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The phpCE 2019 conference in Dresden has been cancelled and won't be continued (phpce.eu)
126 points by msq 22 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 153 comments

As a woman I find it pretty damn objectifying for someone to withdraw from a conference because it has no female speakers. Why should anyone care about anything other than php in a php conference?

Even worse is when my girlfriend voiced a similar concern about a hacker meeting here in Mexico about how obsessed they seemed to be about getting women speakers at any cost instead of focusing on good content. She was basically told she only thought that way because she was brainwashed by men and didn’t actually believe what she was saying, though I'm embellishing a bit for succinctness.

How do you even argue with some who dismisses you like that?

They were basically approaching her to give a talk at an event here known for advanced technical topics even though she was at hello world level ability with React, and she felt very uncomfortable how persistent they were and it was obviously straight pussy pass.

People find ways to ruin all good things. Even something like helping women feel more welcome in the industry.

They always seem to have a high representation among authority figures at conferences for some reason.

Seriously, it's pretty offensive. They are treating women like props, and they just want women to be present so they can feel inclusive.

>They are treating women like props, and they just want women to be present so they can feel inclusive.

May be they are afraid of the alternative - being branded as non-inclusive, male-chauvinistic, etc. if they don't bring enough women to make the quota sufficient enough to avoid the branding (as we've seen such branding is no joke in the modern environment and can be painfully damaging when it comes to real things like employment/etc).

At some German universities, research groups that have too few female members (for a rather arbitrary threshold) are put under pressure to fix this. Except that they can't because they don't get any applications from women.

This kind of statistics driven approach to gender equality seems to be spreading around here.

Are there really people that worried that they’d cancel an entire conference? Do people feel their lives or livelihoods are at stake here or?

I wish more people realized that if you want to increase representation of a population, you're looking at the wrong part of the pipeline by trying to get more of that group at the conference (beyond a reasonable effort). If some one is passionate about increasing that group, it makes much more sense to try to address this at the educational stage.

You won't magically increase the number of women in tech by opening conference spots. Conference spots are open to at least somewhat-experienced people who already are committed to the industry, and no one joins to speak at a conference.

The idea is that to increase the number of girls in the beginning of the pipeline, they need to see a path ahead, see role models and not feel weird about their career choice. This needs to be done in many parts of the pipeline at once.

Yes but putting undue burden on a small time organizers of a conference is kind of ridiculous. They do these things on a budget and on personal time outside their normal jobs. Companies and professional societies are far better suited to trying to promote diversity at all parts of the pipeline.

All this does is kill any event that isn't run by them and negatively effects freedom in the industry.

I don't buy this idea that you need to see people with certain characteristics to feel inspired or something. What kind of kid thinks, "Oh, I'm a girl and he's a boy," when she sees a guy giving a talk? From personal experience as a child, those things simply don't register as differences until we're taught to register them. Maybe we ought to go back to, "Look, smart people are doing cool things in comp sci. Maybe you should go into comp sci if it interests you."

I don't think a lot of aspiring programmer will look at conference speaker for role models, rather more teacher/tutorial authors/mentors on their first job/internship

Well one way to think about it is to view the current structure (one of male dominated events) is already enforcing a system that isn't just about PHP. It's a structure where we put men on stage and leave (a few) women to silently sit in the back. The attempts by speakers and organisers to level this field is trying to get the events to just be about PHP. However they realize that things are very off balance already and without push back we'll continue to enforce a technological patriarchy. The only way to make things just about the tech is to address these things, however painful, and rebuild an environment where women feel equally accepted, respected, and praised.

Do all men feel accepted, respected, and praised just because they are men? No, the ones that do have earned it. Like so, I personally would like to get invited to give a talk only because I am the best person out there who can do so on the topic at hand, not because some organizers feel like they have some sort of obligation to be politically correct.

Men are encouraged to go into CS just because they are men. https://www.bustle.com/p/girls-still-arent-encouraged-to-go-...

Yet another silly feminist statistic, cleverly cropping context to make things look bad.

This is about advisories given to 16 to 18 year old boys and girls.

Does it seem possible that the advisors took the track record of the person they advise into account. Like for example their choices of subjects at school, their grades in Math, those sorts of things? And perhaps those aspects were more important in advising for or against STEM than the person's gender?

To me, that seems rather likely. But creative feminist statistics make it seem as if gender was the only determining factor, PROVING discrimination.

It's actually a pretty nice example of how typical feminist propaganda works.

Annoyingly, I can't find the study itself, even on the Internet Archive. I'm drawing on knowledge that I have about America and just used this to confirm that there's a similar bias in Europe. I can see how it would be less convincing if you don't have the same background info.

I don't know what background info you mean? You mean you already know that bias exists, from your experience in America, and that Europe study only confirms it?

How/what do you know about the situation in America? Tbh it seems more likely to me that US studies made the same "mistake". European feminists also like to copy methodology from US feminists.

However, if you have an article regarding the US, I will take a look.

Yeah, so encouraged by being ostracized from normal social activities and being called nerds.

A group with a self interest to have a certain outcome exist find that outcome to exist. It's a bit hard to say that this is a well made study with that conflict of interest involved. Don't get me wrong there are definitely problems abound and studies to support that position, I just don't think Bustle or Sky are the rigorous organizations to lead that charge. I was never encouraged to go into technology, my family wanted be to go into law. I went into tech well before there was any real indication in schools to do so because it made me feel less lonely. There's also the risk of trying to over correct and pushing people into careers that they aren't suited for, and that affects both genders as well. A more troubling correlation has been that women enter a traditionally make dominated field pay for everyone in that field goes down. Why we would suddenly value a field less because of gender is an interesting problem to understand. Another issue is that traditional gender roles for parenting may contribute to the problem. There's no way currently to address that problem without massive societal changes or law specific to address that. The issue is more complex than just a simple men are told to go one place women the other.

