April 21, 2014

Commentary: Dell Needs a Clue. Here’s One.

From

Companies should not condone intolerance on their event stages. Here’s our pledge on diversity.

The recent ugliness in Copenhagen in which a misogynistic speaker was hired by Dell to address a company summit there hasn’t received much coverage in the general press and that’s too bad.

The incident was picked up by the tech media, CNET, then Wired, covering Dell’s subsequent apology for the remarks of Mads Christensen, who praised the lack of “girls” in the room, proclaimed IT as one of the last frontiers that bars women, and much worse, according to a post by Christiane Vejlø, who attended the event at which Dell founder Michael Dell was present as keynoter.

Some over-the-top comments by some comedian in a far-off country may not justify headlines. And neither may sexism and gender discrimination, which have long plagued the tech industry. (One study has found that certain environments not only discourage females from joining that workforce, but has them leaving.)

But there’s a trickle-down effect on the greater culture, which in turn affects our children and young adults.

Efforts abound around STEM and getting kids, especially girls, interested in science, technology, engineering, and math. And by providing public maker spaces, libraries invite a diverse audience of all ages to tinker.

But when a giant, multinational, publicly traded company puts this guy on stage at a formal event, what does this say?

Events are just one aspect of an organization’s efforts, but it’s a start. So O’Reilly Media created a conference diversity statement (founder Tim O’Reilly has frequently raised the issue in the past).

The LJ/SLJ publications, I’m pleased to say, have adapted the statement, which is below.

We recognize that diversity is an ongoing process and affected by many factors beyond our immediate control. However, it is our goal, and it’s a start.

If you know Michael Dell, you might pass it along.

Diversity at Our Events

Our goal is to create an inclusive, respectful environment that invites participation from people of all races, ethnicities, genders, ages, abilities, religions, and sexual orientation.

To that end, we’re actively seeking to increase the diversity of our attendees, speakers, and sponsors through our in-house development of events, open calls for proposals, and through dialogue with the larger communities we serve.

This is an ongoing process. We are talking to our program chairs and committees, participants, and organizations about this goal and how they might help us achieve it. Here are some ways you can help us build a more diverse event experience:

• Recommend appropriate speakers and/or program committee members to the event organizers (see [URL] for program information; you may also send an email to slj@mediasourceinc.com)

• Encourage potential speakers to submit a proposal to us.

• Organize community-based public-speaking trainings and practice events (Ignite is one popular format)

• Suggest ways that the on-site experience can be more welcoming and supportive, free from intimidation and marginalization (email us at slj@mediasourceinc.com)

• Share your ideas and best practices for how we can realize our vision (email slj@mediasourceinc.com)

We value diversity in the communities we bring together, and we welcome your contributions to bringing balanced representation of the richness of our collective human experience.

Derived from a conference diversity statement licensed by O’Reilly Media, Inc. under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

 

There are a few organizations dedicated to diversity cited in this article. Do you know of others that could help toward our goal?

 

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Kathy Ishizuka About Kathy Ishizuka

Kathy Ishizuka (kishizuka@mediasourceinc.com, @kishizuka on Twitter) is Executive Editor of School Library Journal.

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