#Disrupt… Collision Conference?!

because… “why give away 700 tickets to #WomenInTech to attend #CollisionConf, but not provide a panel/event for us to connect?”

November 2015, I had received 3 ticket nominations from 3 incredible women to attend Collision Conference, naturally I was elated (I had received a $700 ticket for FREE), and curious as to why a tech conference was giving away tickets. So, before I claimed my ticket or nominated other women, I had to make sure that this was legit and not just some ploy to rangle women — so that Collision Conference was not a SAUSAGE FEST & a BRO BUFFET, like most tech conferences!

I checked out the Collision Conference website and blog and found this statement:

I’m Sinead and since 2013 I’ve led production at Web Summit. Previously I worked for Live Nation producing large music festivals and concerts. As a woman producing what’s become the largest tech and startup conference in the world, I’ve been acutely aware that female participation in the tech sector has been and continues to be a significant issue.
As part of an initiative we’re running to even the gender ratio at our events, we’re giving 10,000 complimentary tickets to our events to women in the tech industry across the world — we hope that it will, in some small way, contribute to solving the problem.
Here’s how: we’re inviting 10,000 extraordinary female entrepreneurs from around the world to Web Summit 2016 in Lisbon, to our gathering in India called SURGE, toRISE in Hong Kong and to Collision in New Orleans.
Applications to nominate a female entrepreneur or executive considering becoming an entrepreneur have just opened. You can send a free ticket to an incredible female entrepreneur of your choice. It takes less than a minute.
Is this enough? Absolutely not. Is this a significant step for Web Summit? Yes, for sure. But let’s be realistic, it’s a tiny step in the right direction along a path that the tech industry as a whole needs to move down.
Send a free ticket to an incredible female entrepreneur of your choice here.

Sounded valid, looked legit, and they even had a Women in Tech track (which suddenly vanished in January 2016 from the Collision website, coincidentally right around the same time that the Commitment to Change initiative had been fulfilled.) Nonetheless, I eagerly claimed my ticket and invited other women in tech & female entrepreneurs to join me.

I would often checked the Collision website, blog, emails, and social networks for updates about the conference tracks, panels, events, and other attendees, noticeably absent #WomenInTech panels and events. I didn’t think much of it and figured that they were inclusive of women throughout the conference, and therefore didn’t need to create a separate panel or event for us. I thought to myself “this conference truly is a breath of fresh air, and indeed the anti-CES.”

9 weeks from Collision conference I start to receive emails and updates from other women in tech attending the conference, I’m excited and anxious to connect. 6 weeks from Collision, I start to put my schedule together, and look for off-conference networking events for women in tech/diversity… NONE WERE FOUND!

Tuesday April 12th, nearly 12 days from the conference I had receive an invite from Collision to sign up for intimate roundtable sessions, I RSVP’d immediately as I knew that the slots would fill up quickly.

The roundtable that I was most excited for was “Doing the Math: Women in STEAM”, as it was the ONLY women centered discussion available at Collision.

Sunday night before my flight, I reached out to a few women that I had been in contact with also heading to Collision, excited to finally meet and connect with each other, and inquired about what panels, roundtables and events they were attending but to my surprise many people said that they haven’t been receiving Collision emails. So, I made it my duty to make sure that every woman I came in contact with was in the KNOW of whatever I was invited to.

Day 1: 9am I arrive at Ernest N Memorial Convention Center, ready and excited for Collision Conference, I totally missed the keynote by founder Paddy Cosgrave due to being lost… but, I had the pleasure of meeting a woman from Oakland named Julie, we chat for a bit exchange contact info go our separate ways and enjoy the rest of the conference. I pretty much was able to track down and connect with everyone that had reached out to me on the Collision app, and I find my way to Elayna from IBM Design.

I ended up meeting 6 women on day one, all of whom I invited with me to Microsoft & Launchpad off-conference tech networking event that I was invited to. Had I not done so, I was walking into a sausage fest of dudes everywhere, to my surprise all of the women had came AND invited a friend… so essentially we kinda crashed this event, moved tables and made it our own!

