back to article After last year's sexism shambles, 2019's RSA infosec bash has upped its inclusivity game

As San Francisco gets ready for its annual RSA gabfest Conference, taking place next week, organisers appear to have got the message over inclusivity following last year's fiasco. When the 2018 event was initially announced, many in the infosec industry were shocked that, despite the wealth of talent across all genders in the …

  1. holmegm

    How/when will you know when it's "fixed"? When there is a 50/50 split of speakers? When there are "booth dudes" instead of booth babes?

    How, exactly?

    1. Solarflare

      When all the men have been put in cages and women rule the world*

      *mostly satirical

    2. David Austin

      - Can you go to a show, and see someone on stage that kinda sorta looks and acts like you.

      and

      - Can you wander around the show floor without getting inappropriate comments or harassed.

      Seems a reasonable baseline to start from; let's get solidly to that point, then build on from there - Having attendees feel comfortable at your show, and a range of different viewpoints being heard seems like a good thing™

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        It's a US 'security industry' sales event - if you can go around the trade floor without getting your country invaded you are lucky

      2. overunder

        "Can you go to a show, and see someone on stage that kinda sorta looks and acts like you."

        That's prejudice. If people don't kinda act like you and look like you should they be removed if you attend? Maybe that's another problem to add to the pile

        If I went anywhere and dudes kept popping up that looked and acted like me, I'd straight get the fuck out and hope... PRAY... that the Cortexiphan dosage was low... I couldn't sleep in that world. It's beyond me to actually prefer things that way.

        P.s., decades ago I saw someone that looked identical to me... I mean identical. Decades have passed, but I'll always remember the spookiness like it was yesterday.

        1. mickaroo

          "That's prejudice. If people don't kinda act like you and look like you should they be removed if you attend? Maybe that's another problem to add to the pile"

          All you Reg Vultures out there please feel free to correct me, but I'm not sure that was the intended meaning...

          I read it as "someone with whom I can identify" rather than "someone who is my doppelgänger".

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Outright sexism

        This is outright sexism aganst men. Men are by far the majority in IT and not for any discriminatory reason.

        More men are interested than women. In every profession where men are the majority there are efforts to encourage women to enter, go to the institute of physics, the IET or any other similar web site and you will see efforts to encourage women, Then go to a website for a profession dominated by women and go to their website - nursing, teaching, vets and you will see efforts to encourage women and nothing for men. Personally I think we should accept that on the average men and women prefer different professions but if we don't then we should be even handed in trying to even things out. Education is perhaps the worst area with quite overt discrimination and support in favour or women at all levels.

        The idea that there is rampant harassment of women in the tech area is crazy in nearly forty years I have only seen sexual harassment/bullying once and that was by a large group of women encouraged by their supervisor/manager against a young man/boy. They thought it very funny. There is no way the equivalent jokes, suggestions and gestures would have been made by a group of men to a young women inside a factory in front of supervisors and managers.

        The speakers shoudl be good speakers selected from those avaialble. They should not be selected on artifical sexist grounds but the reality is that they probably will be.

        1. MJB7 Bronze badge

          Re: Outright sexism

          Bollocks. When I started being paid to write software in 1980, my boss was a woman and *her* boss was a woman (and there were two other women programmers and perhaps eight men). This was in the days when girls hadn't been taught that computers were for boys. Since then things have gone a long way backwards.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Outright sexism

            I remember in mid 80s having graduate job interview at one of the then mainframe manufacturers for a software role ... there were about 7 or 8 of us at the interview day and in an unusually brutal move they announced at the end of the morning who they would be making offers to (and could thereforw stay for lunch to have more of a chat with people - I got lunch! but eventually declined the job offer) and who would need to find their own lunch. They had a quick chance for everyone to ask any questions and one of the unsuccessful applicants asked for any feedback on what they could have done to get an offer and one of the managers replied "well, if any of you had been female you would have almost certainly had an offer as we employ virtually no women at the moment" ... and then more facetiously he added "and if anyone had said they played the tuba then you'd ahve been in as my brass band needs a new tuba player!"

          2. Alan Johnson

            Re: Outright sexism

            Not at all Bollocks.

            There did used to be more women writing software I also date back to the eighties and I have worked with female managers and developers. The reason why there are (proportionally) less nowadays is nothing to do with girls being taught that computers are for boys. The decline has been despite a massive effort and preferential support for girls. The explanation is that we have become richer and girls more career options and generally do not choose computers. I suggest you google " the gender equality paradox". This is the observaton that the more gender equal and supportive to women a country is the greater the disparity and polarisation in career choices and in paticular the fewer women in 'STEM' fields.

