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[ripe-list] Gender politics at RIPE

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Malcolm Hutty

2016-10-24 17:52:28 CET

I'm writing to follow up on the Lightning Talk analysing the sex of
participants at RIPE meetings, and in particular the call for ideas for
actions for the Programme Committee to take to "improve" the
distribution (by which the speaker meant, to increase female participation).

First, I will say that I was heartened that the speaker's analysis
showed that participation at RIPE broadly matches the industry from
which it is drawn. I would have been very disappointed if the
predominantly male participation had acted to discourage women in our
industry from attending RIPE meetings, and I am happy to see that there
is no evidence of that.

I do take issue with the speaker's personal claim that we should aim to
"be better than our industry" and that we should measure success by
whether female participation more closely matched 50% than matched
female participation in our industry. And I'm worried by his call for
the programme committee to act to move us in that direction.

I think we all know where this is going; we've all seen this kind of
gender politics in other spheres.

Here is my credo. I believe that one of the positive characteristics of
the RIPE community is that it is open to, and welcoming of, all
participants. Our community has a wholly admirable tradition of robust
discussion of ideas, exclusively on the basis of the ideas themselves,
where contributions are weighed solely according to their own merits and
not according to irrelevant characteristics of the speaker such as race,
sex, nationality, or even employer or job title.

That is something of which I think we should be proud, and we should
jealously guard it against ideological attempts to introduce changes
that would undermine it.

If we go down a path that asks first for an assessment of the speaker's
"diversity" (meaning their sex, race, and so forth), that would be a
step backwards.

To the female speaker who said she would feel more welcome if there were
more female participants, I say this: I hope you feel welcome already.
You are very welcome, as is everyone. And I hope nobody would judge how
welcome they are as a zero-sum game in competition with some other group
or tribe.

I hope the Programme Committee does not start to say that contributions
from men are less interesting or that presentations by men are less
welcome because "we've got enough of you already", as is the clear if
unspoken message of any attempt to artificially skew participation.

Kind Regards,

Malcolm.

-- 
            Malcolm Hutty | tel: +44 20 7645 3523
   Head of Public Affairs | Read the LINX Public Affairs blog
 London Internet Exchange | http://publicaffairs.linx.net/

                 London Internet Exchange Ltd
           Monument Place, 24 Monument Street London EC3R 8AJ

         Company Registered in England No. 3137929
       Trinity Court, Trinity Street, Peterborough PE1 1DA

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Anna Wilson

2016-10-24 18:15:07 CET

Hi Malcolm,

> To the female speaker who said she would feel more welcome if there were
> more female participants, I say this: I hope you feel welcome already.
> You are very welcome, as is everyone. And I hope nobody would judge how
> welcome they are as a zero-sum game in competition with some other group
> or tribe.

There's no assumption of a zero sum game here. The aim that Shane articulated is to attract more participants, not different ones; and to choose the best content from that expanded set.

I understand the fear that the box ticking could take over, and you'd be quite right to be diligent to make sure that the result is indeed to expand, not divide, the pool of participants. But if we start from the point of view that roughly matching the industry as it exists is good enough... then we will never accomplish this.

Malcolm, forgive me for making an assumption, but I have the idea that you think we need to work from first principles here, with all the risks inherent in that. Like the code of conduct, though, other areas of the industry are doing this first, and showing how to do it right. We can follow their example.

All the best,
Anna

p.s. For those not at the RIPE meeting, here's Shane's talk that stimulated this discussion. https://ripe73.ripe.net/archives/video/1246/

Denesh Bhabuta - UKNOF

2016-10-24 18:29:30 CET

> On 24 Oct 2016, at 16:52, Malcolm Hutty <malcolm _at_ linx _dot_ net> wrote:
> I do take issue with the speaker's personal claim that we should aim to
> "be better than our industry" and that we should measure success by
> whether female participation more closely matched 50% than matched
> female participation in our industry. And I'm worried by his call for
> the programme committee to act to move us in that direction.

I actually agree with Shane, but also think you have misunderstood his “call”.

I do think we, as a community (and by extension, society) should aim to be better than the general status quo. We should be aiming higher.

As for his “call”, he did not make any suggestions on how to do this. From my point of view, if it not about filling quotas, but more about encouraging more females to participate. That does not mean that better talks from males are overlooked.. it just means that the community needs to think about how to encourage and make the environment much more welcoming to females. Open to all is the right thing to do, but it needs to be better than that.

My own personal interest is looking at tackling this at a much earlier age - because IMHO, this is more of a societal issue which seeps into the industries we work in… however we do need to work at this at both ends - young age and those already in the industry.

