While female participation in STEM fields is growing closer to male participation in some countries, in the U.S., women make up only 34 percent of the STEM workforce. Looking at this, some people understandably come to the conclusion that we gotta get those numbers up. But that seems hard — how on earth can we manage it?!
Well, the organizers of a recent tech conference seem to have found an answer: just make them up.
When the “DevTernity” conference was announced (take a moment to fully comprehend the shittiness of that name), it boasted a broad array of speakers of people across the gender spectrum. However, as the date approached, one dude began to get suspicious of some of the speaker names. He did a little Googling and reverse-image searching and, surprise surprise, the women weren’t real.
Imagine a tech conference having no CFP, as they reach out to speakers directly. They successfully attract some of the most heavy hitter men speakers in tech, and 3 women speakers.— Gergely Orosz (@GergelyOrosz) November 24, 2023
Now imagine my surprise that 2 of those women are FAKE profiles.
They do not exist.
“On November 24th, engineer Gergely Orosz claimed that several women listed to appear as DevTernity speakers — including Coinbase staff engineer Anna Boyko and Coinbase ‘software craftswoman’ Natalie Stadler — didn’t actually exist and were made up by the event organizers to ‘seem like there will be more women speaking,’” writes Jess Weatherbed for The Verge. The event was later canceled after several speakers pulled out.
Upon seeing all this hubbub, people began digging through the history of the organizer, a guy named Eduards Sizovs. You’re not going to believe this, but he’s actually done this before. One speaker for a conference run by the same organizers, a “Senior Engineer at WhatsApp, Microsoft MVP” named Alina Prokhoda, was found to be fake, per a post from Orosz. Speakers from previous years were also discovered to be figments of our collective imagination. Fool me once, I suppose.
Sizovs, the event organizer, has since posted a weepy, hand-doing-jerk-off-motion apology about all this onto X (Twitter). According to him, one of the “fake” profiles was created during a testing phase and accidentally left on the website, and that other female speakers had definitely for sure been part of the conference at some point. As for the additional fake speakers — and the one that The Verge and others implied had a profile written by Sizovs himself? Uh… can’t hear you, sorry, going into a tunnel, gotta go!
In short, and I know this sounds crazy, but if you’re trying to increase the number of women at your conference, you have to actually invite women to your conference — an A.I.-generated image with a ChatGPT LinkedIn page ain’t gonna cut it.