We don't value fields less because women enter it.

First of all, there is simple supply and demand. More candidates wanting to do a specific job means lower pay.

Secondly, you should ask WHY women suddenly want to enter some field. Very likely, circumstances have changed for that job. Maybe it now allows for flex time, or new machinery makes it safer, or whatever. I don't have a good example at hand. But I would look at that - very likely it is that thing that makes it cheaper (because it is more attractive), not the women entering it.

Another possibility could be a job starts paying less, so the men leave and the women come in (since they are less dependent on high income).

Edit: I just saw example of physicians on the net, which reminds me that women also tend to work fewer ours. Apparently physicians is one of those example where women have taken over and rates seem to have dropped. However, I know that female physicians work far fewer hours than male physicians (averages), which could presumably explain the drop. (example from Germany, don't know about physicians world wide).

I must have missed that invite. I went into CS because that's what I was good at.

I learned how to program at an early age, despite discouragement because I wanted to make video games.

I seem to remember being constantly bitched at by my parents for not spending enough time outside and getting made fun of for having no friends, guess I was born too early

> It's a structure where we put men on stage and leave (a few) women to silently sit in the back.

That's quite a bold claim. Can you delineate this "structure", since you seem confident that the organizers are making use of it to be certain that women won't be able to participate?

It's not "a structure", there just happen to be few women willing to speak at such events.

No it's a bit more than that. The assumption is that there are no qualified women, so an unqualified woman has to be put up to meet a quota.

But there are actually qualified women. Putting up unqualified candidates to meet some notional quota is the best possible way of enforcing the status quo.

It's a virtue signal in an industry that demands it.

A weird but predictable side effect of using affirmative action to promote women is that statistically attendees will see female presenters as worse. (Availably heuristic / selection criteria bias).

You're living in what I hope is the future. The present is a lot weirder than that.

> As a woman I find it pretty damn objectifying for someone to withdraw from a conference because it has no female speakers.

Good thing that's not why they are withdrawing from the conference. Specifically, they are pulling out because the conference wasn't even wiling to work with them to find a more diverse speaker lineup. If nothing came out of that, then they would have gone. But the conference didn't even do that.

> Why should anyone care about anything other than php in a php conference?

Then PHPCE wouldn't have been for you, along with all the other tech conferences I've attended, as they generally had talks that weren't strictly PHP.

> Then PHPCE wouldn't have been for you, along with all the other tech conferences I've attended, as they generally had talks that weren't strictly PHP.

I couldn't find the (now cancelled) schedule for 2019, but to be fair it looks like PHPCE was a very focused conference: https://2018.phpce.eu/de/#agenda

Compare that with the holistic schedule of RubyConf, for example: http://rubyconf.org/schedule

Also, the conference was not cancelled because the speakers withdrew - it was cancelled because ticket sales plummeted after the speakers withdrew. One could argue that people where following the discussions and voted with their feet.

> we always struggled to get women from outside of Drupal to submit to that track, despite Drupal itself having a relatively large female population. We actively reached out to women both in the PHP community and local to the event and still sometimes had no submissions from women

^^ From the second link, blog post about a guy dropping out.

I'm so lost. So this guy drops out because the organizers won't go to great lengths to find women, and then admits that in his own experience it is sometimes completely impossible to find women speakers.

I think we're missing the forest for the trees here.

Great lengths? What "great lengths" were they asked to do here?

> Sadly from what the organizers told me they actively don't want to do outreach, and just let whoever wants to submit submit.

> If they had tried and were unsuccessful I'd be more forgiving, but you need to at least try. And when multiple speakers offer to work with you to reduce costs so that you can at least try, that should be taken seriously.

It sounds like he took issue with what he took as a complete lack of effort in trying to solicit submissions from women.

I think that is quite reasonable, especially since he went out of his way to frame this as a "way to improve" rather than a "reason to hate"

I don't think anyone appreciates how goddamned difficult it is to run an organization, especially a volunteer one, well.

If you belong to a group, especially one that hosts events at least once a year, and you feel like it's run "adequately well", it's probably run better than 95% of the organizations out there. Head and shoulders above. You should take the time to thank the organizers for doing as well as they do. It's like being a member of the City Council, only you get paid even less (dollars or influence).

At least 2 of the presenters have direct experience doing exactly this, they appreciate how hard it is and they also offered to help.

I think I tried to hard to make it short and sweet but lost a bit in translation. I'm not supporting their reaction but there aren't enough people out there crazy and skilled enough to run an annual event that pulls people in from hundreds of miles away. I belonged to such a group when I was too young to understand how much work it took for them to make it look easy. And I recall someone trying to replace the leader at some point.

What I have is sympathy for people who discover at the "last minute" that they have fucked up. It's never a situation I like being in, and it brings out better things in some people and worse things in others.

Uncle Bob started one of his presentations with a call out to notice the shortage of women in the room and an ask that people try to think about fixing that. I think a more productive approach for these presenters would be to say, "Look, I'm gonna present this year, but I'm gonna mention this in my presentation, and I'd like to help you figure this out for next year or this is the last time I'll be presenting with you." Nobody is on the spot, you have time to reason with people and appeal to their values instead of threatening them and their conference.

Daryl Davis doesn't get people to leave the KKK by issuing ultimatums. If a black blues musician can have a productive conversation with a Klan member we can have an adult conversation about representation in volunteer run tech conferences.

What kind of pisses me off about this SJW thing is that it's a lot of people who have only recently discovered that their world view is wrong and they are in what someone brilliantly called 'the asshole phase' of new understanding. Now they're punishing people for being a couple years behind them on the clue train.

