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Open letter to the Summit community

June 23, 2022

We’ve received feedback recently (through social media and direct inquiries) about the diversity of our pre-conference speakers at the 2022 PASS Data Community Summit. As we continue finalizing the wider speaker program, we want to reassure you we are still committed to making this year’s Summit a more diverse and inclusive event. This was true when we shared a blog post in 2021 outlining our commitment, and remains true in 2022 and beyond.

We recognize that some of you feel disappointed by what you’ve seen from the 2022 Summit speaker representation so far, but it’s been heartening to see the interest and passion that the conversation around diversity and inclusion has inspired among the data community. This is something we also care about deeply. It’s important to us that these conversations are happening, as your feedback will help us meet our goal of improving the diversity of our Summit speakers year on year and delivering the most inclusive event we can.

While we’ve responded to community members who’ve reached out to us directly, we wanted to share a message with the broader community to give you more visibility into our diversity metrics for the wider 2022 Summit program. We also want to be transparent about the processes we have in place and the actions we’re already taking to increase speaker diversity.

The numbers

This year, we set a goal to make this year’s Summit the most diverse in the event’s history, with at least 40% of the 2022 speakers coming from underrepresented groups (as communicated in the Call for Speakers guide). While we don’t have final numbers yet as we await confirmation from the speakers who’ve had sessions accepted, and partners and sponsors, and we will fully evaluate our efforts once the program is finalized in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, here are the statistics we’ve analyzed from our speakers so far.

Just over 60% of the speakers who’ve been selected to date completed our voluntary diversity survey, which represents an increase compared to last year. 43% of the people who responded to this voluntary survey were members of underrepresented groups (including women, people of color and people with disabilities). All of our statistics have been anonymized and aggregated.

The 2022 pre-con line-up

The concern we’ve heard from the community focuses on the diversity of the 2022 Summit pre-conference speakers. To build the pre-conference agenda, we invited submissions from the community, and proactively reached out to invite speakers from historically underrepresented groups to submit, with the aim of welcoming a diverse range of high-quality submissions covering topics that are relevant and interesting to the community.

Unfortunately, we didn’t achieve our diversity goals with the community pre-con speaker line-up, and we’re disappointed that we don’t have a more racially diverse group for those sessions. However, more pre-cons will be added to the list soon from sponsors and partners, and we’ll keep working with our sponsors and partners to ensure diversity considerations continue to inform the remaining speaker selection processes. We’re also going to continue working to ensure we can attract submissions from a more diverse group in future years.

Our approach to promoting diversity at PASS Summit

We’ve taken four concrete actions to promote diversity at PASS Data Community Summit since Redgate took on the organization of this event in 2021. As we continue working to promote diversity across every element of the program, we intend to retain these practices and to build on them in the future, including:

Mentorship & encouragement

In 2021, we implemented new initiatives encouraging less-experienced speakers to submit their sessions to the Summit, including sharing resources from more experienced speakers and reserving lightning talk sessions exclusively for newer speakers. We aim to promote greater access and encourage equal opportunity for speakers among the wider community at PASS Data Community Summit.

Speaker invitations

Everyone is welcome to submit a session proposal while our call for speakers is open, but to increase the diversity of our conference speakers, we proactively reached out to invite speakers from a broad range of backgrounds and communities to present sessions at Summit. We provided advice and resources to potential speakers as part of our 2022 Call for Speakers guide to encourage less experienced speakers to submit.

Anonymous submission review process

Our session selection process for pre-conference speakers (who’ve been invited to speak) and for general submissions following the call for speakers involves anonymous review by a diverse selection panel. Names and demographic information are stripped from the submissions during this process, and each session is rated and selected based on its content and goals, as well as the presentation title and abstract.

The aim of the anonymous review is to ensure that sessions are selected based on how well aligned they are with the things you’ve told us you want to learn more about. Sessions are selected because they sound exciting and relevant to the community, not just because they’ve been submitted by a well-known speaker. This type of review also ensures we’re not introducing any unconscious bias into the selection process.

Engaging the power of the community towards continuous improvement

We’ve set up a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) steering group within the Summit organizing team to ensure that this is an ongoing area of focus for our events. This group consists of community members from the Data Platform DEI and Women in Tech user groups, other DEI allies in the community who organize community events, as well as Redgaters involved in organizing the event.

Thank you for your feedback

We recognize that we haven’t offered a 2022 community pre-con speaker line-up that reflects the diversity of the wider speaker program. However, we’re resolute in our commitment to continuously improving diversity and representation at our events.

As mentioned above, we won’t know the final diversity statistics for the 2022 Summit until all our speakers (community, partners and sponsors) have been confirmed, but we knew it was vital to respond to the feedback we’ve heard and to be part of this important conversation.

We’d like to thank those of you who’ve reached out to us so far. If you have any further feedback, we encourage you to reach out to Annabel Bradford, Redgate’s Head of Events. As an organizing team we work in an agile way with a growth mindset, and we appreciate the support of the community on this topic.

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