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RIPE 87 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Tech Session

Date: Thursday, 30 November 2023 18:00 – 19:00 (UTC+1)

Moderator: Karla Liddle-White, RIPE NCC

Status: Draft

View the session recording and archives

Introduction

Karla Liddle-White, RIPE NCC

The presentation is available at:
https://ripe87.ripe.net/wp-content/uploads/presentations/115-Join-the-Diversity-Equity-and-Inclusion-Session-2.pdf

Karla welcomed attendees to the session and quickly ran through the agenda.

Diversity at RIPE Meetings

Gergana Petrova, RIPE NCC

The presentation is available at:
https://ripe87.ripe.net/presentations/112-2023-11-30-RIPE-Meetings-Diversity_Gergana-Petrova.pdf

Gergana examined the diversity of RIPE Meetings along three main dimensions: students, academics and women. The average attendance of students was about 12 per meeting, academics around 60 and women was around 90-130. Around 15% of meeting attendees were female, which seemed low compared to industry averages (15-25% in Western Europe and 25-35% in Eastern Europe). However, 19% of presenters at the meeting were women, which seemed somewhat positive. Since RIPE 77 people had been able to select ‘non-binary’ on the meeting registration form and the range here was between 1-5 per meeting (averaging two per meeting).

Shane Kerr said he appreciated these statistics, though didn’t see so many trends, since most were flatlines. He asked if students were also counted in the academic statistics.

Gergana said that they were.

Gert Döring suggested they make it possible for people to voluntarily fill in their age when registering for RIPE Meeting. They heard a lot about ‘old men’ making up the majority of RIPE Meeting attendees. They knew where they stood on the ‘men’ part, but he was curious about the age distribution of attendees.

Gergana said they were looking at this. They were thinking of doing this as age brackets on a voluntary basis, they were also thinking of asking how many RIPE Meetings people had attended, so they could see whether newcomers came back again.

Sander Steffann suggested they could also ask about people’s experience level as well, since some people might be old but inexperienced or new to the community.

Peter Hessler (via Meetecho) said they needed to consider that people who had not been to RIPE Meetings were more likely to be working for smaller companies that had financial barriers that prevented them from sending people to the meeting, or they might not understand why it was interesting or important for them to attend. He was grateful for the online option, which at least allowed them to participate in some fashion.

Gergana said she appreciated Peter’s feedback and financial barriers were something they were thinking of, though they were also thinking in terms of under-represented regions. Gergana added that it was hard for them to act based on one person’s opinion and invited more people to share their views on the mailing list. As the community’s secretariat the RIPE NCC needed people’s input before deciding to go in one direction or another.

Urban Suhadolnik said he had attended RIPE Meetings as a student and he now worked as a junior engineer, so he could talk about two sides of it. As a student, Belgrade cost him EUR 300 in total, which was accessible. Berlin was also possible, while Rotterdam was EUR 800 and this meeting was EUR 600. That was hard for someone with no regular income. He was privileged in terms of his parents but not everyone was so lucky. The RIPE Fellowship helped, as did the student ticket. But once you managed to get into the community you found that it was great and helpful, and so you were more willing to spend a sizeable portion of your monthly salary in attending. He had a great boss, but he could only be here in his free time and he didn’t think many companies would send junior employees and so this would remain a high barrier of entry.

Ignacio Castro, said as an academic attendee himself, there were three reasons why an academic would attend: RACI, research funding, or because the event was in their local city and thus free. Research funding was moving away from networks towards AI, and so he thought this was an important thing to be aware of.

Due to time constraints following this presentation, it was agreed that discussions would be held after all the presentations had been completed rather than after each presentation.

Giving Credit Accurately Improves Diversity

Valerie Aurora, Frame Shift Consulting

The presentation is available at:
https://ripe87.ripe.net/wp-content/uploads/presentations/92-2023-11-30-Why-Giving-Credit-Accurately-Helps-Diversity.pdf

Valerie talked about the issue of people losing credit for work they had done, e.g. by drafts being updated and omitting their names/contributions. Valerie talked about the cultural dynamics around this - typically it was the more powerful or senior people who were the beneficiaries of this, which obviously had financial and other impacts.

