That's a question I couldn't help but ask as I read this post from Six Apart's Anil Dash. He's writing about the Web 2.0 conference held recently in San Francisco, but it could easily apply to so many other meetings:
- So, there's the Old Boy's Club. And surprisingly, there's a 50-50 ratio of wanna-bes to real successes within that club. But the unsurprising part is probably what the makeup of that club looks like. Web 2.0 might be made of people, as Ross Mayfield said, but judging by the conference, Web 2.0 is pretty much made of white people. I'm not used to any event in a cosmopolitan area being such a monoculture.
Now, the folks who organized Web 2.0 are good people whom I genuinely believe want their event to be inclusive. But the homogeneity of the audience doesn't just extend to ethnicity, it's even more evident in the gender breakdown. There are others who've covered this topic better than me, but it's jarring to me not merely because the mix was such a poor representation of the web that I know, but because I think it's going to come back and bite the web in the [#^%] if it doesn't change eventually.
See, it's not just making sure the audience and speakers represent the web we're trying to reach, but the fact that Bay Area tech conferences are so culturally homogenous is dangerous for the web industry.
While it's great to have the folks who come back year after year, meeting after meeting, Anil's point is one well-taken. If you're just preaching to the choir, how will you ever reach all the other voices in the congregation? More importantly, how will they reach you? If your meeting is similarly culturally homogenous, it's past time to find ways to expand it from an exclusive club to an inclusive meeting representative of all the minds involved in your topic, not just a few. How to do that, I don't know. But it's too important not to try, whether your business is the future of the Internet or hog farming.