To me, that's a solution in search of a problem.
I ask them what problems they want to solve. They want speakers who are:
- More diverse in gender
- More diverse in color
I'm not sure what other diversities they're looking for. (No one has yet discussed diversity in approach or points of view.)
I asked these people if they could imagine three other alternatives that do not include me self-censoring my conference inclusion.
No, they didn't have any ideas. Well, I do.
Alternatives to Self-Censorship
Instead of my self-censorship, I suggested these alternatives, and I'm sure there are more possibilities:
- A point/counterpoint discussion/presentation with someone who disagrees with me. That person would—ideally—not be a white woman.
- Pairing with someone who doesn't look like me as a pair-presentation.
- I could mentor/coach other people who look for ways and places to speak.
One of these fine gentlemen said, “Oh, I didn't realize we had all these options.”
(The cynical part of me thinks he had one solution. With diversity of thought, he might have considered alternatives.)
I asked him if he could guarantee that any slot I didn't seek would be filled by a person of color or different gender.
No. He couldn't guarantee anything. I suggested that my withdrawal might mean he got more white men in the program.
“Oh,” he said.
Let me set a few facts straight.
- Conferences don't always take my proposals.
- I already limit my travels (and have before the virus), so I don't speak “everywhere.”
- I am not a white man. (I am a white woman.) And, I too often speak where I am the only woman or one of three women and the 97 other speakers are men. (That might be a tiny exaggeration.)
I'm already a minority speaker. I have been in the minority my entire career. Do I enjoy certain privileges because of my color? Of course.
How to Make Room for “Other Voices”
I see at least three perspectives for learning to include other voices. BTW, This is exactly the same problem as recruiting diverse people for your team.
If you're an organizer, determine how to expand your sources to find new speakers. If you always look in the same place, you'll always get the same people, or the same kind of people, or the same ideas. You might get lucky and find people with diverse perspectives. My experience is that you won't.
If you're a potential speaker, you have work to do:
- Find different conferences and submit your sessions.
- You might ask for coaching on your session proposals.
- You might ask for coaching on your speaking.
Yes, as a potential speaker, you need to show conferences you can offer value.
If you're a potential attendee, you need to tell conferences that you want to see diverse people with diverse thinking.
I share the value that it's important to see a variety of faces on a conference website and at the conference. And, for me, it's just as important to see a variety of possible ideas. Especially in the agile community, I see a lot of the same-old, same-old. Maybe that's me being a bit of a curmudgeon.
I find value in many people with views I don't share. I like the way they offer me alternatives to how I think now.
I reject the idea that I need to limit my reach so others can succeed. We don't need to create zero-sum games for speaking. We can lift others up in many ways.
No one needs to self-censor to “make room” for other voices. That's a false choice and does everyone a disservice.