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Fostering diversity of thought

During the SymfonyCon hackathon members of the diversity initiative met to discuss how to improve diversity in the Symfony community. Increasing diversity of thought is a huge opportunity to grow collectively as a community.

At SymfonyCon Lisbon, together with Anne-Sophie and Emilie, we already managed to implement a lot of small but important details to make the event more welcoming. An example of this is having stickers, so people could signal if they are first time attendees or if they have an interesting topic to talk about. We also added a quiet room which could be used for people that sometimes need a breather from dealing with large crowds or people that need a quiet space for prayer. Such things hopefully made a difference for the attendees already. We hope it will also help spread that Symfony events are a place where members of underrepresented groups are welcome. In turn this should also help improve diversity among our speakers.

However, in this blog post I want to touch on another way to increase diversity: mentoring, especifically speaker mentoring. While researching this topic we came across Jill Binder, who has done tremendous work on this very topic within the Wordpress community. With this workshop, more kinds of people build up their interest and confidence to apply to speak at a meetup or conference. It is clear that for the biggest effect we will need to try to bring such a training to the local level. For this we will need to build up the infrastructure and set up local connections. As a first, more feasible step to help people get into public speaking, we, therefore, intend to organize an online training together with Jill that will cover everything that is needed, including coming up with a topic to speak about, a proposal, fleshing out your slides and practicing how to present.

The content will mostly not be Symfony specific but we will work with Jill to ensure that we adapt the content from Wordpress to Symfony where it makes sense. The workshop itself will be two separate sessions of two hours each. In terms of time-zoning we will focus on members within Europe/Africa/America. Depending on how much interest there is we can of course consider doing another round where we try to accommodate Asian and Australian time-zones.

This workshop is for you if:

  • You identify as a minority (gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age, mental health, varying physical abilities, etc.)
  • You’ve thought about speaking a Symfony event but haven’t been able to think of a topic
  • You think you don't have anything worth speaking about

When more kinds of people are speaking on stage, it helps the whole community. They bring in ideas to be more inclusive and new, innovative ideas that benefit everyone. The processes and our products improve as a result.

As we want to make sure the community stands behind this idea, we opened a sub-collective to collect donations for this specific cause on Open Collective. If you plan to attend, please consider donating $5 - $10 or more for the cause if you can. If you do not plan to attend but like the idea and wish to support this cause, please donate to this sub-collective. If you are a current donor with a regular contribution and wish to allocate funds to this specific cause, please contact me and I will move the funds from the main collective to this cause specific collective. Any leftover money from this cause specific collective will be moved to the main collective.

We have also published a Twitter poll to try and see how much interest there is within the Symfony community for this online workshop in becoming a public speaker. Please also RT the link to the poll and share it with communities that you think are under represented. We want to specifically go further than our current community reach! Note while in the Twitter poll we mention $5 to $10, but we would appreciate any donations if you wish to donate more to support this cause.

If you wish to help the diversity initiative, please visit our Open Collective page and donate. You can also add a text to your donation to mention that you want to support this initiative specifically or that you want to support a specific person with your donation. You can also join the discussion on the Symfony Slack #diversity channel.

Update

  • For some reason the twitter poll ended after 100 votes, with 40% being interested in such a training and the vast majority willing to pay a small fee. Given the fact that we got so many responses in less than 24h, it sounds like there is sufficient interest that we should make this happen. But now the main obstacle is being able to pay for it.
  • We do not plan to charge for the training. However without donations we will not be able to afford the training. So in order to be able to hold the training it might be necessary for attendees to donate 5-10 Euros. So please start donating!
  • Anyone that does not have access to a credit card but wants to donate, unfortunately atm we cannot accept IBAN transfers. However it is possible to do one time donations via PayPal in $. You can let us know as mentioned above if you want such a donation to be used for speaker mentoring initiative

Update 2

  • To clarify, the training itself will be open to the entire community as the infrastructure can host up to 1000 people!
  • During the last diversity initiative chat meeting we decided that based on the feedback on the twitter poll we want to move forward with this training. This means we now need to get enough donations to afford at least the Level 1, ie. $1500. At this point there is clearly not enough donated, however the vast majority of poll respondents indicated that they would be ok with a few of $5-10. So the time to donate is now! In parallel we are also talking to some potential corporate sponsors to help us get over the finish line!
  • If you prefer to donate in US $ or you prefer to use Paypal over a credit card (done time donations only), you can donate here and simply let us know that you want the money to be used for the speaker mentoring initiative via a comment during the donation.