My classmates decades ago were pointing out and volunteering to address these sorts of inequalities. One in the general case, the other in the specific case of CS degrees. None of this is even a little new and I have some pretty bad whiplash from the sudden uptick in activity and anger.

I love safe spaces. Some of the best, most at-ease times of my life have happened in someone else's safe space. I may not know everything about how they get built, but I know this for sure: You can't create them by threatening people.

You mentions "ultimatums" and "threats" and a lack of an "adult conversation", what is your basis for that?

The presenters who canceled their presentation didn't go out and say "nobody should go", they didn't accuse anyone of being sexist. They saw an issue and reached out privately first to address it. There organizers were unable to address it this year have said they would open a dialogue to address it.

Their response has been pretty darn level headed and non-acrimonious. What I don't understand is what they deserve the bilious language you are directing at them? It seems to me like you are having the exact type of knee-jerk reaction that you are accusing other people of.

From the Twitter thread:

> “Everyone has the same chances” is the exact problem. What are you doing to elevate women and POC? How are you showing your support as an ally and actively encouraging access to these “equal chances”?!

These people have gone off the deep end. If you aren't actively following their political playbook you're to be shouted down. You can't even just opt out of participation in their crusade, if you're not elevating their chosen classes you're as good as the Klan.

This is a tech event, not a political rally.

And then you can start counting gays and trans people, and disabilities and their intersections.

It's a shame though because these groups do face actual hardships but I don't get the impression that the Twitter warriors are actually interested in how they fare, outside of scoring virtue points by being up to date on all these privilege topics. In my experience those who do real work for underrepresented groups are usually pleasant people tolerating opposing views and they don't search for the least charitable interpretation to get offended by, unlike how it looks on Twitter and Reddit.

Spare yourself the headache of reading politically charged debates on Twitter. It’s been a megaphone war platform since day one. Shout the loudest to win. I think it’s a real shame to cancel what seems like a useful conference for an undesirable truth about their demography.

Preferring to have nothing at all if things aren't exactly how they like them is quite common in that ideology.

As long as there are no good alternatives that fit their perfectionist ideological worldview then no one can have fun or live their life without constant disruption.

Tangent that may be relevant here.

I used to be involved in access work for those from underprivileged backgrounds.

It's very difficult to get poor kids to apply to University even if they have the grades, for reasons I expect are pretty similar (social environment, not 'fitting in', having few role models, etc).

Going back further - tons of them simply don't have the grades or skills, because they weren't interested early on, or weren't supported, or whatever else.

They fall behind at an early age. They're stuck in an environment that doesn't support them.

Changing the statistical makeup of people at that sort of level - at the end of the funnel, after all of the filtering - is really difficult. You need good reason to do so. It's still not clear to me that it actually makes sense - is the world actually better off if half the Ivies are made of poor kids, or have you just shuffled around status (is it zero sum)? Do you get better results - what are the better results you're looking for?

This stuff is difficult.

to follow up on that: at the high end universities do make an effort to recruit clever kids from underprivileged backgrounds, and they implement programs to bring them up to speed; there are pre-freshmen programs, summer classes, supplement lectures, peer mentorship, &c pp. It actually works.

That said, what is the focus on individual diversity good for? It's the system that holds people back, and as the parent poster says, no amount of individual effort at the end of the funnel is going to make any difference.

high end universities do make an effort to recruit clever kids from underprivileged backgrounds

I'll believe that when I see recruiters from high end universities out on the reservations in the US, but I guess imposters are easier.

Earlier the year the wife interviewed for a learning support position at an Ivy, and her hosts for lunch were two students who grew up and went to school in an Hispanic ghetto in LA.

I do not know how school outreach works, but she said they do manage to enculturate people quickly once they are on campus, and the summer programs are grueling for the participants. They include the social parts about fitting in.

A place in LA is a bit easier to get to then somewhere out where they put the reservations.


Ultimately this is what I mean re the "difficult" part of the other comment.

I don't have strong opinions on "how to fix the world", because I don't think there actually are solutions that scale beyond small tweaks; most of the time, people define a problem first, and then go after solutions, without really articulating why it's a problem, or whether the solutions will create a world that's better.

I agree that this stuff is difficult, but you are seeing things fron a US-centric perspective. Different societies and different cultures have different root causes and mechanisms that create similar inequalities.

> This stuff is difficult.

i don’t think it’s that difficult. the government finds a way to spends billions and trillions of dollars on tons of stuff that has no meaningful impact. if the government cared, they would increase the budgets of schools to fund good teachers’ salaries. if i could pull a six figure salary teaching, i would do it in a heartbeat. but there’s no way i would teach in this current educational environment. hyper focus on standardized testing and curriculum, which also needs to be changed, seems suffocating.

These are very complex systems with lots of variables and interdependencies/connections between the variables.

Suggesting that simple, direct, change of the variable that has direct linkage to pretty much all other parts of the system, will achieve some specific result, is almost certainly wrong.

In fact, pretty much every mechanism taught of how to effect change in large scale systems says not to do that.

In this case, this is pretty easy to see - As an example - If you could pull six figures teaching, everyone would want to teach, regardless of whether they should or not.

Solutions to this have obvious affects on other things

(IE increasing credential requirements, or performance reviews ...).

These in turn have effects on other parts of the system, ...

If you really think this is just simple, i'd suggest looking at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complex_system#Complexity_mana... and going from there.

You can definitely pull 6 figures teaching, for what it's worth; the median comp at my kids' high school was over $100k.

Top districts in Bay Area (Palo Alto, Saratoga, Cupertino in Silicon Valley, e.g.) pay senior teachers in that range.

With a pension, lots of vacation.

Wanting to, and being hired to do it, are two very different things.

