Diversity & Inclusion
 

Best Practices for Conferences

IEEE Computer Society encourages all our conference organizers to promote and faciliate greater diversity and inclusion in their activities.
 

The IEEE Computer Society is committed to Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) across all its sponsored activities, including conferences.

These are some ideas to promote and increase D&I in your conferences and communities. Most are best practices already implemented at conferences sponsored by IEEE and other organizations. Does your conference already do some of these D&I activities? Is there a super cool activity that we have not thought of? Did you try one of these activities? How did it turn out? Send an email to inclusion@computer.org with (1) a short description of the activity and (2) a link to a description of the event from the conference web site that hopefully includes pictures! We will make sure to add your conference as an example on the list below.

 

Small Group Activities

 

The goal of these activities is to create spaces for underrepresented communities or affinity groups to meet in person to discuss plans for increasing representation, create collaborations, find support, or simply mingle with other people.

  • Breakfast, lunch or meetup for an underrepresented group in your community
  • This is a very simple activity that is very easy to organize; for example:

    • ICSE and ICSME host an annual LGQBT luncheon
    • ICSE 2019 had a meetup for African attendees
    • ASE 2019 hosted a women’s breakfast

     

  • Breakfast, lunch or meetup for an organized underrepresented group within the community
  • There are many groups that exist but rarely get a chance to meet in person. These activities provide an opportunity for these groups to make stronger connections and plan activities for the future; for example:

    • The Tapia Conference organizes a face-to-face annual meeting of the Hispanics in Computing mailing list members
    • SERVICES hosted an WIE symposium

     

  • Workshops or symposiums for underrepresented communities, organized by underrepresented communities
  • It is so much easier to connect when there is a topic of theme in common and you are in your affinity group. These activities help to connect within those groups in a much more relaxed environment; for example:

    • HOST organizes a women’s workshop for hardware security. Speakers are all women that share their stories. Students present posters at the workshop.
    • S&P hosts a workshop for underrepresented groups in security research

     

  • Dedicated 24/7 networking spaces
  • Many research collaborations and long-term friendships start at conferences. Provide spaces for people to connect. For example, many conferences have students lounges or rooms with tables to host small meetings.

  • Networking programs
  • It is difficult to become part of a community, especially when you are a minority. Programs such as the mentor-protégé program at SC targeted at creating networking opportunities for underrepresented groups.

  • Ad Hoc Meetups
  • Provide opportunities for underrepresented groups to meet each other. For example, at ASE 2019, volunteers from various affinity groups gathered after the opening conference reception and invites other interested members of the ASE community to come out to dinner as groups.

 

Plenary Conference Events

 

These are plenary events that the full conference participates in. They are targeted at showing their commitment to D&I and discussing D&I issues as a community.

  • Panel on a topic related to D&I
  • Panels are great ways to create discussions around topics related to D&I. Organize a panel around current events, experiences, activities for increasing participation, community challenges, etc.

  • Keynotes and Special Invited Talks by Underrepresented Community Members
  • Keynote speakers are the superstars of your conference. Commit to diversity in keynote speakers to introduce role models for everyone in in your community.

 

Conference Organization

 

These are plenary events that the full conference participates in. They are targeted at showing their commitment to D&I and discussing D&I issues as a community.

 

  • Panel on a topic related to D&I
  • Panels are great ways to create discussions around topics related to D&I. Organize a panel around current events, experiences, activities for increasing participation, community challenges, etc.

  • Keynotes and Special Invited Talks by Underrepresented Community Members
  • Keynote speakers are the superstars of your conference. Commit to diversity in keynote speakers to introduce role models for everyone in in your community.

 

Support for Underrepresented Groups to Attend the Conference

 

Sometimes it is difficult for underrepresented groups to attend conferences due to family commitments, financial issues, disabilities, or simply lack of time. These activities can make it easier for these people to attend.

 

  • Child care
  • Child care at conferences would enable people with small children to attend. Conferences such as ICSE, SC and VIS offer child care at the conference venue for free or at a reduced cost.