            No one has come up with an explanation for the gender equality paradox except that as societal pressures are relaxed girls and boys natural differences in character and interests manifest themselves in career differences. It is noticeable that this observation aligns with medical, biological and psychological observations and effectively disproves the assertion that womens career choices are hampered or stunted by societal pressures. It is interesting it is called a paradox as it is only paradoxical if you believe that the differences between men and women are entirely derived from society rather than being innate which always struck me as a bizarre and rather fantastic idea.

            To coin a phrase "bollocks" to the idea that girls are taught that compuetrs are for boys.

    3. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      "How/when will you know when it's "fixed"?"

      When we have a female Bruce Schneier. And she has her own jokes, er, facts.

      1. vulture65537

        Re: "How/when will you know when it's "fixed"?"

        https://cseweb.ucsd.edu/~nadiah/

    4. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Diversity...

      deserves its own snarky meme. _SO_ overrated.

      how about we just hire people etc. based on MERIT and not on IDENTITY???

      (oh and same for 'hiring' someone as an event speaker, too, obviously)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Diversity...

        That seems to be obvious, but only works if there's no bias in the hiring practice. Over time it appears that the hiring practices of many, most (?), companies have been shown to be biased. I'm not saying you do that bombastic bob. :)

        1. Updraft102 Silver badge

          Re: Diversity...

          And how do you conclude that they are biased? Because the outcome is not a 50/50 split in new hires between men and women?

          It's a circular argument.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Diversity...

            i see how you posed a question then answered it with ur own straw-man answer.

            ironic you're talking of circular arguments.

  2. John Riddoch
    Joke

    Re Monica Lewinsky

    "hard for many to swallow".... I see what you did there....

    1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Re Monica Lewinsky

      I see what you did there...

      Really? If you have something to say, just spit it out.

      1. FozzyBear Silver badge

        Re: Re Monica Lewinsky

        just spit it out.

        If you do, avoid the dress. let's keep it clean, ok!

  3. Mahhn

    This is why

    "RSA isn't really a security conference as such, but a sales bonanza"

    This is why I never attend RSA. Defcon is where you go to learn useful things :)

    1. Geoffrey W Silver badge

      Re: This is why

      This is why I stay home and read The Register.

    2. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: This is why

      Or where you go to get arrested.

  4. sisk Silver badge

    Um....it IS a male dominated industry. Even more so than most of the IT field. The only way you can possibly get gender parity among the speakers anywhere near 50/50 is by making that a higher priority than having the best speakers, which absolutely should not be done. Get the best speakers right now regardless of their genders and you're going to have an 80/20 or 90/10 split, and that is fine as long as you're truly getting the best speakers. This idea that we need to have gender parity everywhere is stupid bordering on insane. The field is mostly male and the dominance of men in the field goes up drastically when you start looking at experience in the field. In 10 or 20 years when all those women who are getting IT degrees now (finally, and welcome additions to the field as far as I'm concerned) have some experience in the field we'll achieve better gender parity, but for now you'd have to force it and that never turns out well.

    Now as for the sexual harassment of female attendees, that's not fine. That crap needs to stop. Men, act like men, not like horny teenage boys. That'll solve that problem.

    1. Geoffrey W Silver badge

      "Get thee back, tide! Thou shalt not rise!"

      - King Canute.

      "How many angels do you think we can get on the top of this pin?"

      - Satirical religious philosophers.

      You're arguing the unarguable.

      1. Persona

        Having worked in IS for more than 2 decades I would say that argument is pretty close to reality.

        1. Geoffrey W Silver badge

          Worked in IS? Sorry to hear about your buddies in Syria but I would be very careful who you tell that to...

    2. Cederic

      re: "Now as for the sexual harassment of female attendees, that's not fine. That crap needs to stop. Men, act like men, not like horny teenage boys. That'll solve that problem."

      That bewilders me. I've seen/heard/encountered sexual advances once ever in all the tech conferences I've been to. I didn't take offence, I merely gently turned her down and moved on.

      Where the fuck are all these people coming from?

