Women Participation at Let’s Test Oz 2014

How Let’s Test Oz came about is well explained in David Greenlees’s blog post. David is one of the co-organisers along with Henrik Andersson.

For me, Let’s Test Oz wasn’t only a conference, it was a journey. Let me explain.

It’s no exaggeration to say that David Greenlees and I worked incredibly hard over the entire year to get Let’s Test Oz to the point where things appeared to work seamlessly. We agonised over venues, we deliberated over content. We tirelessly promoted the conference forming partnerships to help spread the word.

When day one of the conference arrived, I felt surprisingly zen. My work was done. Myself and David had created a space for a wonderful community to get together and learn and discuss context driven testing. The enormity of what we had done began to sink in.

We’re both incredibly proud of what we achieved.

We also had personal goals for the conference. Something that I’m particularly proud of is the significant number of women speaking and participating in the conference.

At the closing keynote I asked all attending women to identify themselves, 35% of the audience stood up, not bad for a tech conference and really it surpassed my expectations. Now the conference is over, I’ve had time to reflect why we had a significantly higher female participation.

I think the following reasons may contribute.

1) Female Co-Organiser

I think one of the major reasons why there was a high number of women at the conference was because of me. Greater diversity in the committee meant that greater diversity was implicitly considered. It’s not that having women at the conference was a ‘key metric’ or a goal, but it flowed intrinsically from me being there.

2) Program Choice

33% of our speakers were female with CAST2014 (with also a female program chair Anna Royzman) topping the ratio at a fantastic 38%. (rough and ready figures are below).

Lets Test 2012 = 5/ 29

Lets Test 2013 = 5/ 32

Lets Test 2014 = 6/ 30

Lets Test Oz = 7/22

CAST2013 = 10/37

CAST2014 = 20/51

One reason I think is I have a great network of female testers that I could naturally call upon to speak. These were a mix of highly experienced speakers such as Fiona Charles, Anna Royzman, Ale Moreissa, Katrina Clokie and Beth Skurrie but also those who had not spoken at a conference, but I knew had powerful stories to tell. Women like Margaret Dineen who stole the show with her story about working on difficult projects.

Does having a greater diversity in speakers encourage greater diversity in attendees? I’m not sure. Anecdotally, this seemed to be true, but it’s hard to tell. If there are any attendees reading this, let me know what you think.

3) Community

We have a fantastic and strong testing community down under, both in New Zealand and Australia. Many prominent women are actively involved in running meetups. I ran the Sydney Testers meetup – started by Trish Khoo for 4 years before handing it over to Richard Robinson earlier this year. Katrina Clokie runs the WeTest Meetup in Wellington. The Auckland WeTest Meetup is organised by Shirley Tricker, Nicola Owen, Jennifer Hurrell, Erin Donnell and Kim Engle. Having women visible in prominent positions encourages others who wish to speak and play a similar role.

There’s more work to be done. I believe women do an exceptional amount of work behind the scenes but are not so good a muscling into the limelight. Their philosophy often is, “as long as I do exceptional work, people will recognise that”.

Women need to understand the importance of being recognised for the exceptional work they do. Somehow we seem to think tooting our horn is unladylike, that doing good work is sufficient reward. It’s important to be recognised for our work. Hiding it under a bushel does no-one any favours.

So let me complete this article by congratulating myself, the women speakers and all the women participants at Let’s Test Oz. We rock, now let’s rock the testing community!


About the Author

Anne-Marie Charrett is a testing coach and trainer with a passion for helping testers discover their testing strengths and become the testers they aspire to be. Anne-Marie offers free IM Coaching to testers and developers on Skype (id charretts) and is is working on a book with James Bach on coaching testers. An electronic engineer by trade, testing discovered Anne-Marie when she started conformance testing to ETSI standards. She was hooked and has been involved in software testing ever since. She runs her own company, Testing Times offering coaching and software testing services with an emphasis on Context Driven Testing. Anne-Marie can be found on twitter at @charrett and also blogs at http://mavericktester.com

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