Comments

Every person belongs to a minority in one way or the other. Collectivism is responsible for the deaths of over 100 million people. Stop thinking in groups.
Only weak people cling to their "group identity".
Cornelius K., agree with you. This "diversity initiative" initiative causes only irritation in thinking people. At this rate, the symfony will lose its community. Wherever I work, I have never been divided by any signs, except one: competence. Attempting to divide people into groups and give them preferences is exactly what this initiative allegedly fights against.
Not sure if you had a look over the slides on https://joind.in/event/symfonycon-lisbon-2018/one-year-diversity-initiative that I mentioned in the previous blog post. While you may disagree with the need to actively address the needs of under represented groups, I hope you do acknowledge that plenty of things that were done do in fact benefit everyone. So while you disagree with some of the things we are doing, I hope you still see a net benefit.
What's the point of giving more opportunities to people of colour, non-binary gender, minority, disabled, etc? You can lose a potentially excellent future speaker which is, for example, white, young, heterosexual man? Why not give a chance to this guy?
What's the point of dividing people into such groups? For me, there's no difference if a speaker on a conference is woman or man or other, straight, gay, queer, Indian, French or Chinese. A speaker must have something interesting to say and must be competent. Nothing more.
To prevent unconscious, societal bias. A big thing for diversity and inclusion that many conferences are now starting to do is a blind review of CfPs - obviously who is presenting will ultimately have an effect (some people are just REALLY good at presenting!) but the review of the content is not influenced by the identity of the submitter.

The goal of the Diversity Initiative is to make things better for everyone and the community as a whole, it is and never has been about excluding white, cis, heterosexual men (that wouldn’t solve anything and would just be doing the reverse).
The Diversity Initiative and this speaker training are not designed to give more oppertunity to minorities *over* majorities. They're only to help people that currently might not be comfortable enough to speak in public to be more comfortable doing so.
This will lead to a larger pool of speakers for Symfony conferences to pick the very best from. And the end result will be more people filing Call For Paper requests and in overal a higher diversity and quality in speakers.
Then why not make the diversity initiative more inclusive and less divisive by adressing individuals instead of groups?

"
This workshop is for you if:
- You think you might bring something to the table that is overlooked, or might be able to offer a unique insight that could improve symfony
- You want coaching and support to learn how to prepare for a talk/speak at a conference
"
We will allow anyone to participate in the workshop, in fact we do not envision any restrictions to joining at all at this point.

There are a few things that will be tailored to address specific needs for under represented people.
"There are a few things that will be tailored to address specific needs for under represented people. "

Underrepresented on what level, and why does it matter If they are underrepresented?

Why not address specific problems and try to find solutions for them?
There are still huge known barriers to making symfony accessible for a wider array of people. One issue is the missing translations of the docs.
The reason why we try to address specifically needs of under represented groups is that we are working with the assumption that all these under represented groups have the same ratio of people capable with the same probability to be interested in Symfony. However demographics are not matching those assumptions and therefore we want to make sure there are no other things preventing these groups from playing a greater role.

"One issue is the missing translations of the docs."

Indeed, as part of the diversity initiative we looked at this topic once more with the docs team. So far nothing changed but I very much invite anyone to take charge of this topic to see if there isn't some solution after all.

Doctrine did add a google translate button as a reaction to this discussion
https://github.com/doctrine/doctrine-website/pull/141
Also one thing that is happening is that Symfony events becoming available in more places in the world (Symfony Live in Brazil and Tunesia, Fabien appearing virtually at user groups in Vietnam and India to give these regions some more momentum to build from), which also helps in bringing more local content to other regions. Of course there is still a long way to go to cover the globe.
"The reason why we try to address specifically needs of under represented groups is that we are working with the assumption that all these under represented groups have the same ratio of people capable with the same probability to be interested in Symfony. However demographics are not matching those assumptions and therefore we want to make sure there are no other things preventing these groups from playing a greater role."

So you admit to shifting the "blame" to the symfony community instead of accepting that different people might have different interests which is exactly what empirical studies about equality-of-opportunity suggest (see gender-equality paradox)?
While I think these most of these changes for the whole are good and serve to help the community, and I understand the approach of company and communities adapting these kind of programmes to stay relevant in the 21st century, some of it I feel I don't understand, or a lack of scope/details are provided. Which defeats part of the purpose of how effective the outreach is for me.