      1. Geoffrey W Silver badge

        Then you've led a sheltered life. When I used to work in a real office with several male engineers, mechanical and otherwise, the excitement was palpable whenever the prospect of a conference was imminent. From their comments you'd think they were off to a strip show. They couldn't wait to get their eyeballs on the women, and anything else they were able to. This wasn't just asking if they'd like to go to bed; It was constant pestering and touching. Some of them also displayed similarly poor attitudes about things such as their wives working - "NO!"

        This was admittedly a while ago but old habits die hard. It will obviously take a while longer yet.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          BS?

          "When I used to work in a real office with several male engineers, mechanical and otherwise, the excitement was palpable whenever the prospect of a conference was imminent. From their comments you'd think they were off to a strip show. They couldn't wait to get their eyeballs on the women, and anything else they were able to. This wasn't just asking if they'd like to go to bed; It was constant pestering and touching"

          It is difficult to argue that somebody's stated experience but this is totally add odds with my own experience over many decades and internally inconsistent - How does he know that it was constant pestering and touching at shows unless he followed them around, and if he witnessed it why did he not do anything? It has always been a social norm to support a woman in a situation like this. The idea it happened in a public forum is crazy. I could just about stretch to immature engineers mouthing of about what they would or had done which was all complete fantasy but real touching and harassment in a public forum? - No way.

          I suspect complete b******t.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: BS?

            I don't merely "suspect"...

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: BS?

              Suspect, my ass. Total bullshit.

          2. The Cowboy Online

            Re: BS?

            Yeah, there's a definite whiff about that story.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: BS?

            I work at a relatively small firm mostly comprised of engineers that was for several years 100% male, meaning zero need to be politically correct, or particularly mature around the office (not counting the getting the work done). Then, quite suddenly, we hired a small group of people who (by pure chance) were all female. Guess what? They are all competent and hard working and we are all kind of... normal and borderline civilized and didn't need a workplace etiquette training course to know not to tell every joke or remark that we previously would have (at least not as loudly as before, just like they too can sometimes be heard whispering god knows what and giggling in the next office), so we make a pretty good team that, I believe, we all feel good to be a part of. :)

      2. katrinab Silver badge

        "I merely gently turned her down and moved on"

        Doesn't work like that when a woman turns a man down.

        1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          Really? You've witnessed every interaction ever made between men and women?

          Maybe I've been extraordinarily lucky, but I've never had a 'bad' interaction with women. I've been turned down a few times (and have even turned down a couple) but it's always been respectful from both sides. Speaking purely from my own experience, I would have said that men and women get along just fine thankyouverymuch, with no harassment either way, and no need for forced diversity, inclusion, quota setting or positive discrimination.

          1. katrinab Silver badge

            I have a big enough sample to know that there is a problem with some men, and at a big conference, there will be more than one such man, probably in the low hundreds.

            There are a lot of men, not all, but a lot, who don't even bother to ask before they grope you.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "Speaking purely from my own experience..."

            as interesting as your own personal experience are as a man, i dont see how it can be extrapolated into the generalised experiences of women in the field. wasn't there a whole #metoo movement precisely around women sharing their experiences of this stuff? perhaps we can rely on that as a stronger dataset rather than relying on your personal experiences?

            1. katrinab Silver badge

              Exactly. You have a sample size of one man, which is nowhere near big enough to determine the prevalence of sex pests in the population.

              1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

                ”You have a sample size of one man, which is nowhere near big enough to determine the prevalence of sex pests in the population.”

                And you also have a sample size of one. To imply that your view is any more valid than mine is breathtakingly arrogant and presumptuous.

                1. katrinab Silver badge

                  How many men have expressed an interest in you? Maybe one or two gay men, and they probably don't behave the same way as straight men.

                  My sample size for men who express an interest in women is way bigger than one, and I speak to other women who all share the same experience.

                  1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

                    There you go again with assumptions. You have no idea how many men (or women) have approached me and you have no idea of my sexual orientation, and yet you make sweeping statements around how your experience is somehow more valid than mine. Hint: it’s not.

                    Your sample size is one. No more, no less. The fact that you have observed other interactions (as have I) doesn’t change that fact.

            2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

              @AC

              ”I dont see how it can be extrapolated into the generalised experiences of women in the field...”

              I didn’t say it should be. I was stating my own, personally held viewpoint. In marked contrast, might I add, to the post I was responding to; katrinab stated ”Doesn’t work like that when a woman turns a man down.” - an infinitely broad and generalistic statement tarring any and all men with the same brush.