Increasing the salary for teachers would mainly result in having better teachers, and a slightly higher tax bill.

It's not incorrect to say that there can be unintended consequences. It has been argued that one of the side effects of emancipating women, has been a decline in teaching standards, since the days when that was one of the few jobs women were allowed to do.

How would you change the hyper focus on standardized testing and curriculum? That comes at the administrative or local/state/national political level, doesn't it?

I sometimes think they value signalling over actually constructively working to fix things.

I’m moderate and think that anyone who wants to should program for a living should but stuff like this hurts my head enough I don’t engage with them on Twitter as it results in a mud slinging match that nothing improves from.

It’s frankly tiring seeing the same crap repeated ad nauseum.

This whole topic is something I'd never touch or even begin to discuss in public. It's very easy to put a negative spin on anything one might say. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. In today's algorithmic sort-by-controversial outrage culture, they will crucify you for anything and its opposite. It's the wisest to just switch the topic as fast as you can when it comes up.

Instead of every of them recommending a woman for one of the time slots at the conference or any non-white-male they just throw a fit like spoiled kids and say they are not going until someone else fixes the issue at hand for them, this kind of behavior is one of the things that deepens the gap between people in favor of diversity everywhere not by increasing diversity but alienating people that think different and considering that as a win.

If you read the second post linked he tried very hard to help. He encouraged multiple solutions, offered to help from his experience and they opted not to take the help.

The answer to this is summarized pretty well by another comment https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20797869

Still, a mature adult would have recommended someone for the next version of conference and if all points out your recommendation is being taken seriously you do your part and deliver your conference in the current version.

You sound really frustrated with this outcome.

What would you propose those speakers do differently?

A follow up question: why do you say that would be more effective than what they did?

(And, I would ask you, is that something that still maintains their commitment to diversity, since they all mentioned that was more important than speaking opportunities?)

> What would you propose those speakers do differently?

I always find in life that you get better traction when you approach people with a solution instead of just a problem.

So perhaps they could've said "Hey, I think it'd be good to increase speaker diversity, and I really recommend person X, she's amazing at Y, I could approach her and ask if you'd like?"

Instead of just yelling "There's not enough women!"

But that is exactly what the second speaker did. The organizers refused.

The organizers said that call for papers had already closed. I.e this was late in the planning stage. (conf is 4 Oct) The speaker wasn't offering to help for the next conference.

I hope other conference organizers take note and work to improve diversity while also actively avoiding speakers who pull stunts like this.

That is not an excuse. Essentially every conference makes major changes to line-up and program well after the CFP is done.

I don't see where in his blog post he approached them with names, so please quote it for me if I overlooked it.

It's not weird to hold the conference organizers accountable for organizing a conference badly.

Except they were willing to help with that. They were willing to help and contribute financially.

All of these people are so brave when "taking a stand" doesn't hurt their wallets and they seem comfortable to let millions of people live in poverty as long as female poc quotas are met.

They could donate to software engineering schools in poor districts in their home countries or developing countries, but they decided to do something absolutely meaningless that benefits noone.

I would suggest every person who finds this behaviour acceptable to look towards Effective Altruism (https://www.effectivealtruism.org/) and drop this ridiculoius posturing.

There is something unsettling in men refusing to attend an event because not enough women wanted to be there. (only one woman applied) They asked the organizers to find more women for them.

"Bring me some women!" said the male speakers.


I suspect that their capacity to deal with the bullshit was exceeded and they gave up. But sure, Daddy Event Organiser.

There is something heart warming about people making personal sacrifices to promote divirsity.

"Here, take back some of the money you were using to pay for our travel and use it to bring in some female speakers" said the male speakers.

Men paying for access to women. Not that unusual, I'd say.

cancel the entire event and leave everyone with their plans in the air. tickets, hotels, trips, everything lost. that makes sense.

The organizers canceled the event. The presenters just canceled their talks.

because you can have the event without the scheduled talks. of course the event was going to be cancelled if main speakers don't attend

> There is something unsettling in men refusing to attend an event because not enough women wanted to be there

That's not why they aren't attending. They aren't attending because the conference wasn't willing to put in any effort to try.

That's a shame, but I can't say I disagree with the two blog posts linked in the page. Such speaker lineups only exacerbate the lack of diversity in tech, and, given the prior year's lineup, the organizers had the opportunity to work on outreach this year. Hopefully a new conference will supersede this one (if there's not already alternatives, I'm unfamiliar with the PHP community).

Props to the speakers who stood up for their values.

Wouldn't it be better to leave outreach programs to outreach groups? This is a conference about programming and "single responsibility principle" is a fairly popular concept there.

From one techie to another: people aren't code. We're not rational actors in a vacuum, treating us like we are is a leaky abstraction that will break in prod.

The problem isn't simply "there aren't enough women", the problem is "we only hear from the same group of people with similar lived experiences". The problem is self-reinforcing: because women are underrepresented at those events, they're not attending those events, thus becoming more underrepresented and ultimately marginalised.

Ironically a good solution for that is having more "women's events". Women-only events to strengthen the marginalised group, women-presenting-but-open-to-all-attendees events to settle in and finally quotas in general events to counteract the bias.

Except this is not only true for women but for all marginalised groups.

All marginalised groups? What are those? Are people living in poorer countries marginalised? Older developers? Obese people? People with childhood traumas who suffer from anxiety disorders? Should we have quotas for all these?

I see where are you coming from, but the solution you're proposing is not workable as there are infinite amount of marginalised groups, unfortunately. :( picking one (eg. women) won't result in a fairer society.

I found this quick glossary helpful when I first started educating myself about these issues:

Privilege is about access. If you're born into wealth and have good connections, you can get into a lot of spaces other people would work hard to even be considered for. In many cases it's enough to just "look" the part, i.e. being white and male opens many doors (even if you aren't even aware of those doors because you didn't know they are barred for others).

Underrepresentation is about numbers. Representation alone is not obviously important, but being underrepresented almost every time can affect how a group is perceived. Representation "normalises" people, especially members of groups you might not think about even if there are many of them. E.g. if x% of people are non-heterosexual but far less than x% of movie characters are, and stigma or social exclusion means you barely ever see any actual people like that either, you'll think the actual percentage is far lower.

Marginalisation is about treatment. It often goes hand-in-hand with underrepresentation because minority groups tend to be mistreated more than if they are in the majority. This doesn't have to be actual physical violence or direct insults, it can also simply be a lack of consideration: if an event is planned by young fit men they might think chairs are unnecessary although it excludes people who need to sit down occasionally for health reasons.

Diversity is about variety. It's not nearly as important that your event includes "one of everything" as that it doesn't just consist of variations on the same theme (e.g. white 20-something guy from Eastern Europe, white 50-something guy from Western Europe, white 20-something guy from the US). White men shouldn't be your default -- in fact you should try not to have a default at all. Try to have a mix, the more varied the better. Having a "default" leads to everything else being somewhat of an "other" and thus easier to dismiss (leading to marginalisation). And even if an event doesn't already include people from a particular group they might feel safer to join if there's a healthy mix of different people from all walks of life than if it's dominated by a single group.

Inclusion is about experience. In other words, even if you invite a black woman speaker to your all-white mostly-male event, nobody will benefit if she's just a token. Diversity (i.e. making "othering" more difficult by making the groups more balanced) can help achieving this but for smaller events inclusion alone can already be a good start: if your all-male monthly meetup has a woman attending and she feels included (rather than just being "the woman" or having to try to "fit in") that might lead to more women participating.

So when I say "marginalised groups" I mean not simply underrepresented groups but groups the tech community treats poorly. A lot of spaces in tech are very unwelcoming if not actively hostile to women.

This isn't a new thing, I experienced it even when I grew up in the 90s although as a boy I didn't think of it that way at the time: it was "normal" that women were underrepresented, so that clearly meant women weren't interested and any woman showing interest was either not really a woman (because "there are no women on the Internet") or not really interested (because "everybody knows women aren't interested in tech"). This behavior results in women being excluded even when they want to participate and in being forced to "play along" (i.e. prove "they're not like the other girls").

You're right that there are many multiply-marginalised people. This is what intersectionality acknowledges: a black woman is treated differently from someone who's just black or just a woman.

But the solution isn't to just shrug it off and decide that nothing can be done. It's still about real people suffering and limiting that suffering is a worthwhile goal even if you think it's unrealistic that it can ever be abolished completely.

Picking one WILL result in a fairer society. Because as soon as you normalise women in tech spaces, you can focus on something else. Tech is no different from any other part of society. You will screw up, everybody does, but it's important that you simply own your mistakes and learn from them and then try better next time. Yes, people will shout at you for anything you got wrong, but that just means there's room for improvement. They may have a point, though, if you're willing to listen.

Feminism has achieved a lot, especially for white women (and men, btw -- "toxic masculinity" is not about cancelling manhood but about calling out shitty behavior people previously got to excuse with "boys will be boys" or absurd standards of "manliness"). Many places including the US have made broad strides towards equality for gay and lesbian people. It's hard work and progress is slow and incremental (with the occasional leap in between), but there's definite progress.

EDIT: I guess downvoting counts as an argument these days.

> Should we have quotas for all these?

Nobody proposed a quota. The idea is to improve outreach so that you get a wider range of high quality submissions to pick from.

> the solution you're proposing is not workable as there are infinite amount of marginalised groups, unfortunately.

Clearly, there are not a infinite number of marginalize groups.

> :( picking one (eg. women) won't result in a fairer society.

It would. The society would not be perfectly fair but it would be fairer.

That doesn't even have to be about fairness. There is knowledge and experience that is going underutilized because it is held by groups of developers that are underrepresented in these conferences.

The comment in replied to proposed a quota.

Oops I missed that, you are correct. I agree, I do not think quotes are a good idea.

However, I think my other points still stand.

It's a PHP conference. What different living experience would you expect? "I prefer to name my variables by diminutives because I am a woman"? "I am black person and I detest dark themes for PHPStorm?"

Politics should be discussed on political events, not technical ones.

You are aware that you're not being paid to "write code", right? You can't just deliver a bunch of nicely formatted for-loops and call it a day, your code actually has to do something, it's part of a product.

While implementing that product, everybody involved makes myriads of tiny decisions. Even if you're not in project management or any official "decision maker" position, you likely still make tiny (or not-so-tiny) decisions that affect the experience of users of your product.

If it's a web or mobile application for example, you might decide between different libraries or build tooling and that in turn could affect the download size, which affects people on slow connections. Or you could make certain assumptions about connectivity, affecting people who frequently need to work on spotty connections or high latency. Or in software in general you might pick a component or implement one in a way that makes it inaccessible or harder to use for vision or motor impaired users.

And those are just generic examples that apply to most products regardless of the actual intended use cases. There's of course the obvious examples of Google image recognition categorising photos of black people as apes (which I as a white person might shrug off as an inoffensive glitch but someone with a lived history of racist slurs in the same vein might be extremely hurt by) or soap dispensers not reacting to black hands (which is genuinely silly but betrays a lack of consideration on the part of the people who built the technology).

There are many, far more subtle examples.

Like a woman is more likely to have experienced abusive relationships and might therefore find it more obvious how certain "inoffensive" tech might be used by an abuser.

Or someone who's experienced intense trauma (like the death of a child) might not enjoy your social network's "remember this day from last year" surprise feature.

