To make a conference inclusive and have it feature a diverse set of speakers is hard. Women, but certainly also other underrepresented groups, tend to speak less often, and they do so for all sorts of reasons. At Yoast, we care about diversity. That’s why we started the Yoast Diversity Fund.
We believe that encouraging diversity among conference speakers and attendees is incredibly important. These types of events are places we go to learn, get inspired, meet life-long friends, and make a significant career or life decisions. The people on the stage influence those outcomes, and the people around us shape that experience.
For a long time, especially in tech, conferences have not done a good job of representing underrepresented and/or disadvantaged groups. We want to change that. If we want to broaden our horizons, we need to remove the barriers that prevent everybody to be able to share their experiences. That’s why we’re working to give everybody a chance, and to make these conferences fair, safe, and a level playing field.
At Yoast, we’ve been thinking about what we can do to improve the inclusivity of conferences. One of the things we can do is remove hurdles, and specifically, the hurdle of costs. Costs for speakers from a diverse background to come and speak.
There are WordPress Meetups and WordCamps throughout the world; these are conferences about, by and for the WordPress Community. While we already sponsor a lot of them, they tend not to have the budget to pay for speakers’ travel and accommodation costs. The same applies to other conferences about open source, certainly those that are not commercially run. We want to take away that particular reason for not having a diverse conference.
To that end, we’ve introduced the Yoast Diversity Fund to reimburse travel and accommodation costs for speakers, up to €1,000 per event.