              If you two are representative of how women ‘in the field’ think of men, then YOU are the problem.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              wasn't there a whole #metoo movement precisely around women sharing their experiences of this stuff? perhaps we can rely on that as a stronger dataset rather than relying on your personal experiences?

              Given how many of those experiences have zero evidence to back them up and have been made by disgruntled exes, no, I don't think we can. It has become far too easy for a vindictive woman - and let's be fair, vindictive women are every bit as common as handsy men, possibly even more so thanks to the fact that one is socially acceptable and the other is not - to utterly destroy the life of a man she doesn't like simply by making an accusation, founded or not.

              I'm not saying there isn't a problem with sexual harassment in our society (there is), but it is CERTAINLY not anywhere near the level that #MeToo would have us believe. Some of us still believe in innocent until proven guilty and what is happening to the victims of #MeToo accusations is nothing short of a travesty.

              1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

                ”Some of us still believe in innocent until proven guilty and what is happening to the victims of #MeToo accusations is nothing short of a travesty.”

                Amen. This is why I firmly believe in one person, one viewpoint. And why I’m naturally distrustful when one person claims to speak for a large group based on hearsay, or says ‘It must be true because everybody is saying it’. The old lawyers’ adage “It doesn’t matter what you believe, it only matters what you can prove“ is very apt here, and appears to have been forgotten by a large proportion of #metoo’ers in the race to try and convict anybody and everybody they don’t like.

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Snowy

      Re: Couldn't get enough women..

      Maybe she did not want to speak at the conference?

  6. wayne 8

    Monica Lewinsky?

    WTF is Monica Lewinsky's relevance to INFOSEC?

    Her 15 minutes of fame was up over two decades ago.

  7. J J Carter Silver badge
    Trollface

    Sexualist?

    What nonsense, Alice has been a big part of Infosec for years, along with Bob.

  8. EveryTime Silver badge

    The explanation is right there in the story: most keynote speaker slots are paid for. The vendor's marketing departments paying for the high-profile sales pitch don't care about conference diversity, only about the marketing message. There might be plenty of women in the industry, but if each company sees a slight advantage in a male keynote speaker, that's all you'll get.

    Paying for keynote slots isn't new, but it has become the norm .

  9. RichardB

    I'm curious... do other industries manage to 'get it right'?

    Car shows, motorbike shows etc perhaps?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Don't get out much, do you?

      Look up "booth babes", "podium girls" and "ring girls".

      Tells you exactly the 13/14 year old boy mind set they are marketing at, doesn't it? Society as a whole needs to grow up.

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Re: Don't get out much, do you?

        "Society as a whole needs to grow up."

        Or maybe they've figured out a marketing message that works because it's what their audience actually wants, and the company that goes Social Justice Warrior first is the first to go out of business because nobody gives a sh*t about your politically correct, gender neutral and sexually inert advertising.

  10. GX5000

    SO sick of these hippies!!

    "has upped its inclusivity game"

    Oh gawd, they're gonna go woke/broke. Geebus help us!

    Can we get past this crap, I want to enjoy my forthcoming retirement without all this garbage.

    If anything the IM/IT crowd should be able to make Meritocracy hold up right?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: SO sick of these hippies!!

      Read an article yesterday on how Google in attempt to have been seen to have "upped its inclusivity game" has recently performed a survey of employees salaries to remove discrepencies between people who were doing effectively the same job .... and it turned out that proportional to number of male vs female employees there were significantly more men who needed to receive pay adjustments than women.

  11. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge

    Lot of mansplaining here

    About how they never get molested so it can't happen to women, obviously.

    Thought this was supposed to be a technical/logical forum.

    You have a conference floor with 100 men to each woman.

    What do you think the chances are of one man encountering 100 women, as opposed to one woman encountering 100 men?

    And what are the odds of at least one of those men being a sexist obnoxious shit?

    Unless you have never ever met someone like that in your whole working life.

    Hey, sugar tits, take me to your boss?

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: Lot of mansplaining here

      Don’t see much mansplaining here, do see a few men outlining their personal experience. Are you suggesting only women have a valid viewpoint and men should just smile sweetly and observe in silence? Because we have a word for that - begins with an S.

      For the record, one person=one viewpoint. Man or woman, nobody has the right to delegitimise another’s personal experience; and the fact that somebody has had a different experience doesn’t make it any less valid. Trying to silence debate because a specific viewpoint doesn’t tally with the perceived ‘majority’ is how you end up with groupthink and mob rule.

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