Care in and for System Administration Work

Mannat Kaur, MPI-INF and TU Delft

The presentation is available at:
https://ripe87.ripe.net/wp-content/uploads/presentations/113-RIPE-talk-MKaur.pdf

Mannat shared some of the insights from her study on the role of care in Sysadmin work. This work was often unappreciated, unseen, and diminished, however, it was also an important part of maintaining continuous operations. A failure to recognise the value of this work made it harder to perform, which contributed to more exhaustion, requiring care work (and so on, in a vicious cycle). It was important to acknowledge this work and help to create a culture of care.

Accessibility and RIPE

Sasha Romijn, Reliably Coded

The presentation is available at:
https://ripe87.ripe.net/wp-content/uploads/presentations/116-Accessibility-ripe87.pdf

Sasha spoke on the topic of accessibility, sharing some of her experiences both generally and at the RIPE Meeting. She included some dos and don'ts (do inform people about potential obstacles, don’t assume what will/won’t be a problem for them, don’t use insulting or overly condescending terms, respect their mobility aids, etc.) Turning to this particular RIPE Meeting, she noted that while the event team had been very helpful, there had been issues with accessibility at the social events and not a lot of information provided in advance. There were problems with insufficient clearance in the meeting rooms and increased cost if buses were not accessible to attend social events.

Roasting The Current RIPE Meeting

Annika Hannig, Alice-LG and Maria Matejka, CZ.NIC

The presentation is available at:
https://ripe87.ripe.net/presentations/118-2023_11_30_ripe_diversity.pdf

Annika and Maria shared some of their experiences and observations from the RIPE Meeting. At the social events they noted there was often a loud crowded space with nowhere to escape, which contributed to sensory overload. They suggested providing some kind of area for people to unwind in different ways, such as by playing a game or sharing ideas on whiteboards. In terms of the meeting venue, they noted there were some remote/hidden meeting rooms that could make for some strange isolated spaces.

Sander said he could relate to the points on sensory overload, as he had often skipped RIPE Meeting socials for that reason in the past. But he also enjoyed the dancing – so it would be nice to have a mix of spaces. He had also been involved in organising an event for 800 people and they had gained a good reputation for accessibility, but you had to build that over time. One thing that helped them with that was having people with disabilities on their meeting team who could also help with the venue scouting. He said it was very rewarding to get this stuff right, and in return you had people flock to your venues because you were among the few that were actually accessible for people.

Urban said that he did like the socials but thought everyone felt that sensory overload situation at one point or another. When he met someone at the social it had taken them some time to find a place to talk. He really liked socials the way they were, but he would feel very uncomfortable if he didn’t have some way to escape. He thought it would be good to provide a way for people to connect at the social, whether that was by dancing, playing games, having a discussion, etc.

Nat Morris, said he really enjoyed the presentation. One of his observations from RIPE Meetings over the years was that he really missed the Terminal Room – this used to be quiet in there where you could go and concentrate without having to listen to other people’s conference calls. Similarly, in the meeting rooms there was often music over lunch and between sessions. It would be nice to have more quiet spaces during the meeting itself.

Harry Cross, noted that they were discussing these issues late in the evening right before the social, and it felt like they’d been forgotten. They were also buried at the bottom of a basement that wasn’t very accessible. He had sight issues and found the stairs hard to work with, and there were similar issues at the social events as well. He was happy to see this was being worked on, but he also felt there was more work to do.

Hisham Ibrahim, RIPE NCC, said he appreciated all the feedback and said they would do better. However, most of the shortcomings they had raised were things he was aware of, but unfortunately there was no other venue available for these dates. One thing they could do was be more transparent on the website about any shortcomings at locations or venues prior to the meeting so that participants could be prepared.