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« Women’s voices in type & ATypI

I need feedback!

Prior to this year’s TypeCon Denver conference, which I’m at right now, there was a fairly hot twitter discussion about the relative lack of female speakers in the lineup, at about 17%. The discussion was nicely captured by Indra Kupferschmid. It got an eloquent response on Medium from Elizabeth CareySmith, and spurred major interviews and research from Dyana Weissman, which you can read in her epic article/​series on Typographica.

When I saw the Twitter discussion (a few days late, due to travel), I started a discussion with my fellow ATypI board members, and started crunching numbers about our own conference. I found that we have about 30% female attendees the past two years, and also about 30% female speakers last year and in the coming conference this year. (Although this year is differently skewed, with 50/​50 women in the opening two-​track day with workshops, and fewer in the single-​track portion of the conference—unlike last year.) This also tracks well with the percentages of submissions, at least for this year.

Women have a much higher participation level in type and type design in the younger generation, the last 5-​10 years has really seen a big shift. Given that, it might be tempting to think that if our speakers reflect the same diversity as our (younger-​skewing than speakers) attendees, we are doing okay. Is that a fair assessment? Or do we need to do more?

(Oh, and yes, I and others are also aware that there are other diversity issues not only among conference speakers but in our entire industry: quick, how many black TypeCon or ATypI speakers, or type designers, can you name?)

This is an active plea for feedback about gender diversity in the ATypI conference in particular—most especially from women in type and type design. You can message me privately if you’d rather not say something public.

(I’ve already had one board member say that, which made me sad. Damn. but it turned out she just meant she thought it was boring and didn’t think we had a problem with gender at ATypI conferences. Anyway, I welcome feedback, really.)

9 commentsto “Women’s voices in type & ATypI”

  • August 14, 2015
    Indra wrote

    I think ATypI is doing a bit better (now) because female speakers are often of academic background, maybe because they are already more used to speaking and more exposed to call for papers and how to do them, and also because some need to speak (at a certain kind of conference) for research or publishing points. (I don’t know how this is called in proper English, sorry, we don’t have this at my school.)

    TypeCon is less academic I would say, although I had the impression that they had more research and theory topics in some years, too. If you just look at the education forum, the ratio at TypeCon is much better.

    Also, ATypI is more international, with more Europeans, for what’s that worth, no idea.

  • August 15, 2015
    Indra wrote

    But to answer your question, I think ATypI is doing okay. If I recall correctly, you invited several women as keynote speakers in the past and the application process for talks is pretty straight forward, your board is relatively even, 50/​50 would be an ideal to work towards in the coming years. I think the first and best thing an organization can do is make sure their representatives and decision makers are truly divers. That will set the right tone for the rest and makes for a good team to keep an eye on things. I never not felt welcome and encouraged at ATypI (but I can only speak for myself individually, I learned experiences from women elsewhere are can be very different).

    Do you know how the Sota board is elected and when?

  • August 15, 2015
    Thomas Phinney wrote

    I agree that ATypI has long had a more academic bent. On the other hand, TypeCon (SoTA) has long had a more young/​populist bent, so I would have hoped that would balance out gender-​wise. But it seems not! Also, both conferences do better with workshops and education content.

    Both TypeCon and ATypI have a pretty good record of having women as keynote speakers over recent years—50/50 or more I think.

    I know that the ATypI board has reached out to women and diverse people we thought would be good to have on the board—currently 13 men, 5 women. The board of SoTA (TypeCon) is currently 7 men and 2 women, and was not long ago 7 men and 3 women.

  • August 15, 2015
    Thomas Phinney wrote

    Oh, and I don’t recall the details of the SoTA (TypeCon) board election. It is elected by the members of the organization, I think remotely (mail or email). Ditto ATypI, but those elections are at the conference each year.

    Any member who wants to can stand for election to the ATypI board, btw.

  • August 15, 2015
    Indra wrote

    Ah, good to know. I thought new ATypI board members had to be nominated for election by the other board members.

  • August 15, 2015
    Thomas Phinney wrote

    No! They can be nominated by the board, but also by members. It just takes six members to nominate somebody. It’s easy! The main catch is the need to nominate 45 days before the annual general meeting. I think that will make this year’s deadline September 2nd? Say end of August for safe margin.

  • August 15, 2015
    Indra wrote

    I see, but still nominate (even by 6!). I think that was what I had in the back of my mind. Not sure how many people bring themselves forward compared to get nominated without their initiative but I think this is a mental hurdle for many women, believe and like it or not :/​

  • August 15, 2015
    Indra wrote

    (Uh, I mean “believe it or not” and “whether you like it or not”. My English is totally used up for this week. So much correspondence with my female peers, insane and fantastic.)

  • August 15, 2015
    Thomas Phinney wrote

    I’m quite willing to believe it. But ATypI can have board members nominated by the board, OR by the membership. So obviously the board has sought out a cross-​section of folks, and anybody who is interested in actually helping run the org can just talk to a friendly board member (hello!) and we can help with the formal nomination process.

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