The conference session focused on diversity in the tech industry and how to increase diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice in the RIPE community. The moderator, Vesna, introduced the session and highlighted the importance of bringing more value to the next generation in the RIPE community and attracting younger participants. Four panellists, namely Claudia, Edward, Mirja, and Zeljko, shared their experiences and perspectives on the issue of diversity in technical spaces.
Claudia, a young policy-oriented member of the RIPE and Internet Governance community, discussed her initial high expectations as a young person entering the tech industry. She emphasised the value of intergenerational inclusivity and younger voices in shaping the future workforce and bringing new ideas.
Edward highlighted the significance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in tech organisations like RIPE NCC, NANOG, and ARIN. He mentioned the importance of actively fostering diversity, creating pathways and opportunities for underrepresented groups, and making the tech community more welcoming and inclusive. He emphasised that diverse voices and perspectives make organisations stronger and more sustainable.
Mirja, as the Chair of the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) in the IETF, discussed the challenges and initiatives in improving diversity within the IETF. She mentioned programs like onboarding newcomers, mentoring, and research groups in the IRTF (Internet Research Task Force) as ways to increase diversity and bridge the gap between academia and industry.
Zeljko, coming from a non-technical background, shared their experience in arts and IT policy advocacy. They highlighted the importance of embracing different backgrounds and perspectives, even outside the traditional tech sphere, and stressed the need to create a more inclusive and diverse tech industry.
The discussion highlighted the challenges faced by young professionals in attending conferences such as RIPE meetings due to financial constraints and the early stage of their careers. The speakers acknowledged that the majority of attendees at these meetings are experienced professionals who have been in the industry for several years. They pointed out the need for young people to first gain foundational knowledge and experience in their own companies before actively participating in these conferences.
Various suggestions were put forward to address the issue. These included offering fellowships and virtual attendance options to make the conferences more accessible to young professionals when they are ready. The idea of supporting diversity and youth participation through sponsorships from companies was also raised, urging industry leaders to contribute financially to support the next generation. Additionally, the importance of fostering mentorship and creating opportunities for junior staff was highlighted. The speakers recognized the need for strategies and goals to also promote gender diversity, open up leadership roles to women, and actively involve women at all levels of the tech industry.
Young attendees who had managed to participate in the conference shared their experiences, expressing gratitude for the support they had received and the valuable networking opportunities provided. They also highlighted the financial challenges faced by young people and the need for more support to enable their participation.
Proposed action points/recommendations: