Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Want more women speakers? I can help!

I'm having a difficult day that is generating brilliant ideas. After you've read this post, you'll probably agree.

This morning, I checked if I would want to travel to Nordic Testing Days. It's close by. Not very expensive. Often good. Conclusion: No. Four men as keynote speakers. 5 workshops all lead by men. Very few women in general on the program. Not my kind of a conference. Maybe next year.

This evening, I saw a tweet directed to one of my favorite gender diversity advocates and tech power ladies:
Great that Agile Testing Days is trying to reach out to women. They are clearly doing so much more than most other conferences. More than the morning opener. But they could do more.

They could pay for speaking. 

Right now, they pay 700 euros of expenses within Europe and 1400 euros of expenses outside Europe. This includes a limitation of number of hotel nights - to an extent that I lost 100 euros speaking under these conditions and not reading the fine print in 2015, arriving on time and not leaving right after but the following morning.  My total costs were less than the budgeted, but they were not paid in full. My loss.

Instead, they could pay e.g. according to Jurgen Appelo's public speaker fees. I can promise 50 % great women speakers if the price is 3400 euros within Europe and 5900 euros for outside Europe. I can promise we submit and work out our best if the money is available.

To top that, I can commit to selling that service. I will find the women from my networks. I will find the women to coach the women to deliver great. But I expect the conferences to put in the money.

I introduced this idea on a Women in Testing group with 76 women. I feel I can stand behind that promise. We're all amazing. We deliver well. We're worth it.  There's great new speakers who deliver brilliantly with support. There's those of us who should be considered professional speakers. What's the message you want? I can tell you who delivers that beautifully, practically and with inspiration.

Want to change the ratio? Change the way you pay.  

(and just for the record, I think men should have exactly same prices. When this service starts selling, I'm happy to extend to all the great speakers)


I am, and was while writing this well aware that Agile Testing Days pays something for all their speakers and are exceptional in this sense in the field of testing. I want to emphasize I respect them greatly for that and their diversity work reaching out to women to feel welcome.

I have enough experience around speaking to claim there's five main models of treating your speakers from call from proposals:

  1. Speakers pay all their expenses AND conference fee (full/discounted) when accepted as speakers (e.g. XP201x)
  2. Speakers pay all their expenses BUT not conference fee (e.g. EuroSTAR)
  3. Speakers pay some of their expenses (usually travel but not accommodation) (e.g. Agile201x)
  4. Speakers don't pay expenses to a capped level - either sum & general policy, like travel in coach (e.g. AgileTD)
  5. Speakers get paid to speak: they get to invoice a sum to compensate for the time they use on delivering and prepping the talk
I simply say that if you want - really want - to see women rush to your conference, make it financially worthwhile. Not just that they don't lose money directly. But also that they get paid for the time they put in. Time away from work. Hiring someone for childcare while you're gone. All the work put into becoming the speaker since you don't pay just for the time they give you now, you pay for the time they've put into becoming the speaker you want to have on your stage.

This is how AgileTD treats keynotes and it is great. I'm just saying it could extend beyond keynotes. And if it does, I'm happy to line up more brilliant women, the ones that no longer do this for free. 


I am aware that there should be paid staff to run conferences. I'm also sure value of their time and value of speaker time are not mutually exclusive.

Let's still state this: I don't think we should only pay women. I respond to the idea of asking for more women. I would also like to ask for more diverse experiences from men. We have same names going around a lot of the time. Then again, audiences change and the same people are new to the new crowd.