CSSConf and JSConf Australia 2018 Diversity Report

CSSConf and JSConf Australia are a part of a global family of high-quality events on design, front-end development, JavaScript, culture and the tech industry. With the final edition in 2018, we continue our commitment to transparency on the diversity of our events, hopefully motivating other organisers to gather data and hold themselves accountable for inclusion goals.

In our 2016 report, we were only able to publish approximate details on gender diversity. Retrospectively, we wish we had more solid data points.

Unfortunately, gathering event attendee information versus employee profiles is a different kind of beast. We care deeply about privacy and collecting minimum details to provide an excellent experience for everyone involved. That means that we’re not able to obtain full information on race, ethnicity, disability, age and gender, as usually expected in diversity reports published by commercial organisations.

At the same time, we believe that even providing insight into gender balance of speakers and attendees, as well as overall metrics of our Opportunity Program are helpful and beneficial to progressing the community.

Inclusion strategy

Inclusion doesn’t happen without thoughtful implementation. Our diversity and inclusion efforts were multi-faceted, featuring:

  • an enforceable, public Code of Conduct included in all of our communications, Web presence and during the event.
  • a Code of Conduct enforcement guide for all event staff.
  • prioritising accessibility and transparency through the Accessibility Statement.
  • an Opportunity Program for underrepresented groups.
  • a generous speaker package and bias-aware talk selection process.
  • active outreach to underrepresented groups to participate in the events.
  • an inclusive photo policy, respecting participant privacy.
  • live-captioned talks.
  • gender-neutral bathrooms with toiletries.
  • de-emphasising alcohol prominence.
  • nutritious, healthy, dietary requirement-compliant catering.
  • no gendered, ableist language in any communications.
  • normalising prominent display of underrepresented groups participating in any capacity.
  • and dozens of other small little touches.

Speaker diversity

62% of women speaking at CSSConf and 46% at JSConf AU.

Key findings:

  • 46% women speaking at JSConf AU
  • 62% women speaking at CSSConf AU
  • Increased racial and ethnical diversity

CSSConf and JSConf Australia have been around for four editions (please note that two initial JSConfs were handled by an entirely different team, so we cannot take responsibility for their lineups and inclusion).

We’ve observed noticeable growth in gender aspect of diversity that has plateaued in 2018. Due to various reasons, we lost three speakers from underrepresented groups within the month leading to the conference, which negatively affected the ratios. As organisers, it’s crucial to be prepared for this possibility and decide whether the best course of action is replacement within or outside of a Call for Speakers proposals or leaving the lineup as is.

Speaker gender diversity at CSSConf and JSConf Australia.

Racial and ethnical diversity was a big focus in Call for Speakers outreach — we were honoured to welcome a few speakers coming from non-white backgrounds. Binary gender diversity is still the status quo, furthering the exclusion of other, more underrepresented groups such as women of colour, people with disabilities and LGBTQI community.

A few presenters had never spoken before or came from a non-English speaking country. As an organisation, we fully support newcomers and underrepresented individuals in delivering the best talk possible as well as having an excellent time at our event.

All of the speakers identified their preferred pronouns with a 50/50 split between She/Her/Hers and He/Him/His. Additional 9% were comfortable with being referred as They/Them/Theirs on top of that. Pronoun collection not only respects speakers’ identity but also normalises publicly sharing pronouns, aiding non-binary individuals.

Attendee diversity

21% women in attendance at CSSConf AU and 20% at JSConf AU (excluding 30% and 28% unidentified participants respectively).

Key findings:

  • Maintained the level of women in attendance.

While last year we collected nationality information, this time around we’ve limited the questionnaire to optional gender identification.

20–21% attendants identified as women. 29–30% didn’t identify.

The events have scaled significantly, increasing the number of participants by 100–150 people while still maintaining 20% mark of women in the audience (might be higher due to a significant percentage of people opting-out of identification).

The presence of underrepresented groups at the event didn’t go unnoticed.

The Opportunity Program

Key findings:

  • Prioritisation of underrepresented groups other than white women.

Opportunity Programs are dedicated to equal opportunity and bringing in as many individuals who couldn’t attend otherwise as possible (members of underrepresented groups in tech and unable to attend without financial assistance). This is a significant part of our inclusion strategy.

This year the focus lied in prioritising most underrepresented groups — disabled individuals, LGBTQI people, single mothers and women of colour. While we can’t disclose precise data due to confidentiality, at least half of Opportunity Program ticket recipients fell within these groups actively resulting in challenging binary and white diversity.

The road forward

We’d love to see more conferences and events sharing their data, even if it’s incomplete. Transparency will let the broader public understand the picture of the tech industry and empower implementing quantifiable, effective inclusion strategies.

Respond in comments or share your stories with #ConfDiversity hashtag.