The easiest way I saw for getting more women on stage at the actual event was to get as many women to submit speaking proposals as possible.
We opened up the call for papers for the Northeast PHP Conference about a week ago. Guessing by the names, it appears that we have a very low number of women who have submitted talks.
Courtney went on to say:
So! Getting women to submit content: easy? Um. When I’d talk to men about the conference and ask if they felt like they had an idea to submit for a talk, they’d *always* start brainstorming on the spot. I’m not generalizing — every guy I talked to about speaking was able to come up with an idea, or multiple ideas, right away…and yet, overwhelmingly the women I talked to with the same pitch deferred with a, “well, but I’m not an expert on anything,” or “I wouldn’t know what to submit,” or “yes but I’m not a *lead* [title], so you should talk to my boss and see if he’d want to present.”
I promised mentoring, I promised practice sessions, I promised one-on-one slide deck reviews with people who have spent hundreds of hours speaking at conferences. I emailed my Women in Games Boston group, I attended events and encouraged groups of women in person, I sought women out online, I met with women over coffee. I encouraged/begged them to consider translating the hours and hours I’d spent with them in the past talking about their careers, their specialties, their ideas, into a 45-minute presentation. I told them how much I respected their reputations and their ideas and that I’d be thrilled if they had the time or interest in submitting a talk.
If you have even the slightest inclination to submit a talk proposal for the Northeast PHP Conference then please email me a draft or a sketch of your idea. I will happily take a look and help you develop your proposal. By the way, this offer applies to anyone (not just women).
What else can I, or others on the organizing team, do to encourage more women to submit proposals? Please let me know.