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Photo of Karolina Szczur
Karolina Szczur
@fox

Programming Inclusion

This year around 23,000 different conferences will be run. While this list isn’t by any means exhaustive and includes non-technology oriented events the number itself is quite astounding. To put in perspective—there might be at least 62 conferences being put on the day you read this article.

How many of them have Code of Conduct and are prepared to act on it? What’s the percentage of events with fully white male speaker lineup? Do they cater for dietary requirements? Is everyone comfortable and safe when participating? Are families welcome? These are only a few of fundamental questions that should be first and foremost to ask, so oftentimes clouded by worries about profitability and ticket sales. As organizers, it’s our job and responsibility to provide a harassment-free, inclusive platform to gather and learn from each other, yet so often we see this overarching goal slip.

At CSSConf AU we have incredibly high standards to live up to, yet even with several years of organizing and speaking experience under our belts, we feel like we didn’t do enough to foster a diverse and inclusive enough experience in the past. While at CSSConf we’ve increased the number of women speakers from 33% to 37% in a year, the number of women attendees still oscillated about 20% with slight growth tendency.

We have to do better.

To be able to sustainably grow and ensure a healthy community we’re fully committed to hosting the most diverse CSSConf, JSConf and Decompress in their 3-year-old history. It’s a very hard challenge to tackle but we need to leverage any amount of influence we have as organizers to set the example for culture of inclusion we want to see.

The Dimensions Of Inclusion

We aim to diversify way beyond gender, but we strongly feel that diversity alone is only a patch on a problem that runs way deeper—the prominent presence of exclusion. In order to make everyone feel truly welcome we’ve identified two pillars of inclusion—diversity and accessibility. Here are only a few strategies that we will be implementing and publishing in the coming weeks.

Diversity

  • Code of Conduct and its enforcement: all attendees—delegates, speakers, volunteers, sponsors, exhibitors and organizers, are expected to abide by the Code of Conduct. A response team will be formed to assist with any incidents that may arise.
  • Scholarship Program: a fixed amount of free tickets will be given out to individuals from underrepresented groups, who couldn’t attend otherwise.
  • Purchasable Diversity Supporter Tickets: we’re offering an unlimited set of Diversity Tickets that can be purchased by anyone and donated to the Scholarship Program pool.
  • Subsidized Student Tickets: students can attend a single event at $230 and all of them at $460 (over 60% cheaper that regular tickets).
  • Photography and video policy: colored badge lanyards will be leveraged to indicate individuals’ consent for photo taking.
  • Gender neutral restrooms: we want our attendees to make their own decisions on restroom choice, thus we don’t support binary arrangements.
  • Diversity-enabling Call for Papers: we will be using a custom, anonymous Call for Speakers process to facilitate 50/50 women to men ratio.
  • Diverse community reach-out: we intend on contacting individuals from underrepresented groups to invite them to participate as attendees or presenters, offer coaching in doing so and spread awareness about the events amongst beginner groups.

Accessibility

  • Fully wheelchair accessible: the Meat Market pavilions provide step-free access and we aim to extend that to all party and side event venues.
  • Visual impairment assisted: preferred seating will be reserved for the visually impaired. Guide dogs are most welcome.
  • Dietary requirements compliant: allergy-friendly, nutritious and healthy food options will be accessible for all participants accordingly to their specified dietary requirements.
  • Speech-to-text transcribed: all talks will be live captioned (drop us an email if you want to help to make that happen!).
  • Children-friendly: we strongly encourage family participation. A breastfeeding room will be available as well as an option to watch the talks from outside of the main conference hall.

Diversifying The Team

Despite having mostly male organizer group, we’ve been able to execute on diversity strategies in the past. We all understand and are committed to building inclusive communities, at our events or beyond. A statement is not enough though, which is why this year we’re building a group of volunteers aiding with this objective.

We’re incredibly proud and pleased to announce that Kylie Gusset is one of those amazing people. Kylie is a creative who started working with code when the internet was powered by website under construction gifs. After spending time in textiles, she is transitioning back to development, and is passionate about diversity in tech. Kylie is part of 1 of 20 teams globally for Rails Girls Summer Of Code 2016. We have no doubt that with her help we will be able to achieve much more.

A Call to Arms

We’re more than aware of the difficulty of this task and no matter how hard we try there’s no expectancy we won’t fail. That’s why we’re openly asking for feedback, constructive criticism and suggestions—this is your conference. Feel free to reach out to us on Twitter or through email.

Tickets

Regular Bird: $450

Regular Bird (CSSConf, JSConf, Decompress): $900

Get your ticket now

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For more announcements follow @cssconfau or sign up to our mailing list below.

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