Or someone who's trans might not want their identity be revealed to untrusted people automatically (or might even prefer to use different identities when interacting with e.g. their ultra-conservative parents who come from a cultural background that encourages honor killings).

Or a member of a group that is frequently on the receiving end of racial profiling might have concerns about what data you are gathering that you may have to hand over to law enforcement (not because it might hurt the guilty but because it might help building a case against someone innocent the jury is likely to be already biased against).

Or you might implement a payment gateway a certain group of people can't use because it requires documentation they can't provide or because it denies them service for some reason.

It's not about having a black person at your all-white all-male event. It's about having a diverse group to maximise the chances of having a diverse set of experiences present. It's about empowering marginalised speakers because by definition their voices frequently remain unheard and their marginalisation means their experiences are likely going to be very different from yours.

I'm a code monkey like anybody else. I see an article about a new JavaScript framework, I'm gonna click it. I see a hip new editor trending, I'm gonna check it out. But there's more to our jobs than just punching strange symbols into a machine to make stuff appear on the screen.

It's about building products (or projects, at least) and those products are going to be used by people and will affect them. So the least we can do is learn how to avoid actively making their lives worse with the products we help build.

I would suggest that the SRP applied here would be organizers calling outreach groups to assist with application diversity. Real-life activities have side-effects which should be mitigated, such as nonrepresentational conferences reinforcing gender disparities in tech.

Outreach groups work as a lobby; They're the ones who need to call organizers. They can't just cultivate a pool of speakers and then wait for conferences to call on them. They're the ones who need to reach to both parties and connect them.

Conferences publish a call for participation and wait for speakers to submit their application rather than the other way around.

Do metal working conferences cancel due to a lack of female participation? Getting women into the mix is nice, but... it’s computer science?

I've done some work in (metal) mining, and I can say that absolutely has female speakers at conferences.

I feel like you missed the point of the analogy by taking it too literally.

No I understand the point and gave a good example showing how misguided it is.

So because some mining conferences you were at had female speakers, every conference must have? I again think you didn’t really understand the point being made as you did not counter argue it very much at all.

What a weird and frustrating circumstance to be in. It's definitely disappointing that the organizers could not work through this. I understand that women candidates may be disproportionately hard to line up, but is there any evidence that the promoters put in the extra effort to find them? More importantly, should they be obligated to do so in the first place when the aim of the conference is quality in technology: nothing more, nothing less? Optimizing for non-sex factors, you would expect the selected lineup to more or less match the proportions of notable men and women in the space. If that holds true, then the issue is much further up the line in this case: there are still not enough women in technology. Do we cancel future events solely on this premise? Seems like a terrible idea to me.

Except those proportions don’t hold true.

Agreed. And as a result, more information is needed on why that turned out to be the case.

> Optimizing for non-sex factors, you would expect the selected lineup to more or less match the proportions of notable men and women in the space. If that holds true, then the issue is much further up the line in this case

Except that is not the case. There are disproportionately more male speakers than there are male PHP developers.

> Do we cancel future events solely on this premise? Seems like a terrible idea to me.

The events were not directly canceled due to a lack of diversity, but due to a complete lack of effort to solicit a diverse range of submissions.

The organizers have committed to making an effort in future years.

the conference is quality in technology: nothing more, nothing less

There are things in life more important than tech conferences. Quality in tech should not override human rights, civil rights, people's health and relationships, etc. This could be a long list, tech isn't even close to the top.

The only number I've seen for this conference is one woman submitter out of 250, which isn't even close to matching the proportions of the community.

Sorry for my lack of clarity. I believe that the ratios should align for sure, and I believe that if they don't, that due diligence wasn't done, potentially with some direct or indirect form of prejudice (which cannot be discerned without knowing the details of how recruitment efforts took place). I also don't mean to derail the importance of human rights or equality on any particular playing field, I literally just meant that tech is what people are going there to discuss and learn about. While human rights and reflecting community proportions is certainly a part of it, I highly doubt that the intent of any tech conference is to primarily give keynotes on human rights.

Well I could have been clearer too. Under the hyperbole, I meant that working to make sure women are treated equally to men might be more important than having a tech conference. As Mark Baker put it, "Diversity matters more to me than speaking."

Except there is no evidence here that women are treated unequally.

Well, that isn't actually true: the evidence is overwhelming that women are treated preferentially, and that this preferential treatment is now not just accepted, but actually so expected that not giving out this preferential treatment is seen as hostile.

Which is quite incredible, when you think about it.

Everything in this story points to the heart of why I hate Twitter, and why it so often just leads to people dug in, further apart on an issue, and demonizing the other side.

Tangentially related, the second post linked in that announcement is from Larry Garfield, who was involved in some PHP/Drupal controversy a few years back — https://www.sonyaellenmann.com/2017/10/drupal-gor-ayelet.htm...

What a fascinating set of characters, and what fortitude it must take to go public with such an unorthodox relationship while being a public character. I find it difficult to change my hairstyle and letting my colleagues know.

Women are too smart to use php

Ahah. And yet they seem more present in that mad front end JavaScript world.

We as men like crude tools.

I'm reading through the Twitter thread, but I can't decipher the exact issue(s).

Did the organizers select a lower ratio of diverse speakers than applicants? Were there very few diverse applicants and the organizers decided none of them qualified?

From the second and third links (both blog posts rather than Twitter), only 1 out of 250+ submissions was from a woman, so the latter. Presumably a similar situation occurred in 2018, as there was a single female speaker out of the 39-person lineup.

>only 1 out of 250+ submissions was from a woman

Mark didn't cite a source for this, which is what I was looking for in the Twitter thread.

