No women speakers? No Bother!

That might surprise you if you listened the Eurostar Webinar last week where Fiona Charles and I explored the numbers of women speaking at software testing conferences. If you didn’t hear it you can now  (Spoiler ahead it’s roughly 25%*)


Considering that there are more women in testing than other technical professions you might be surprised by this.

Unfortunately I’m not surprised. Fortunately, I’m not bothered by this. In fact, I’m not even bothered that in 2015 the percentage of women speakers has dropped in some conferences, or that the number of women on program committees for many conferences is a big fat zero.

Percentage of women on program committees

I’m disappointed of course, but I’m not bothered by it.

That’s because there are some phenomenal women in software testing and they’re taking the matter into their own hands.

Rosie Sherry working with Anna Royzman for example, has dropped the teaser that women makeup ~50% of TestBashNY 2015 using a merit based selection process. They had a lot of women submitting proposals and I think it’s clear why. What female tester wouldn’t want to speak at a conference run by those two phenomenal and respected women?

There’s more though:

Maaret Pyhäjärvi & Adi Bolboacă have decided to create a conference that they would want to attend. It’s called the European Testing Conference 

Mieke Gevers & Nadine Raes run Belgium Testing Days and there’s typically a high percentage of women speakers (30% this year).

I’m sure there are other examples too.

It’s simple folks. When you create an culture where women feel welcome to speak, the submissions come flooding in.  What does that mean? Well, perhaps women no longer need to be concerned about being underrepresented at dinosaur conferences. Instead, women can focus on conferences that are already offering a healthy environment. Conferences were women are compelled to submit.

I suggest that for any conference in software testing, if the trend of  women speakers is decreasing or wildly fluctuating, if the percentage is consistently below 25%, then conference organisers need to rethink how they are attracting talent.


In this day and age, I think there is little excuse for poor female representation. Conferences such as CAST have demonstrated it can be done. CAST has high calibre talks and a high percentage of female speakers. Who would have thought?

How about you, do you think conferences organisers need to rethink how they attract talent?

*figures were taken based on information on websites. We may have made errors in counting, but we think they are fairly accurate representation. Please let us know if we’ve made any glaring stuff ups. 

5 replies on “No women speakers? No Bother!”

I like your attitude – I do think things are changing for the better. Agile Testing Days has a large % of women speakers every year. I haven’t done the math, but many of the keynote speakers this year are women. One year I recall there was only one male keynote speaker. This year they are working with Speak Easy and also doing a special lightning talk session with women who are new to presenting – and these speakers do get some comp to attend at least one day of the conference.If we care about diversity and opportunity, we should submit to and attend the conferences who also care about these things. When conference organizers see their audience slipping away, they may act differently.

Good point Lisa, that’s another conference challenging the myth that there are insufficient talented female speakers

I like the way you presented the issue but most of all, I love the title of your article. Thats what made me read the article immediately when my friend shared it with me, leaving all my other work aside.

Hi Anne-Marie,
Good points! I’ve shared your article. I don’t seem to be able to zoom in on the 2nd and 3rd charts. I downloaded the image but the resolution is not good enough so I can’t read the details. Can you add the zoom in option as for the first chart?


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