The face of Canadian UX


Kate Trgovac wrote a post yesterday about The Face of Canadian Marketing. And, it hit close to home for me even though I don’t consider myself a marketer. I, too, am tired of going to conferences where there’s no nod to the diversity already present in the community of user experience/information architecture/user interface design/usability practitioners.

One conference that I’ve enjoyed going to is the CanUX conference held in Banff. I’ve been twice. And, I’ve done some math. Keeping in mind that my math could be wrong*, about twelve percent (and I’m rounding up) of the speakers in the history of CanUX have been female. The audience at CanUX is probably closer to 50/50 (although I did not count while I was there).

The IA Summit is another conference that I have frequented. The math on their 2008 conference speakers is about thirty percent female (not counting poster presentations). I believe the IA Summit application process is a blind, peer-review process. So, they have twice as many female speakers compared to CanUX – possibly without even trying. They even had a female keynote speaker. Twice.

This fall’s CanUX lineup? Dave Gray. Brandon Schauer. Luke Wroblewski. On top of the fact that they are all male, they’re also all American.

Gene and Jess will also probably speak this year (I get that it’s their show). However, that’s no excuse for not bringing in more Canadians. I refuse to believe that I live in a backwater of user experience. There are a lot of Canadians doing interesting work – some of them are even women, some are not Caucasian, and still others are non-Caucasian women.

I’m taking a stand and voting with my feet and conference dollars. You won’t see me at CanUX this fall. I’m on the fence about the IA Summit until I see something announced.

Not much has advanced on this issue in a few years. And, shaming conference organizers hasn’t seemed to work. Lists?
Sites with fancy tag clouds? Any other ideas?

3 Responses to “The face of Canadian UX”

  1. We’ll miss you. And I agree that we need more women – that’s one reason why Yvonne is speaking instead of me or Gene (though more importantly, she rocks). And why we’ve pursued women speakers in the past, and are still doing so to round out the program. One other thing – many of our past speakers *are* Canadian, they just live in the States – Joey Benedek (UX Lead on Windows) Steve Portigal (Portigal Consulting) Kevin Cheng (Y!, now Raptr). This year, we’ve invited Jerome Ryckborst – and while he’s Canadian, one of my hesitations was that it added another guy to the program.

    Last year we invited Di Wilkens, CEO of Critical Mass, but she was unable to come due to family obligations (so we had Armano instead). We also talked to Tara Hunt (Citizen Agency, and Cdn) but she was off to Asia. The year before we had talked to Helen Maskery, but that didn’t work out either.

    Other suggestions for Cdn women doing interesting UX work (whether they live in Canada or not)? Lynn Miller @ Autodesk, maybe…anyone else?

  2. Joanna says:

    First off, thanks for struggling through the badly styled comments form (which is slightly better now) to leave a comment of that length.

    In some emails I’ve exchanged with Gene on this, I sent him ten great names of individuals who happen to be women not all of whom are necessarily Canadian. Incidentally, Canadian male UX workers are also doing interesting work. In the IAI salary survey, the gender divide was 49% female, 51% male.

    My suggestion to you (in your conference organizer hat) is to not put all your proverbial ovaries into one basket. Work really hard for recruiting more than one speaker and -if one of them happens to become unavailable- you still have one. Worst case: you have more than one slot filled.

  3. Jess says:

    Well, two things – I handle the CanUX programming much more than Gene, so 1) it’s my fault, and 2) it’s not for lack of trying (Gene hasn’t ever passed on said list, I’d be happy to see it).

    But the real reason I came back is that we got confirmation that Lisa Anderson, interaction design lead for MS Surface, is going to be joining us to keynote!!!! Yay!

    Lastly, thanks for pushing us all (CanUX and Summit and elsewhere) to do better.