Diversity – Still a dream in software testing?

I was browsing my LinkedIn feed yesterday and noticed that one of my connections was recommending attending a local software testing conference (he has already signed up). It’s nothing major, just a small local event called TConf 2016 (Everything about Software Quality) taking place in Melbourne next month. So, I thought I’d check it out and see if it might be worth attending – after all, it’s always good to support local initiatives AND it looks a steal at $49 (for 9 talks over one day) AND it’s fully catered. Where do I sign up?

So, who’s speaking and what are they talking about? The opening keynote is by a guy from SEEK talking about “Refactoring a quality culture for continuous delivery”. This is followed by Morning Tea and then a guy talking about “A big data testing strategy to improve quality data” and then another guy talking about “Mobile application testing using Amazon Device Farm”.

After lunch we get a guy talking about “Performance testing at REA” and then another guy talking about “Continuous visual integration”. This is followed by Afternoon Tea and another guy talking about “Automated security testing for continuous delivery”. To close out the day we get another guy talking about “The case for consumer-driven contracts” AND, last but not least, another guy talking about “Testing insights: in the fast paced technology world of apps”.

In summary: 9 speakers. ALL MALE. 7 of them 30/40-ish caucasian.

As I wrote on LinkedIn in response to the recommendation – #Facepalm

To quote from the conference website – “We created TConf to bring industry leaders together, to share the challenges and solutions to complex quality problems in the industry. We have a strong desire to advance the Quality function. We believe in the importance of these fundamentals, a good software tester is also a good engineer, communicator, pragmatic thinker and above all problem solver“. It also appears that the majority of good software testers are caucasian males in their mid-thirties.

Where is the balance and diversity in this program?

I’ve got nothing against any of the individuals speaking, but I do have a big issue with the organisers. How many women did you invite to speak? How many turned you down? Do you care how many women attend your conference?

End of rant….

Postscript: Just in case any of you are wondering, I (a mature caucasian male) will NOT be attending NOR recommending anyone else attend this conference, even at $49 for a full day I consider this to be a very poor investment of my time and money.

Dateline: Melbourne, Friday October 21 2016

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11 thoughts on “Diversity – Still a dream in software testing?

  1. Pingback: Diversity – How important is it to you? – @Beaglesays

  2. Running KWST this year I had a surprise too with only one female attendant. Certainly not due to lack of invites or anything (although I know they are not 50/50 yet. Haven’t run the exact numbers). I only realised it when it was too late. Although KWST was an all out success I do wonder if it could/should have been better with more diversity. The good probably is, that I won’t make the same mistake again. I will watch the diversity aspect (not only in gender) more going forward.

    What still remains is the question why. Was it sheer coincidence or is KWST already perceived as the boys club? Would be sad if it were. I guess I’ll find out eventually.

    • Hi Oliver, I don’t think you should be too hard on yourself; the year I attended KWST you had a 50/50 mix male & female plus an old codger from Oz. I think your diversity is ok, mate 👦🏽👩🏼👴🏼👳🏼‍♀️👳🏼👨🏼

  3. Its is hard even we want to forge ahead and create postive discrimination and affirmative policy in professional disipline. One trusts that women/lgbt/mexicans/whatever every marginalised group has qualifications, credentials to attend and even deliver some of the presentations. Usually these are run by specific groups which may not have women as members not that they been barred but women are happy to attend but not rise. In management seminars i do not find this issue
    Some medical field like surgery is admitted boys club but its quite open..i trust the organisers of this confrence did not readily do this
    . Speaking from experience or organising conference for testing in sydney. Yep within a week – getting speakers itself was a challenge. I was happy to with anyone who had an inclination and knowledge. One client a lady volunteered to speak and another joint presentation man-woman from a bank
    I was really very lucky

  4. Hello. Funny thing. I’m not going to analyse or try to envision the contents of those presentations – I’m not finding enough diversity in execution of the event (just some guys talking? – how about some workshops, at least using the technologies advertised, you know, some hands-on experience?). Anyway, I guess insisting on diversity just in order to display it is not the best way to go, I’d myself prefer someone’s skill, personality etc. over the fact they are some gender. As for the event in question – maybe some women specialists were approached but declined the offers as they did not want to spend the day just talking on highbrow subjects in some remote location because they might have been more inclined to pursue some down-to-earth QA topics or get involved in some practical endeavours, like workshops or some practice, and not just another talkathon. If so – good for them (the issue of M/F proportions in the industry and the reasons for that, as well as that of why women should be encouraged to join the force in the first place is another long story). My point of the story might be this – I am writing this from a country in Europe currently slipping into ridicule, where some official factors are directing it into some mentality-wise and socially backwarded waters. In this country, an IT conference was held, during which the head IT architect of the country’s major (but not national) airline (a male, of course) started his speech by stating that despite the conference being of technological nature, he could see some women attending.

  5. Not sure I understand the point you’re trying to prove with your boycott. The event does seem a little lean on the diversity side, at least in terms of the speakers, but I hadn’t even noticed until you mentioned it. Maybe I’m a bad person.
    Perhaps the talks put forward by these males were of such high quality they couldn’t turn any of them down.
    Perhaps there was a shortage and the organizers simply went with the speakers they had available at their disposal.
    Aren’t you interested in hearing the talks that these guys have no doubt put a lot of effort into preparing? Can’t we just live and let live here?

    • Thanks for your response Nick. The point I’m making is highlighted by your own inability to notice the lack of diversity in the program. Are you by any chance a male Caucasian?
      I have been a program chair at several conferences over the years and like to think that we always had a diverse program from both a presenter and subject stand point. It’s not difficult…

    • Not sure I understand the point you’re trying to prove with your boycott.

      – Nick, I just spoke to Colin to understand his viewpoint. The point that he is trying to prove with his boycott is that he cares about diversity and that he is disturbed with the fact that the event in question has completely ignored this important aspect.

      The event does seem a little lean on the diversity side, at least in terms of the speakers, but I hadn’t even noticed until you mentioned it. Maybe I’m a bad person.

      – A little lean? Sure?

      Perhaps the talks put forward by these males were of such high quality they couldn’t turn any of them down.

      – Perhaps most of the speakers ‘are’ the organisers and mates. If that is the case then who is going to really make a call about the quality of talks?

      Perhaps there was a shortage and the organizers simply went with the speakers they had available at their disposal.

      – Perhaps there was never a call for papers and the organisers decided to deliver talks without even considering the diversity aspects of the programme.

      Can’t we just live and let live here?
      – Absolutely. We would love to do so. In order to live we do have to care about others’ living as well. Like talking about abolishing poverty doesn’t abolish it, ignoring or hiding behind ignorance about diversity doesn’t help in improving diversity.
      Neither Colin nor I have anything against the individuals who are speaking at this event. I have met many of them and they are all good people. I would want to give benefit of doubt to people who have organised this event but we should know that they are not new to organising events. Colin has raised an important point here and has reminded all of us about something we forget about or don’t care about. We must be thankful to him.

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