Towards Safe, Welcoming Conferences and Communities

For a while now, Bendyworks has offered its employees an annual budget of $1,000 for attending conferences. Travel, lodging, tickets… if it relates to attending a conference, we’ve got our team covered. And if a Bendyworker is speaking at the conference, they don’t even have to dip into their Bendyworks conference budget.

While we do have an equivalent benefit for those who prefer not to attend conferences, we established the conference benefit to encourage our team to mix it up face-to-face with our various communities. Supporting opportunities for involvement in conferences keeps our team on the leading edge of technology and innovation, and also makes it easier for Bendyworkers to lend their voices and expertise to the conversation.

I love these communities, and I want them to be a welcoming place for anyone who wants to learn and thrive. One way to enhance such inclusiveness is to enact and enforce a Code of Conduct at all events, from meetups to conferences. A good Code of Conduct clearly defines the expectations of all participants, from attendees to sponsors, speakers to organizers. This is a Good Thing, and it’s something we want to encourage. Ashe Dryden has a terrific blog post that eloquently covers this topic and why it matters more than I ever could.

Upon reflection on our existing conference budget benefit, Stephen and I have decided that we want to make an even stronger statement in how it’s used. Not all conferences are created equal, of course, and some organizers certainly go further to create safe, inclusive environments. So, we recently modified the benefit:

This benefit is not to be used for any conference that has no Code of Conduct or an ineffective Code of Conduct.

We’ve already identified a few conferences that do not meet our criteria for effectiveness, which we are in the process of giving formal definition internally. More importantly, we’ve reached out to those conferences and asked them to reconsider their policies, offering guidance and help as well.

I’d like to call on other companies in the programming and technical communities to adopt a similar policy. And I’d like to emphasize the idea that we should be encouraging our conference organizers to adopt great Codes of Conduct, not necessarily boycotting them without offering to help.

I love the communities we’re in, and I want to provide safe places for everyone to enjoy them. We’re not quite there yet, but establishing for ourselves a requirement for safe and inclusive spaces is one step in the right direction.

Category: Community
Tags: Diversity