The British Ruby Conference was canceled [andrewnez2012brc] after the composition of the speakers list, 100% white men, was noted and discussed on twitter [Susser2012nsl]. The ensuing discussion touched upon:
- the merits of meritocracy (e.g., the call was open, the best were invited)
- in/out-group dynamics (e.g., this should’ve been addressed within the Ruby community rather than by external potshots)
- being “sexist-free” versus “quotas” (i.e., “color-blind” vs “affirmative action”)
- the micro reflecting the macro (e.g., the conference lineup merely reflects, and is not responsible for, the lack of diversity among Ruby developers)
Each of these are complex, and fascinating, issues. However, regardless of where you stand, given that controversy frightens sponsors [seanhandley2012wbr] and distracts from organizing a good conference, I think it is increasingly likely that organizers will have to give some thought to speaker diversity from the start – just as many now do with anti-harassment policies.