I agree translations would be a good highest priority as the biggest blocker to actually learning symfony is the natural language barrier which makes complete sense. Also the rebranding and rewording of elements that did seem inclusive only of the typical developer stereotype does make people that don't fit the stereotype feel less self concious so I'm completely for that aswell.

As someone mentioned above everyone is a minority in their own context (I'm athiest, the biggest minority in the beliefs space). Loosely applying the term to allow anyone who identifies themself as one just makes it more complicated to actually accomplish anything, and to me seems like it would only ironically create boundaries that don't need to exist. As a minority in the beliefs regard I wouldn’t want precedence over a Christian, Jewish, or Muslim speaker. If the spot was already taken or the speaker had a better presentation for the occasion I wouldn’t take offence. Similarly I’ve had thoughts in the past of moving to an asian country and wouldn’t want to be a preferred choice just because I have a white face to make the cast, I would expect most of the speakers to most likely be asian.

I think doing the workshop with the pre-existing options you set as minority regarding age and disabilities only would make much more sense as they would be in a genuine position where they might be disadvantaged at becoming speakers due to there disposition.

Being too PC about diversity just makes simple matters contradicting, unfeasible, and in my mind a lazy and uneducated approach in trying to understand intertwining communities. The only you can truly embrace diversity is without having to treat everyone like they need some kind of extra privilege to be treated the same.
@Wade: very important topic you raise there. allowing people to self-identify as a minority as become a bit of a best practice. however in the same spirit often one also adds “that has faced discrimination”, especially in the specific context of IT.

As such I think athiest’s likely do not face a lot of discrimination in the IT space from all I can tell (correct me if I am wrong .. of course an indiviual might have faced discrimination even if the group in general isn’t facing discrimination in a regular basis and then the indivudual experience matters more of course).

I personally do not drink alcohol, which sometimes led situations where a conf party offered free booze but only still water for people like me. I did feel discriminated in those situations but given that I enjoy a lot of priviledge in other situations, I don’t necessarily would say that I am being discriminated as whole in the IT world.

Does this make sense?
Inside of work, no I have not faced any discrimination in the context to what you say your especially. Outside of work I have being subject to vicious verbal and physical attack numerous times. To the point where when the matter has been referred to police and they themselves have forwarded it on to a specialist department due to there inedquate training to deal with the situations of extremism and hate crimes. I wouldn’t want anyone, regardless of there background to be subjected to what I was which is why I don’t agree with some of this stuff as preconceptions of the nature of discrimination itself leads to it been addressed in an inconsistent and inefficient manner. Obviously there is a large contrast to social attitudes inside and outside of work, but those attitudes don’t disappear entirely when someone goes to work. Also your example, I understand the context but wouldn’t class it as discrimination. I know western culture is heavily obsessed with booze and I’m not a fan myself (I sometimes go months without a single drink cause it just isn’t part of my life). In that situation I would except it more as a local custom and not take personal offence and that as long as alternatives are arranged when it is know some guests may not part take for whatever reason (diet, religion, etc). As long as effort is made to communicate personal preferences, I don’t see the problem in someone doing something with limited scope and just working on there best judgements from what they know.
Your above statement really shows why it makes sense to allow people to self-identify if they are being held back due to discrimination. After all in the end its our goal to get more competent people into the community. As such it matters more what is holding these people back, than what anyone else thinks is holding them back.
When I saw this blog post, I wanted to write my thoughts about it but did not dare. It is not un-common that comments objecting these kind of policies are not welcome and feels better to just stay quiet. Only now when someone else spoke up first I wrote down my comments. Maybe that is something for the diversity initiative to think about.

Public speaking has always been an issue with me and probably for many people. This post said that the workshop is not for me unless I belong to some group. So the title "Fostering diversity of thought" seems misleading. My first thoughts were: "Why would you leave some people out?", "If I wanted to join the workshop, would I be shunned?". But it was later corrected in the comments that anyone can join. It is often the same story with other such initiatives. They are about giving opportunities based on your group identity, not by your ideas and they end up making the situation worse.

Diversity of thought and ideas is exactly what we should strive for. Allow all thoughts and ideas, no matter the background of the person behind it. Make sure that newcomers are welcome, give them tools and help to start bringing their own contribution. Make sure there are no barriers for anyone to join. Make sure any opinion and comment can be put out there.

In my opinion that makes a great platform and attracts new people from all walks of life.

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