Day 2: Wednesday April 27th, I arrive at Collision excited and ready for my roundtable “Doing the Math: Women in STEAM”, I was notified by a volunteer that my group had relocated outside and had to step out to find them. I thought to myself… “this is great, our group is too BIG to fit in the designated roundtable space, no way they can’t restrict this roundtable to just 10–12 women! It’s too many women attending the conference to not open it up, and to not have another event for us to connect with each other”.

I locate my group and to my surprise, it was just a small group of awesome women, which attracted a few other awesome women walking by who joined us, but had the host of our group not brought us outside it would have been just 12 of us. This made me SAD!

The roundtable was so awesome and inspiring, we shared our journey, positive experiences, and the successful things that has worked for us, rather than the #WIT war stories, we were just a group of 18 women from all walks of life, countries, various ages, and various backgrounds — connecting over tech.

After our roundtable I had bumped into a woman named Alison Gibbins, whom I’ve been in contact with for weeks over emails, she’d been planning all kinds of cool off-conference events for women in tech to connect that weren’t pubcrawls, this resonated with me because I don’t get how anyone expects to form meaningful business connections after 8+ rounds of drinks, and yelling over loud music? I asked Alison why wasn’t she at the roundtable, I totally thought she’d definitely be there until her response I didn’t know about it, which sparked a conversation between us that lead to us executing a plan to gather ALL of the WOMEN IN TECH at Collision Conference.

Alison and I began to orchestrate a plan, and through our social media we created our own event, a #CollisionChat!

After we parted, I messaged, emailed and texted all of the women that I had met through out the week. I bumped into the host of our roundtable Maria Klawe, and shared with her what Alison and I were doing and she invited every woman in the convention halls and bathrooms, I returned to the conference and walk up to every woman in my sight to invite them, I had an interview with January Barnes of January Diaries in the media village and share with her our plan to disrupt Collision, and I invited other media to cover it.

Day 3: In less than 24 hours Alison & I and many women had successfully managed to DISRUPT Collision Conference! We’ve reached out to founder of Collision, Paddy Cosgrave and the Collision team… no response, so we took it upon ourselves to write the change we wish to see at Collision next year!

My requests:

  1. More diversity & inclusion; and visibility of women & minorities on panels.
  2. A Women in Tech conference track.
  3. More opportunities to connect with other women in tech.

Dear Paddy Cosgrave,
Next year don’t just invite women in tech, but INCLUDE women in tech! Include us in the conversations, include us in the panels, the pitches, as judges, as investors, as journalists, as entrepreneurs, include us in the planning! Hopefully you were able to listen to Chris Sacca and his thoughts on women & diversity in tech, he shared some very insightful information about what you’re missing out on in a room of people/dudes that only look/think like you. INCLUDE US! You missed out on some BAD A** WOMEN, doing AMAZING THINGS in TECH!
If you need a list of women to speak on panels, please do get in touch with me: telisad@flytechnista.org, I have spent a year compiling a list of BRILLIANT women in tech, who want to be included in the conversations! So men like you can no longer use the excuse… “we just couldn’t find any women”, “they were all busy”… REALLY? All 287+ women were busy, or was it just the 8 women you know about in tech?
But again, thanks so much for the free ticket… I really did have a ball, I love New Orleans, and as a startup founder every dollar counts, so saving $700 was super helpful to me, and the other women that I had spoken to.
2017, Let’s REALLY Commit to Change! :-)
Sincerely, @TeLisaD
My new favorite Canadian, Kathy Driscoll (@kd_newmediaMB)

In closing, Collision Conference was a good experience… minimal harassment comments, cool companies, and 20 minute consumable talks. I feel so inspired by all of the people I have met at Collision Conference, and I’m looking forward to connecting again, hopefully next year! So many connections made, so many awesome people doing amazing things.