Our diversity journey - ReactiveConf
GENERAL UPDATE | 5 months ago

Our diversity journey

Dear everybody,

here is Miki, the lead of Reactive.

After a long time, there is something I need to tell you about.

Firstly, all of us know that last year I made mistakes, and then made further mistakes in how I tried to handle the follow-ups. My team and I made some speakers uncomfortable, failed to communicate proactively and effectively both with them personally and the public in general, and didn’t move quickly enough afterwards to make up for gaps in our collective experience and knowledge.

But we’ve been working hard on this in the meantime.

ReactiveConf aims to be a creative and welcoming space for everyone. We would like to connect the community across the world. And definitely not to split it. It should be a place, where new talents meet with senior developers face to face and have a chance to learn something. Where senior developers can find a new inspiration. Where you can find a new friend and some new mind-blowing ideas.

However, with regards to the lack of diversity, we have been really afraid to do anything. Even when we tried, all our steps have been criticized… So, that is why we have been “on-hold” mode…

I have stayed silent, as I was trying to understand what has really happened and how we could learn from it for the future with the aim to create safe and welcoming place for everybody.

In many ways, Central Europe is its own world, with a rough-cut history and culture. Openness and transparency has not been encouraged, traditionally, and diversity and inclusion has not been a priority. I recognize this is counter to the welcoming and safe environment we want to create. To that end, we’ve been spending time abroad-both in Europe and the US -where efforts to alleviate the issues are more developed.

I feel it’s time for a move. Because doing nothing and staying silent would be our biggest mistake. And I definitely don’t want to continue doing nothing. As for our team, we have threeamazing female professionals (including myself) who have taken it upon themselves to make diversity and inclusion a priority, and will be working to improve the status quo. I feel my team and I have personally made enough progress and have a concrete plan we hope will improve things this year.

We’re taking concrete steps to iterate and improve

Here are some of the results our initial learnings will have on our event:

  • We will try for diverse panelists, moderators, and audience -we don’t believe we have to compromise our quality in any way to achieve this. We expect it to be even better, in fact
  • We will provide a safe space -including gender-neutral toilets-for everyone
  • We will be deliberate about inclusive food options, including vegan, vegetarian, lactose-free, gluten-free, and other dietary restrictions
  • We will be proactive in our communication with speakers, including getting their permission ahead of time for any introductory comments or visual representations.

Again, we expect this will up our quality over previous years. Indeed, we have a fun few surprises on product and UX design planned as a result!

Last year we collaborated with the MiniTech MBA for Women to open our conference to female experts and attendees, and we will continue with similar efforts that we feel are as effective.

“ReactiveConf has generously hosted a group of our students on 2017. It was an experience that helped us dive into the subculture of some of the best developers in Europe. Truly enjoyable.”

Miroslava Rusnoková, Founder, Mini Tech MBA for Women

Please welcome Sunethra, our diversity and inclusion lead

And I’m proud to announce that we will also be welcoming a new team member charged with overseeing those efforts, Sunethra Gouri Boyinova. Sunethra is the co-creator of Zoe, a dating app for LGBT+ women. She is also a UX designer and product owner, who has worked on meaningful projects that have created impact for her users.

Sunethra will help us understand diversity and inclusion, and will be leading the next steps. While the buck still stops with me, I trust Sunethra to guide us thoughtfully and effectively.

Announcing our diversity and inclusion advisory boar

Finally, we will have an independent advisory board, comprised of experienced diversity and inclusion professionals, to help make sure we do our best in creating an open, inclusive, and safe space at ReactiveConf.

If you have any questions or suggestions for us, please contact Sunethra at diversity@reactiveconf.com

How you can help make ReactiveConf 2018 the best year yet

We want to make a special effort to give voice to the best speakers from under-represented groups, and increase our quality through the new perspectives and insights. So please, recommend the best speakers you know of -even if they’re not widely known yet -and we will make sure to take care of them as best we can.

A quick side note

On a personal side note, one of the biggest learnings I’ve had to make in the past year is that we need to be more public with our efforts to improve. Growing up in Czech and working in Slovakia with my personal history, there was heavy pressure to keep my head down and work at a person-to-person level, as any public attention could be quite dangerous. But this doesn’t work when you might be making others feel unwelcome or unsafe.

But I believe in second chances, of recognizing areas where growth is needed, and of assuming best intentions. So I will be making an effort to communicate more effectively with all of you moving forward.

Thank you for being part of our journey, for encouraging us to improve, and for your support.