Oh, that's a good point. It might be sourced from crell's post: "According to them, they had only a single woman submit a session proposal this year...", which was from conversations with the organizers, so potentially nonverifiable.

You could probably check Mark's other claim more easily: "...the line-up last year was almost all male as well, just one woman out of 39 speakers."

Twitter is never a great forum to discuss issues that need context. The two blog posts lay things out more clearly.

I saw Mark's point about 1/250 but I couldn't locate the statement from the organizers. Larry says a number of speakers offered to swap their double sessions for more female speakers, but would those new speakers be the single applicant or other speakers who hadn't applied.

Regardless, the conference organizers are at least partially responsible for lack of diverse applicants if their speakers were able to find candidates on short notice.

Position yourself into the minds of the conference organizers. Do you really want to deal with such an angry mob? Na, better resign and give up. It's not worth it.

But I'll go to the next PHP meetup in Dresden and try to confirm my suspicion.

The reason given was that only one woman submitted a proposal from over 250 submissions.

Lots of discussion on twitter about how talks were chosen. Not many brought up the fact that the submissions process itself was apparently broken.

If you read through the second link he mentions how he tried to work with the organizers to improve their submission process and reach more diverse speakers and they opted not to.

That's not what I read, I read in the second link that he wanted to cancel a bunch of the male speakers, and then have everyone work like mad to reach out to women to come speak. That's not a submission process at all. That's outreach.

> That's not a submission process at all. That's outreach.

A lot of conferences seem to have a sort of selective outreach component to their call for papers.

Conference organizers will go and post the CFP in various forums from which they'd like to get papers -- particular programming language forums, particular theory or practice forums, particular universities, etc. Some of this seems creative, like "we'd like to get more foo-lang people involved with bar-con this year." All that sounds like selective outreach.

If the conference values, say, diversity of background brought to the table, then those conference organizers could seek out and post the CFP in places that diversity might be found.

One of the difficulties is that it's hard to know what all diversity you're missing out on (much of it isn't visible, and much of it doesn't have familiar labels), but other of the diversity omissions are glaringly obvious.

Including the glaringly obvious omissions in one's outreach seems a good start.

Would be very insightful to learn where they did seek out and post a CFP.

From the article it implies they did not do that.

I don't know about you, but if I paid to attend a conference because of a certain speaker or talk that gets cancelled, I'm probably pretty pissed and also probably out some money if I decide not to go.

Agreed that it's outreach, but it also seems necessary, unless <=0.4% of the PHP community is female (ratio of applications by gender).

All his life, Shloime hoped to win the lottery. Each week, he’d pray to God intently, pleading that this be the week he’d finally win. For years he prayed for the lottery – but he never won. Finally one day, in the middle of Shloime’s fervent prayers, a heavenly voice was heard in the synagogue: "Shloime, buy a ticket already!"

How “broken”?

After a couple minutes of research, the lowest number I could find for women in CS was from https://web.archive.org/web/20141221112502/http://floss2013.... Without getting into how accurate it is, I'm just taking it as a very conservative estimate that 10% of OSS software programmers are women. So out of 250 submissions, we'd expect about 25 of them to be from women if the sample is unbiased. And the odds of having only one woman would be... not sure if I did this exactly right but something like (0.1 * (0.9 ^ 249) ) * 250 = 10 ^ -10. Kinda looks like the submission process was biased.

The survey you cite that found 10.4% included software and non-software contributions (such as translators, documenters, community managers, etc.), and found that women contributors were much more likely to be the later. Other surveys, such as a 2017 survey of 5500 contributors to GitHub projects, put it at 3% women [1].

None of that is really relevant, though, because we aren't talking about a generic OSS conference. We are talking about a PHP conference. What is the percent of women who are PHP programmers?

Actually, that number would not be all the useful, either. Such surveys are going to find out what percent of various groups use PHP. That would be somewhat useful for estimating what the conference attendees should look like. Conference speakers, on the other hand, should be people are are doing new things with or to PHP. That's going to be a much smaller group than the people who use PHP, and so is likely to have much more skewed demographics compared to the larger PHP user population.

[1] https://www.wired.com/2017/06/diversity-open-source-even-wor...

In a Swedish town where I live there is an monthly sauna event. In the beginning they did not know how to advertise it so the first event they called it Sauna Extreme - an adventure, with baths like hot-and-cold and the grill. The second time they called it Wellness with the exact same baths, but with one extra bath with a hair pack.

It was fully booked for men during the first event, but only one woman joined. The second event, fully booked for women and only two men.

Third event they called it Wellness Evening, with no mentioning of any hair pack or grill, and it ended up fully booked for both men and women. Forth event similar.

The probability of those outcomes happening through naturally probability is extremely unlikely. It is almost like people will interpret subtle gender identity in events, and then have it impact their decision to join.

So what are the gender cues in PHP?

This is absolutely the worst kind of analysis. Find some results we don't like, then work backwards using bogus inputs (that are easily refuted, as tzs did below, or which themselves may have been biased, faulty, outdated, not directly relevant, etc) and arbitrary math to determine, yep, the process was biased! I just proved it! Let's call out these bad people! There's no possibility that I am wrong, it has to be those bad people!

Either the ratio is around 250:1, or they got insanely unlucky, or the sample was biased. What's another possible explanation?

No alternative explanation needed. The objective fact is they received 1 proposal from a woman out of 250. If you want to claim that ratio proves the process must be biased, you need to show some evidence, not a bogus math formula which was flawed from the beginning.

As other repliers have already stated: a) you chose a flawed survey to get your "10%" figure, b) the percentage of "women in open source" is far different, for a variety of reasons, than the percentage of women who are likely to submit a proposal to speak at a PHP conference in Germany, c) you dismiss any possibility that unusual ratios could possibly be due to reasons other than bias (is lung cancer biased because it overwhelmingly affects older people?)

