Preparations are well underway for Atlassian Summit 2016, our annual user conference. Our call for speakers is currently open, and we’re excited to welcome speakers with a range of experience and subject matter expertise to apply for one of our 7 tracks. We’re also excited this year to announce that we’ve re-vamped our speaker selection process, which we think will help us create the strongest, most diverse Summit lineup yet. We’re committed to creating a diverse, inclusive event that reflects the diversity of our customer base and the world, and we’re not there yet. For instance, though last year we encouraged more women to apply, only 14% of our speakers identified as female. It’s clear that there was more we could do to increase the diversity – in regards to gender or otherwise – of our speaker lineup.
This year, we’ve made three changes that we believe will help us achieve those goals:
- Created a more diverse pool of submission reviewers and decision makers
- Instituted a “blind review” process for submissions
- Expanded our training program to cater to speakers with less speaking experience
This year, there are 35 different people on the selection committee reviewing our all submissions. Our reviewers come from a wide variety of demographic backgrounds and possess a broad range of expertise. We’ve even added people from outside Atlassian to our committees to ensure that we have the benefit of a diversity of thought when selecting the kind of content that will be presented at Atlassian Summit 2016.
We think this is one of the most impactful changes we can make. We know that decisions about people – who to hire, who to promote, and who to select for speakers slots at conferences – are subject to our unconscious biases. Things that shouldn’t matter, like someone’s gender, race, or age, subtly influence our decisions in ways that disadvantage people from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds. So we’ve decided to take that information out of the equation when considering the merit of the topic. We don’t want to reinforce historical inequality, we want to interrupt it.
When speakers submit their proposed topic, reviewers won’t be able to see any identifying information about the presenter while the content is being evaluated. This will allow us to assess the true merit of the proposal without allowing someone’s demographic characteristics or speaking experience to bias our decisions. After determining the highest quality submissions from each track, our selection committee will meet to ensure that we have an appropriate balance of speakers. In addition to the diversity and experience level of our speaker line up, we also try to ensure a good mix of Atlassian employees and customers.
The last hurdle to overcome is a structural one. We know that because of implicit bias, people from underrepresented backgrounds may be less likely to have significant prior speaking experience compared to their majority-group counterparts. In previous years, we’ve provided remote speaker training to our presenters. This year, we’re taking our efforts a bit further.
We want to ensure that all of our speakers are comfortable and confident when speaking. To that end, we’ll be offering hands-on and in-person speaker training to select presenters who would find it valuable. This training will be more rigorous than in previous years and have a higher impact. We believe that this training will pay a wide variety of dividends: it will ensure that we have a high-quality set of talks and increase the confidence of all our speakers.
We’re excited to see the impact of these changes on Atlassian Summit 2016. Want to help us create a more diverse, inclusive event? Apply to speak today!