Gaining Gender Parity at Design Conferences

Website Redesign,
UX Research,
Content Strategy, Diversity
Lack of gender parity in speaker lineups and panels at conferences due to persistent myths that women speakers don’t exist or are hard to find.
Event organizers struggle to curate diverse lineups despite the plethora of available resources (on Twitter, on websites, in speaker bureaus).
Women speakers encounter particular boundaries that complicate their availability and potential as a speaker.
Event organizers and speakers don't know what the other party is looking for, which creates tension and confusion while communicating with one another.

The Women Talk Design website was started by Christina Wodtke and promoted many women speakers. Over $20k was raised by the design community to fund 2 design interns to redesign the website, which had grown but was not being used by conference organizers.

My Contributions

Redesign the Women Talk Design website to reflect the interests of event organizers and highlight the capabilities of women speakers.

Conduct research via online survey, remote/in-person listening sessions with event organizers & women speakers
Compile findings into diagrams and published Medium post
Article: Why Women Speakers Say No
Reorganize information architecture based on research, increasing traffic by 300%; WTD website map
Rebrand WTD to standardize UI/visuals and Content Strategy message architecture
Redesign website to better highlight most-relevant content

How Might We . . . redesign Women Talk Design's website to fit the needs of conference organizers and women speakers?

Redesigning Women Talk Design
In May 2017, 150+ people inspired by Women Talk Design's mission donated $21k on GoFundMe...and the rest is history

ORIGIN: No More Excuses!

Christina Wodtke started Women Talk Design in 2013 because she was tired of conference organizers saying, "There aren't any female speakers who are (able to talk about this topic/available/any good/insert excuse here.)" She wanted to make a site that would take away excuses, and make it easy for organizers to find women speakers, check out their speaking abilities, and contact them.

MISSION: Promote Women Speakers

WTD is a platform to elevate the best talks about design from women, and empower event organizers with tools, approaches, and information to engage more women speakers. The site uses great talks to call attention to great speakers — in that order — and the interns redesigned the site to reflect that. Now, anyone can discover excellent talks on design, UX, content strategy, and related topics through the site, and then learn about (and hire) the women behind the mics.

INTERN ORIGIN: Help Budding Women Designers

In May 2017, 150+ people inspired by WTD's mission donated $21k on GoFundMe to support Christina so she could "afford interns" to redesign By donating, people could support women speakers as well as women like myself and my peer, Jennifer, who were about to enter the professional design field. Many well-known design professionals also donated their time to mentor us––Indi Young, Abby Covert, Hugh Dubberly, Margot Bloomstein, Andy Budd AND SO MANY MORE. We are indebted to them. This project would not be what it is without their input and collaboration!

Observing the dynamic between Women Speakers & Conference Organizers

30min to 2hr-long Listening Sessions

Inspired by our mentor Indi Young, we conducted our research by having lengthy conversations with 9 speakers (all women) and 12 conference organizers (6 women, 6 men). We didn’t speak to any conference organizers who were indifferent to diversity; all of them were passionate about curating representational speaker lineups and work incredibly hard to do so. I'd never gone into a research interview without a script. It was so scary! Plus, while some people were eager to say anything they could think of and I could barely get a word in, others were curt with their answers and it took a lot of energy to keep the conversation flowing. Yet, the more I talked with organizers and speakers, the more I understood their passions and frustrations, and the more excited I was about the project.

ARTICLE: 7 Reasons Why Women Speakers Say No + Key Findings

1. Correspondence is a guessing game.

Organizers are not talking to other organizers, not even to exchange methods within organizations. Organizers don't know what women speakers are looking for; speakers don't know what organizers are looking for.

2. Current "Lists" of Women Speakers are NOT helpful.

"Binders of women" don't have enough helpful info for organizers (or include speakers who don't have the qualities organizers are looking for). Twitter threads serve specific people, not the whole.  Speaker Bureaus, like WTD, are organized by speaker, but they serve only those speakers who are well-known and costly. Organizers aren't able to talk directly with the speakers; intentions are lost in communication.

3. Organizers look for Speakers in their Primary & Secondary Network, and by topic...NOT by Speaker

Existing binders/Twitter threads/websites/bureaus are not being consistently used by organizers to curate diverse/inclusive speaker lineups. (Information also expires almost as quickly as it's put up.) Women Talk Design was originally organized by women speakers, but organizers were not using it.

Based on how Organizers find Speakers: Emphasize Video Content Over Speakers. 1 month left!

Information Architecture

Under Hugh Dubberly's guidance, I mapped out the structure of the original website to visually represent the flow/architecture of the site. After chatting with Abby the IA, we determined that WTD had to be completely reorganized to prioritize talks > speakers, we put together a concept model and rough wireframes of the flow/function we thought the new site should reflect.

Making it Easier to Submit and Manage Speaker Content

WTD originally had one, long form that was submitted one time for each speaker. All edits to pages were done by Christina as per speaker request. In the redesign, I wanted to give each speaker the ability to edit and update her own page. However, we still wanted to curate video content. I separated the form into 3 different ones: NOMINATE CONTENT for those promoting content from others, so that WTD can contact nominated speakers to create a speaker page ADD MYSELF AS A SPEAKER for speakers not already on the website, and ADD MY VIDEO EXAMPLES for any speaker to upload as many videos as many times as needed.

In 3 Months We...
Raised $21,000+
Increased # of Speakers on the site from 78 to 126
Improved SEO (daily avg visits barely 20 to into the hundreds)
Created and managed a Twitter Account, gained 300+ followers
Wrote and published a Medium Article based on Key Findings. Gained 100+ Followers on Medium and 400+ claps.
Successfully redesigned and launched the new website
Saw Women Talk Design become on LLC under Danielle Barnes and Christina Wodtke
Read and Share the Article
I learned how to trust the process
My Struggle with Confidence

There was a period of time during concept creation where I felt overwhelmed and lost. Jennifer and I were working remotely and Christina was out of the country most of the summer, so it was literally just us two for weeks at a time. But we had so many supporters and coaches and amazing findings from our research! If there's one thing I could change about my internship experience, and I had had the confidence that I have now post-internship, I would have believed in myself and the process more.

Just Keep Swimming

I have to keep moving forward even when I'm unsure of where my next step will lead me. I love coming up with concepts in design sprints but sometimes I let my more enthusiastic peers lead the concepting phase of projects before I lead execution. In this internship, I could only look to myself. I realized that I wanted to move only when I could see a map of the whole project path, but that's not how projects in the real world work. I needed to trust that whatever I do will bring me closer to a potential solution I can really sink my teeth in. Just keep swimming. Just do it!