'Gender 50/50' Remains an Ongoing Challenge for the Tech Scene

By Anila Alexander

Social Media Week (SMW) head honcho Toby Daniels has promised that September’s event will have more diverse voices from the tech scene, with at least 50 percent of the presenters being female.

In a blog post announcing “Gender 50/50” Striving for Balance Among Social Media Week’s Global Community of Men and Women” Daniels wrote that he was inspired by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In. Daniels wrote that the book opened his eyes to the gender inequality happening in the tech scene, and inspired him to try and change it.

“With support from our global partners Nokia and our local city organizers, we literally host thousands of events every year in more than 18 countries and have always strived to capture and share fair and balanced perspectives of how technology and social media is shaping our lives, changing society, culture and economies around the world. However, I’m afraid to admit that we have largely failed in our efforts. We do not have fair representation, and we have not achieved a 50/50 balance in men and women participating in our events,” wrote Daniels.

But Daniels and the SMW team are committed to changing this, especially in the wake of controversies surrounding gender bias in tech communities. Just a month or so ago Adria Richards, then SendGrid developer, was fired after she tweeted a picture of two male PyCon attendees who are making crude and inappropriate sexual jokes. When news broke that one of those jokers was also fired, the Internet became incensed, with some going so far as to launch a DDoS attacks on SendGrid.

Richard’s situation was just one of many that has risen as the tech scene has come under scrutiny for some of the gender policies. Daniels wrote the commitment was part of a larger theme of finding different voices for SMW 2013 . SMW will run from September 23 – 27.