Gaining Gender Parity at Conferences

 
After conducting listening sessions with women speakers and conference organizers, Jennifer (left) and I (right) affinity mapped all our findings.

After conducting listening sessions with women speakers and conference organizers, Jennifer (left) and I (right) affinity mapped all our findings.

 

My UX Design Internship EXPERIENCE

PROBLEMS

  • Lack of gender parity in speaker lineups and panels at conferences due to persistent myths that women speakers don’t exist or are hard to find

  • Event organizers struggle to curate diverse lineups despite the plethora of available resources (on Twitter, on websites, in speaker bureaus). 

  • Women speakers encounter particular boundaries that complicate their availability and potential as a speaker.

  • Event organizers and speakers don't know what the other party is looking for, which creates tension and confusion while communicating with one another.

Solution

The Women Talk Design website was started by Christina Wodtke and promoted many women speakers. Women Talk Design became an LLC & workshops and articles were planned to further support the needs and interests of women pursuing speaking opportunities. 

What I did

Redesign the Women Talk Design website to reflect the interests of event organizers and highlight the capabilities of women speakers.

  • Conduct research via online survey, remote/in-person listening sessions with event organizers & women speakers

  • Compile findings into diagrams and published Medium post

  • Reorganize information architecture based on research, increasing traffic by 300%; WTD website map

  • Rebrand WTD to standardize UI/visuals and Content Strategy message architecture

  • Redesign website to better highlight most-relevant content

3 MONTHS (300+ hrs x2 interns), SUMMER 2017
SOFTWARE: Wordpress, CSS, Illustrator, Google Docs/Sheets, Medium

 

Redesigning Women talk design

Site Focused On speakers...

1 - WTDhome.jpg

...600+ hrs later, site Organized by talks

10 - WTDhomeNEW.jpg
 

In May 2017, 150+ people inspired by WTD’s mission donated $21k on GoFundMe…and the rest is history

2013: Founded by Christina Wodtke // Summer 2017: Jennifer and I became interns and split the work evenly, occasionally splitting tasks to be more efficient // Fall 2017: Danielle Barnes becomes CEO of LLC

2013: Founded by Christina Wodtke // Summer 2017: Jennifer and I became interns and split the work evenly, occasionally splitting tasks to be more efficient // Fall 2017: Danielle Barnes becomes CEO of LLC

origin no more excuses

Christina Wodtke started Women Talk Design in 2013 because she was tired of conference organizers saying, "There aren't any female speakers who are (able to talk about this topic/available/any good/insert excuse here.)" She wanted to make a site that would take away excuses, and make it easy for organizers to find women speakers, check out their speaking abilities, and contact them.

Mission promote women speakers

WTD is a platform to elevate the best talks about design from women, and empower event organizers with tools, approaches, and information to engage more women speakers. The site uses great talks to call attention to great speakers — in that order — and the interns redesigned the site to reflect that. Now, anyone can discover excellent talks on design, UX, content strategy, and related topics through the site, and then learn about (and hire) the women behind the mics.

Intern origin support women designers

In May 2017, 150+ people inspired by WTD's mission donated $21k on GoFundMe to support Christina so she could "afford interns" to redesign womentalkdesign.com. By donating, people could support women speakers as well as women like myself and my peer, Jennifer, who were about to enter the professional design field.


 

Observing the Dynamic
between Women Speakers & Conference Organizers

 

Struggling through 30min to 2hr-long Listening sessions

Inspired by our mentor Indi Young, we conducted our research by having lengthy conversations with 9 speakers (all women) and 12 conference organizers (6 women, 6 men). We didn’t speak to any conference organizers who were indifferent to diversity; all of them were passionate about curating representational speaker lineups and work incredibly hard to do so.

I'd never gone into a research interview without a script. It was so scary! Plus, while some people were eager to say anything they could think of and I could barely get a word in, others were curt with their answers and it took a lot of energy to keep the conversation flowing. Yet, the more I talked with organizers and speakers, the more I understood their passions and frustrations, and the more excited I was about the project. 