You've offered zero fundamental evidence of bias (i.e. they filtered their mailing lists, they adjusted female speaker ratings, etc), other than the math doesn't work out the way you'd like, which isn't surprising given the invalid inputs and assumptions you started with.

It's not the strongest kind of proof, but it's still evidence. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inductive_reasoning

I think we literally mean different things by the word "bias". It doesn't have to be intentional.

Even if somehow the population they were drawing from was 99.6% male, I would not comfortable with conference organizers who just passively accept that. At best, they're still perpetuating other people's discrimination. I think the fact they didn't even care to address that is what made these speakers uncomfortable enough to leave.

Women being less likely to volunteer as speakers at conferences in general, for whatever reason?

Women are less assertive and more risk averse. This conference is not any different from any other conference, the field in the whole or society at large. This particular phenomenon was even highlighted in nature multiple times:



> Kinda looks like the submission process was biased.

While skewed outcomes can make you suspect bias, they simply are not sufficient evidence to conclude that there is bias.

For example, around 50% of the population is male. Yet 0% of all births are to males. Obvious discrimination against male fathers! Silly me, no, of course not bias. There is some other factor at work.

Or take the 100m dash as Olympic discipline, or in fact most of the track and field running events. Extreme racial skew. Bias?

And no, I am not saying that these same factors are at work here, just that you cannot conclude bias from unequal outcomes. In fact, as far as I know the science, it would be exactly matched outcomes that would actually be highly suspect.

See also: Simpson's Paradox ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simpson%27s_paradox ). Again, not saying that this is an instance of Simpson's paradox, but definitely saying that just because something looks like bias when superficially examining outcomes, that does not at all mean that bias is the actual cause.

And of course there are a lot of potential reasons why there would be a skew, many of which have been identified as fairly reliable gender differences, including willingness to take risks,

> 10% of OSS software programmers are women

The numbers I found were lower, more in the 1-5% range, skewing toward the lower end:




To sum up, your argument is flawed for at least 3 reasons:

1. Your numbers for the baseline are wrong

2. Your assumption that any skew in outcomes proves bias is wrong

3. You ignore actual gender differences that can explain different outcomes

That assumes that women submit talks to conferences at the same rate as men.

I doubt that’s actually the case. But 1/250 does seem very low.

I've only ever watched one programming talk by a lady. The talk was about Rust, so I was interested. I thought: a lady, wow cool, let's hear it out. Like 5 minutes in, she said something like "we know Nodejs is fast..." and I did a double take. What? Who in their right mind would claim that, except frontend devs who don't know better? And this talk is about Rust, which is even more bizzare, as it's full of competent people who won't take such bullshit. I did not watch until the end, got quite disappointed. So... where are those excellent female specialists? In 15 years of programming, I've met exactly one and that's in a 20 million population city with tons of programming jobs.

You could take a look at the talk about Entity Component System in Rust, by one of the creators of starbound(as far as i remember), she is a woman. And i don't understand your rage about nodejs. It's in fact very fast. That's wrong about that?

Very fast compared to what? Certainly not to Rust, and that was a Rust conference. Anything with a VM, even if it has JIT, is slower than a systems-level programming language that got no runtime overhead. VMs are slow by its very nature, simply because there an additional layers and more work needs to be done. If she meant support for non-blocking IO, that got nothing to do with Nodejs, it's an OS-level feature that's been around for almost 20 years. JVM can use non-blocking IO, doesn't make JVM fast, it's still relatively slow due to being VM in the first place.

What group will be offended next year..

What I find hilarious os that all this storm is coming from a group if men, as well as the vast majority of comments here in HN. Men trying to rationalise something related to women.

Would be good to hear female voices in here... why was there only 1 application?

Having studied in an all boys school, this looks to me as the times when me and my friends would get together to discuss how to approach a girl, or what would girls like. As you grow and mature, you understand that you only have to ask THEM, same as you would ask a random guy.

So how to find women who decided not to apply to the conference?

There are few brilliant female developers. Even fewer good presenters. If the talk given by female is strong and interesting, it is really enjoyable. But if the talk is weak comparing to the other talks given by males, it is not helping with diversity, but only makes argument what women not good in science stronger. If I’m attending conference and instead of attending interesting talk you have to listen very weak presentation from female because of diversity, I’d feel really bad about the organization of conference.

This is insane.

Maybe this shows how smart female developers are because they avoid PHP.

That reminds me when they criticized the Silicon Valley show for the lack of women in their Techcrunch reenactment.

Until it was revealed to be real footage...

If you withdraw from a conference cuz of speakers skin color and gender that's racism and sexism.


First guess is that people who wanted to visit it care.

PhpCE should have just blocked him, as this was an argument in bad faith, and moved on.

I find it surprising that people here are defending an all-male speaker line up at a conference as being ok because "it's just about tech".

It's become increasingly clear that no, tech is not just about tech. Tech has a huge impact on society and if your tech conference only has male speakers you aren't trying hard enough to make your conference reflect this.

Further, if your tech group isn't actively working to bring people from other backgrounds into it then it becomes an echo chamber.

Echo chambers are the worst, because people don't realise that's what they are in.

This isn't some random political position, it's something based on real, measurable results where echo chambers make horrible technical decisions because of real-world blindness.

I do machine learning for a living, and there are some particularly notorious examples of this happening in my field. The most obvious one is "Gender from Iris Images" where an entire series of papers by male-only teams ended up being discredited by a single devastating paper by (apparently) the first female to look at the problem. The paper title gives away the whole story: Gender-From-Iris or Gender-From-Mascara?[1]

[1] https://arxiv.org/abs/1702.01304

You linked a paper written by three men.

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