I’ve just had a great series of meetings with some Birmingham based orgs and Meetups looking at ways they can make their membership more representative of the local technology community. The meetings were very different but shared some of the same items on the to-do lists I suggested. I’ve posted those points here.
- Frame and articulate your diversity goals properly
It’s temping to want to get a community looking more diverse quickly, especially if you’ve been critiqued for having an all white male group. Be careful to work towards creating meaningful, engaged contacts who can benefit from group membership instead of trying to shoehorn members in for diversity’s sake.
I encourage people interested in running groups that better represent their community to talk about their desires and efforts. Just be sure that you’re starting a conversation around your sincere desire to run a meetup that better represents and serves the community. If you’re clumsily looking for token diversity, the conversation is unlikely to go well.
- Get a wider perspective
We tend to limit outreach to people we already know. To be sure that you’re not limiting your group’s outreach efforts, take some time to explore who shows up to other events and why. Be sure to check out a range of events at different venues to get the best survey of what level of representation already exists in the local scene.
- Think about venues
Venues where the focus is alcohol based can limit the ability or willingness of attendees to get to your event. Pubs and bars are great for many events but may prevent under 18s, non-drinkers and those wary of the higher risk of alcohol fuelled interactions. Getting feedback from current and potential attendees can be a great way to find out if your venue is holding you back.
- Meet with people outside your circle and talk about their projects
If you’re already doing research into other groups and your local tech scene to better gauge how you’re doing re: relative representation, you might as well start making some contacts with some of the great people you’re meeting. Reach out to potential community members to talk about their interests and projects to create contacts who might want to hear more about your projects and events.
- Partner with folks who are doing it right
If you have common interests and functionality, partnering with groups specifically serving groups underrepresented in tech is the easiest way to make your events available to a more representative pool of attendees.
If you’re aiming to have a more diverse group of attendees, be sure that your events can offer them a safe space where they feel comfortable. A clear, visible and enforced code of conduct is a great way to demonstrate to new members that their needs are being valued while letting the existing members know what is expected of them.
- If you can’t find it, make it
You can’t present diversity when it isn’t present. If you’ve surveyed the tech scene in your area and found it lacking, think about filling the pipeline yourself. Programs like Codebar or mentoring could be great ways to start moving things in the right direction.