There’s drama on Twitter about the Women vs men ratio at the confoo.ca conference, due wednesday next week. There are 5 women speakers announced, vs a total of 109, which makes it 4.5%, a sad statement of the industry, perhaps discouraging even more women to enter the technology industry and tech entrepreneurship.
Leila Boujnane (@leilaboujnane), founder of popular Idée Inc, and also organizer of various community events in Toronto, and also Montréal, was surprised yesterday at the lack of women speakers at confoo. What started as a very simple statement was received as an attack on confoo, and Anna Filina (@afilina), Vice-President and main organizer of the conference, replied harshily to Leila.
Since then, others joined in the argument, David Crow (@davidcrow), Yann Larrivée (@ylarrivee), and many others. Leila Boujnane wrote about the issue, stating things need to be changed, and Anna Filina wrote also on her blog why and how they had so few women speakers.
The gender ratio issue is not new. Last year, FounderFuel was heavily criticized for not having any women mentor at launch, only to include Tara Hunt, CEO of Buyosphere, at the end. It’s the same for Startup Festival, which received negative feedback for lacking diversity. Startup Festival had then the creative idea to have a panel of grannies, which made finally headlines on the Gazette. For Startup Weekend Montréal, we had a partnership with Montréal Girl Geeks dinners, and also brought in Anna Goodson, who did a talk on women entreprenership Saturday midday, to inspire startup women.
I won’t comment on confoo: criticizing a conference is easy, especially if you check things out a week before the event. An event like confoo takes at least 6 months of preparation, and as Anna stated, it’s not an entrepreneurship, marketing conference or SXSW. Moreover, if you work in the industry, you know the numbers and what programmers focus on, and it’s not beautiful. I also agree with Leila though: confoo needs to open up, think about the value they really bring in, and agree it’s not all about numbers and how many speakers you bring in. If they do not care, other organizations working with them care, and Montréal also care.