Last night, I had coffee with Twiistup Organizer Patrick Vlaskovits to discuss my recent blog post questioning the lack of women on Twiistup’s speaker lineup. I know a lot of people were curious — to say the least — about that little oversight on the part of the Twiistup organizers, and I went into our coffee date eager to find out for myself what the deal was.
After talking things over with the very affable and apologetic Patrick, I can pretty confidently say that the oversight was, indeed, an oversight. But not in the same sense that we may have thought it was here in blogosphere-land.
I don’t think Patrick or the other folks behind Twiistup forgot to include women, failed to reach out to women or — as some people have speculated — intentionally left women off the lineup. I also don’t think they scrambled around to get women lined up after the proverbial poop hit the fan, as others have also speculated.
In fact, I think they actually, legitimately had women they were working on confirming, and they simply made the massive PR blunder of failing to foresee what would happen if they announced their lineup prior to including a single one of those ladies. I also choose to believe Patrick’s reasoning that because his network is mostly up north, and because he’s trying steer the conference away from focusing so much on social media and more into areas of tech that we all admit have a problematic lack of female leaders, finding women speakers has been harder than finding male ones. Are those things bad? Yes. Do they indicate an intentional snub of female techies? I don’t think so.
Now, you can call me naive for wanting to believe the best about people, and especially about tech conferences that involve a lot of people I know and admire. But, I truly believe that the Twiistup organizers simply screwed up on the PR side and that they intended to include some amazing women (I got a sneak peek at the final lineup last night) all along. Which is why I’m laying down the law right here and now — nobody is allowed to devalue those women when they do get announced by mentioning “tokens”, “quotas” or anything else of the sort.
Personally, when it comes to the treatment of women in tech, I want action, not affirmative action. We deserve to stand alongside the men because we are just as good — and sometimes better — than they are. Not just because we happen to work in the same field and have lady parts. That was my problem with the perceived slight of Twiistup all along. After all, how could they possibly hold a massive LA tech conference, bill it as a celebration of the LA tech ecosystem and completely ignore all the LA-based women doing amazing things in tech?
Well, after literally opening my Rolodex to Patrick last night, and hearing him come right back with some equally great names they’ve been trying to nail down for a while, I’m pretty confident that they didn’t ignore anyone. At least not intentionally. They may not have known everyone they should have, and there is certainly a maddening shortage of women to know in the fields they’re trying to find, but I don’t hold either of those things against Twiistup or Patrick Vlaskovits. I do think he made a PR blunder in the way the lineup was announced, and I think we as techies were right to question it.
Now that those questions have been answered, only time — and the conference itself — will tell whether I was right to walk away from last night’s meeting believing those answers.
And in the meantime, if you’re an LA woman in tech and you get an email from Patrick Vlaskovits about speaking at Twiistup, please find a way to say yes. The more opportunities we take to show off the wonderful work women are doing in tech today, the more we will hopefully be creating more women to join us in doing that work tomorrow.