial or sexist to get him to back off. He will find life gets difficult for him if he doesn't have the courage of his convictions...
I have a pretty good database of people what do things to computers.
If asked to pick 6 random people there is a finite probability that they will all be called Mohammed, this being the 2nd most common first name on it. and so if I was to help you pick a group, the chances are bigger than you might think that all were men called Mohammed and a bit less white than me.
Basic mathematical probability theory tells us that there is no test you can apply to work out from one sample whether I'm biased towards that sort of person.
Similarly, if you roll a dice 12 times, the probability of
1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6
has *exactly* the same prior probability as
4 6 1 2 6 3 4 1 2 4 1 3
As for sazoo''s friend if she a female PhD maths coder, the odds are about 95% she knows who I am and my firm's policy on things like this. Ask her if he reckons she could get past my notorious (amongst bankers) Cruel and Unusual C++ test.
What you say is true, but it doens't exactly apply to this situation. They're not claiming speakers were drawn randomly, they're claiming they picked them on merit. Okay "merit" can be a bit hard to define, but it's at least plausible that I could look at your picks and assess whether they really represent the "best" people on the lest, or only the best of the Mohammeds.
A perfectly good conference sacrificed on the alter of political correctness. Selecting people on their lack of white-maleness would do no good for them or Open Source. If I was paranoid I would suspect this of sabotage from the inside. If such people want to advance diversity then why not raise the issue internally instead of blasting it all over the Internet. Gender 'issues', 'race' issues, fluoride-in-water, none of this is the responsibility of software developers.
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Since there is a lack of women in IT in general and programming Ruby in particular we'll just have to sue women. I am sure there is some way this can be motivated along with some moral outrage that women in general are treating IT careers as second class over more social professions.
While we're at it I ask myself how the organizers didn't see the massive stupid hammer descending when answering the original criticism. The obvious solution would have been to quickly swap in 3 female speakers citing scheduling conflicts, personal commitments and perhaps sickness.
Having had to deal with hiring in IT I know how hard it is to find women at all when wading through applicants and stacks of CV's from headhunters and we actively looked for women. I'd say most companies I've worked for the women are given a leg up and are treated as more valued than the male counterparts because they are so rare....
In my local world-class and international technology hub, most of the engineers are "white guys". I'd say that maybe one in thirty was not a white guy. Ruby devs would tend to be towards the nerd end of this scale, so they're even more likely to be guys. But let's stick with a probability of 29/30 of randomly picking out an engineer from a line-up and discovering that he's a "white guy".
So, the probability of randomly selecting a panel of 15, which eventually turns out to be composed exclusively of "white guys", is (29/30)^15, or 60%. In fact, you need a panel of at least 20 randomly-selected people to have even a 50% chance of finding any "minorities".
So, it's hardly a big deal. Perhaps Mr. Susser should go home and stop being an arse.
Make all the speakers speak from inside a sack(*) and call them all Dominic(**) then no one knows their gender, colour,....
Or just make it a virtual conference with avatars, or do we worry that'll just be a grooming session?
(*Could be behind a screen but not as much fun.)
(**Well known gender neutral name(!?!!) - maybe dress them as maids & require a French accent?)
How many Asian conferences has he complained about not having enough white people presenting?
The only way to select speakers is to take the best X people available - whether they are black, white, straight, gay, whatever. If that means an all white male lineup - or indeed an all Asian female one - so be it. Now, if they'd excluded someone on the basis of gender, race or anything else irrelevant, that would be wrong - as wrong as *including* one on the same grounds, which seems to be what Susser thinks should have happened.
Discrimination: just say no. Maybe boycott any conference Susser supports, just in case.
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