  • Financial support for companions of attendees with disabilities
  • Traveling is very difficult for people with disabilities and becomes very expensive if they need to travel with a companion.

  • Reduced registration rates for one-day passes for Industry
  • People in industry want to learn about the latest research, but may not have five days to attend a conference.

  • Reduced registration rates for local attendees when conferences go to underrepresented countries
  • Conference registrations are becoming very expensive, which when added to travel costs, make it very difficult for people in many countries to attend. When conferences visit these countries, make an effort to provide them the experience. As an example, when ICSE 2014 went to India, there were minimal rates for local attendees which were offset via a local corporate donation.

 

Travel Grants

 

Travel grants can help to offset some of the costs for underrepresented groups to attend the conference. Consider offering targeted travel grants, such as

  • Travel Grants for Students from Underrepresented Countries
  • Travel Grants for Students from Underrepresented Groups
  • Travel Grants for Early Career Faculty

 

Awards

 

Many conferences and communities have awards for best paper, best reviewer, best project, and others. Consider awards targeted at underrepresented communities or use your awards to promote D&I.

 

  • Awards specifically for underrepresented communities
  • As an example, TCSE has the Women in Science in Engineering Award

  • Name awards after influential members of the community that come from underrepresented groups
  • As an example, IEEE Computer Society renamed several of their awards after outstanding female members of the community

  • Award for Service in improving D&I
  • Reward those members of your community that have contributed to D&I in your community

 

First-Time Attendees

 

Attending a conference for the first time can be nerve-wracking, especially for students. Create events or special activities so that they can meet other people, where experienced or first-time attendees as well.

 

  • First-time attendee reception
  • Many conferences, such as ICSE and ASE, have first-time or newcomer receptions, with activities to get new people involved. The goal is for new people to have people to sit with at the conference, network, or simply go out to dinner. One idea from the IEEE CS meeting planners was to have high tables and no chairs and for each table to have a sign that gathers people on what they want to do next such as “Want to have Chinese after we are done?” or “Want to go to workshop X tomorrow?”

  • First-time mentors
  • Offer to pair first-time attendees with someone that is known in the community. IETF does this for people attending a meeting for the first time. Mentors are assigned in advance based on areas of interest expressed by newcomers during registration.

  • Special first-time attendee tables at conference dinners
  • This would encourage people that do not know anybody to attend the conference dinner and meet new people.

  • Special badges for first-time attendees
  • This would encourage other first-time attendees to interact. In addition, mentors in the community and organizing committee members should go out of their way to talk to them and introduce them to others.

  • Special badges for trained mentors/hosts
  • First-time attendees may not want to self-identify by wearing badges or may not want to make an initial move for networking because of lack of confidence or experience. Trained hosts/mentors with visible badges that reflect amount of mentorship, affinity groups, and research area, for example, have the job of looking out for first-time attendees and open to answering questions and making connections.

 

Other Ideas

 

This is a list of simple activities and ideas to promote D&I in your conference.

 

  • Diversity recognition
  • Make badges, ribbons or pins that show that you belong to an affinity group or minority. For example, Tapia Conference has a table full of ribbons that you can add to your badge: LGBQT, Hispanic, pronouns, etc. IETF meetings have pins to recognize diversity in languages: “Yo Hablo Español”, “Parlo Italiano”, etc.

  • Code of Conduct and D&I Statement on a poster at the registration desk
  • Make both of these fully visible as people register for the conference so that there is a clear understanding of how people are expected to behave at the conference.

  • Reporting diversity numbers for conferences
  • Conferences should report this information on their web sites: gender, nationality, pronouns, industry/academia/government, etc.

  • Local college student invitations
  • Invite college students who may be interested in the field of your conference field to attend a morning or afternoon of talks. Organize a special talk for the students and faculty on a hot topic in the field, industry experience, or the graduate student experience. Have senior members of the community come and meet them during the break. The ASE conference does this as one of their D&I activities.