Regards
Denesh

> I think we all know where this is going; we've all seen this kind of
> gender politics in other spheres.
> 
> Here is my credo. I believe that one of the positive characteristics of
> the RIPE community is that it is open to, and welcoming of, all
> participants. Our community has a wholly admirable tradition of robust
> discussion of ideas, exclusively on the basis of the ideas themselves,
> where contributions are weighed solely according to their own merits and
> not according to irrelevant characteristics of the speaker such as race,
> sex, nationality, or even employer or job title.
> 
> That is something of which I think we should be proud, and we should
> jealously guard it against ideological attempts to introduce changes
> that would undermine it.
> 
> If we go down a path that asks first for an assessment of the speaker's
> "diversity" (meaning their sex, race, and so forth), that would be a
> step backwards.
> 
> To the female speaker who said she would feel more welcome if there were
> more female participants, I say this: I hope you feel welcome already.
> You are very welcome, as is everyone. And I hope nobody would judge how
> welcome they are as a zero-sum game in competition with some other group
> or tribe.
> 
> I hope the Programme Committee does not start to say that contributions
> from men are less interesting or that presentations by men are less
> welcome because "we've got enough of you already", as is the clear if
> unspoken message of any attempt to artificially skew participation.
> 
> Kind Regards,
> 
> Malcolm.
> 
> -- 
>            Malcolm Hutty | tel: +44 20 7645 3523
>   Head of Public Affairs | Read the LINX Public Affairs blog
> London Internet Exchange | http://publicaffairs.linx.net/
> 
>                 London Internet Exchange Ltd
>           Monument Place, 24 Monument Street London EC3R 8AJ
> 
>         Company Registered in England No. 3137929
>       Trinity Court, Trinity Street, Peterborough PE1 1DA
> 


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Randy Bush

2016-10-25 00:30:20 CET

> I do think we, as a community (and by extension, society) should aim
> to be better than the general status quo. We should be aiming higher.

considering that our industry and the general society are horrifying
and embarrassing disasters in this area, we should aim for massively
better.

randy

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Nigel Titley

2016-10-25 10:12:46 CET

But the only real solution to this is the one I have used personally. My children were encouraged to follow whatever career preferences they wished and the girls especially were encouraged not take shit from anyone. 

Nigel

Sent from my iPad

On 25 Oct 2016, at 00:30, Randy Bush <randy _at_ psg _dot_ com> wrote:

>> I do think we, as a community (and by extension, society) should aim
>> to be better than the general status quo. We should be aiming higher.
> 
> considering that our industry and the general society are horrifying
> and embarrassing disasters in this area, we should aim for massively
> better.
> 
> randy
> 

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Benno Overeinder

2016-10-25 11:33:41 CET

Dear Malcom,

Thank you for your input to the gender diversity discussion after the LT
presentation of Shane.

Sharing of ideas and concerns, and followup discussion are very welcome
to define more clearly and precisely the goals we try to achieve.
Having said this, we want to reply on one part of your feedback in which
you formulate a concern.

On 24/10/2016 17:52, Malcolm Hutty wrote:
> I do take issue with the speaker's personal claim that we should aim to
> "be better than our industry" and that we should measure success by
> whether female participation more closely matched 50% than matched
> female participation in our industry. And I'm worried by his call for
> the programme committee to act to move us in that direction.
> 
> I think we all know where this is going; we've all seen this kind of
> gender politics in other spheres.

This assumption is not what was meant with "be better than our
industry".  In our aim for more diversity, the PC will not choose
submissions from women over better quality submissions.  Speaking purely
on program selection: we have not and do not intend to
do that.  Our goal is to reach a better diversity in submissions; more
diversity in the final selection should follow from that automatically.

We hope that we are inclusive of women currently, and thus have a
similar female:male ratio as we do in our industry.  It has been
mentioned that we did in the past, but we shouldn't take it as a given.

To improve our industry's ratio (and as consequence our own ratio), we
believe that this is the truly valuable cause to have.  The example
mentioned in the presentation showed how PyCon was successful to attract
more women by drawing in more women into the industry first (more
specifically into the Python language).  This also resulted in higher
attendance ratio of women at the PyCon conference (reflecting the Python
community/industry).  Efforts spent here are not lost, as it benefits
the community as a whole and has long term results.  But we realize this
is a big task.

Regards,

the RIPE PC

-- 
Benno J. Overeinder
NLnet Labs
http://www.nlnetlabs.nl/

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Brian Nisbet

2016-10-25 11:39:14 CET

Excellent parenting is vital, but it's far from the only real solution.

When society as a whole is biased, it's easy to see how even people who 
were told they could do anything (and rightly believed that) could find 
their desires thwarted.

On top of parenting *and* doing what we can to improve things at all 
levels of education we have to look at what we as a community can do 
within and around ourselves.

We can work with people to improve diversity by working harder to find 
excellent speakers who also happen to not be (white) men. By doing this, 
by showing we're interested in diverse voices, we will attract more 
excellent speakers and improve the meeting and our community.

And we should lead, because I've always believed that that is what the 
RIPE community does.

Brian

Brian Nisbet, Network Operations Manager
HEAnet Limited, Ireland's Education and Research Network
1st Floor, 5 George's Dock, IFSC, Dublin 1
Registered in Ireland, no 275301  tel: +35316609040
web: http://www.heanet.ie/

Nigel Titley wrote on 25/10/2016 10:12:
> But the only real solution to this is the one I have used personally. My children were encouraged to follow whatever career preferences they wished and the girls especially were encouraged not take shit from anyone.
>
> Nigel
>
> Sent from my iPad
>
> On 25 Oct 2016, at 00:30, Randy Bush <randy _at_ psg _dot_ com> wrote:
>
>>> I do think we, as a community (and by extension, society) should aim
>>> to be better than the general status quo. We should be aiming higher.
>>
>> considering that our industry and the general society are horrifying
>> and embarrassing disasters in this area, we should aim for massively
>> better.
>>
>> randy
>>
>