A Pinterest board of all the individuals we contacted over the summer including mentors, women speakers, conference organizers, and donors. We drew direct inspiration from the way AIGA compiles a list of potential speakers:  visually represent speakers the way attendees experience the conference  (with some informational text) .

A Pinterest board of all the individuals we contacted over the summer including mentors, women speakers, conference organizers, and donors. We drew direct inspiration from the way AIGA compiles a list of potential speakers: visually represent speakers the way attendees experience the conference (with some informational text) .

 

7 Reasons Why Women Speakers say No + Key Findings

1. Correspondence is a guessing game.

Organizers are not talking to other organizers, not even to exchange methods within organizations. Organizers don't know what women speakers are looking for; speakers don't know what organizers are looking for. 

2. Current "lists" of women speakers are not helpful.

"Binders of women" don't have enough helpful info for organizers (or include speakers who don't have the qualities organizers are looking for). Twitter threads serve specific people, not the whole.  Speaker Bureaus, like WTD, are organized by speaker, but they serve only those speakers who are well-known and costly. Organizers aren't able to talk directly with the speakers; intentions are lost in communication.

3. organizers look For Speakers in their primary & secondary network + by topic, NOT by speaker

Existing binders/Twitter threads/websites/bureaus are not being consistently used by organizers to curate diverse/inclusive speaker lineups. (Information also expires almost as quickly as it's put up.) Women Talk Design was originally organized by women speakers, but organizers were not using it.

 

Based on how Organizers find speakers:
emphasize video content > Speakers
1 month left!!!

 

Information Architecture

Under Hugh Dubberly's guidance, I mapped out the structure of the original website to visually represent the flow/architecture of the site.

After we determined that WTD had to be completely reorganized to prioritize talks > speakers, we put together a concept model and rough wireframes of the flow/function we thought the new site should reflect.

 
Screen Shot 2017-08-18 at 2.40.15 PM.png

revising the flow of content submissions (Speaker page + video content)

WTD originally had one, long form that was submitted one time for each speaker. All edits to pages were done by Christina as per speaker request.

In the redesign, I wanted to give each speaker the ability to edit and update her own page. However, we still wanted to curate video content. I separated the form into 3 different ones:

  • NOMINATE CONTENT for those promoting content from others, so that WTD can contact nominated speakers to create a speaker page

  • ADD MYSELF AS A SPEAKER for speakers not already on WTD

  • ADD MY VIDEO EXAMPLES for any speaker to upload as many videos as many times as needed

 

OUTCOMES: in 3 months we...

  • Raised $21k+

  • Increased # of speakers on site from 78 to 126

  • Improved SEO (Daily avg visits barely 20 to hundreds) 

  • Created & managed a Twitter account, gained 300+ followers

  • wrote & published a medium article Based on key findings, gained 100+ followers

  • Successfully redesigned and launched the new site

  • Saw women talk design become an llc under ceo Danielle barnes

 
 

I Learned how to trust the process

My Struggle with Confidence

I relied too much on my identity as an inexperienced student and it showed when I spoke to people about our findings. There was a period of time during concept creation where I felt overwhelmed and lost. Jennifer and I were working remotely and Christina was out of the country most of the summer, so it was literally just us two for weeks at a time. If there's one thing I could change about my internship experience, and I had had the confidence that I have now post-internship, I would have believed in myself and the process more.

Just Keep Swimming

I have to keep moving forward even when I'm unsure of where my next step will lead me. I love coming up with concepts in design sprints but, while in class, I tend to let my more enthusiastic teammates lead the concepting phase of projects before I lead execution. In this internship, I could only look to myself. I realized that I prefer to move only when I could see a map of the whole project path, but that's not how projects in the real world work. I need to trust that whatever I do will bring me closer to a potential solution I can really sink my teeth in. Just keep swimming. Just do it!