Lately, the topics of diversity and inclusion have been on my mind a lot. Not just because of Kevin Spacey, but because some personal comments I heard from a (female) friend in the Magento community. And since, I have talked a lot with people on this. Now, if you look at the character that MageTestFest (an international developer event taking place 1 week from now) has, you might get the impression that this event is only a boys-thing. Time to prove you wrong!
What is wrong with MageTestFest?
What is wrong with MageTestFest? Well, first of all, nothing! It is an excellent event. And it has a ... specific look-and-feel designed to shake people up and make them realize that testing is important. To do that we could have used a lot of different strategies, but we choose to give MageTestFest a festival-like feeling with rough edges. And my festival days were actually dealing with metal concerts, so quickly I made the connection with that while preparing MageTestFest.
It will show: Death metal to wake people up in the morning, symphonic rock to start the event, bits of swearing (strategic cursing). However, if you look more closely, this does not exclude people. It simply shows a personal affiliation that some people will dislike, but most will like. (Likewise, I dislike things being too perfect, too slick.) Actually, two female attendees are metal fans, so I assume they will simply like this a lot.
So how many ladies are joining MageTestFest?
So how many ladies are joining MageTestFest? Not enough, I think it will sum up to about 5-8% of the total of attendees (currently 160 signups across all 4 days). This small percentage is not a good thing. But MageTestFest was not invented to fix this, it was actually meant to address another issue - that not enough developers are testing their code. You can't address every issue in one go, right?
I would have loved to see more women at MageTestFest. But one thing we need to realize is that the number of women that develop in Magento is limited. Having more women in this community definitely is a thing to thrive for. But the more technical it gets (for instance, the more you lean towards backend development), the fewer women seem to be involved. The percentage of women is small across the community, therefore MageTestFest reflects this.
Could we have made a difference?
We can make a difference. Not by creating a conference that focuses on a more generic topic - it should be fine to focus on specific topics that attract fewer women. However, while we have a minority of women, we should be thoughtful of why they are there: They are not there because they are women, they are there because they are backend developers interested in the topic of testing.
Pointers for inclusion
Therefore, in preparation of MageTestFest (only a week away), I outline some pointers:
- If there are women at MageTestFest, assume that they are well-experienced backend developers that know their stuff. There are almost no frontend developers at the conference. So, leave aside some Yireo team members and sponsors, all women at MageTestFest are nerds. Also, assume they are nerdier than you.
- If you drink beer and become invincible, make sure to realize that it is the beer talking. Women will not find you more attractive because of the beer, even if they are nerds.
- Try to refrain from sexist jokes, unless you mention Kevin Spacey in them.