NOTE: These thoughts are my own, and don't necessarily represent the opinions or thoughts of Microsoft, the IE team, or anyone other than myself.
I've got a set of blogs that I read every day, and this morning, Eric Meyer posted a really interesting post about diversity in the web community. Not surprisingly, it's gotten a lot of response, and I wanted to pipe in with my thoughts.
I feel there isn't enough diveristy in the speakers lists of pretty much any event I've ever been too. And it's not just women that we don't see enough of. It could be anything from visually obvious diversity, to non-so obvious diversity. Talking about this is the first step, but we also need action.
So how do we do it? How do we increase the diversity levels? I think there are two things we need to do. We need to empower people to become more visible. At Web Directions North, Cindy Li and Veerle Pieters talked about a site called Geeky Chix. This is a fantastic idea. It gives "geeky" women a place, a voice where they can blog, and share ideas and become well known. Why not build more sites like this, that promote under represented people in technology.
The second thing we need to do is look at who is out there now, and do our best to make sure that they have opportunities to speak, be heard and grow. That may mean giving up a slot or two for diverse speakers, or it may mean partnering up someone like Eric Meyer, with someone who isn't as well known, but can code and present the socks off Eric. Give them the opportunity to be introduced and work with existing greats.
To fix this problem, it's not just one group who has to step up and do something about it though. Event organizers need to invite more diverse speakers. And for those of you who want to become part of that crowd, you need to step up, blog more, tell the event organizers that you want to speak, show them the great work you're doing, and get your name out there. The more well known your name is, the more likely you will be to be invited to speak at events and so forth.
This isn't going be fixed in one week, or one month, but it's something that if everyone helps with, I think we can make better.