'A third' of women have experienced sexual harassment at tech conferences

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·2 min read
Candid picture of a female boss and business team collaborating. Filtered serie with light flares, bokeh, warm sunny tones.
The research surveyed 500 women across the US and UK who had attended a tech conference to uncover their experiences. (Getty Images).

One in three woman reported having experienced sexual harassment at a tech conference, bringing into question how far gender parity has come in the industry.

That’s according to Ensono’s annual Speak Up report which looks at how tech conferences can be redesigned with women in mind.

The research surveyed 500 women across the US and UK who had attended a tech conference to uncover their experiences.

The report found that harassment had got worse since last year, when one in four women polled said they had faced it.

Alongside this, 59% women of colour reported experiencing discrimination, compared to 43% of white women.

As the World Economic Forum (WEF) heads into day three, the 3000 people who would usually descend on Davos, Switzerland will be logging in online.

January has also seen a pivotal conference in the world of technology, with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which normally attracts 170,000 attendees, running virtually for the first time.

The rise of these virtual events raises important questions about accessibility, and the potential opportunities virtual events offer to making these spaces more inclusive for all, Ensono says.

“As we translate what were once in-person conference experiences to online spaces, we shouldn’t lose focus on the importance of diversity and inclusion,” the report says.

“Virtual meetings suffer many of the same problems as in-person ones — for example, women are just as likely to be talked over by men in both scenarios.”

READ MORE: DAVOS 2021: How lack of metrics blows a hole in corporate D&I pledges

Anecdotal evidence of sexism at in-person events cited in the report included women being refused goody bags as they were for “businessmen.” One female speaker was also mistaken for hospitality staff.

The research found that 61% of women said tech conferences are not designed with women in mind, to such an extent that some do not even have female bathrooms.

Diversity was also found to be a glaring issue: 80% of women of colour said they have experienced being the only woman of colour on a panel.

At this year’s WEF digital annual gathering of the world’s most powerful people — dubbed The Davos Agenda, for this year, many of the speakers have highlighted issues surrounding inclusion, particularly highlighting how a lack of metrics tends to blow holes in diversity and inclusion pledges.

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