An Open Letter to Laura Kalbag

Laura, Regardless of your gender I happen to think that you're a rather snazzy speaker and incredibly talented at what you do, which is why you were asked to speak at Tomorrow's Web. The fact that you're a woman didn't even cross my mind, frankly I didn't care either way. Isn't that magical and isn't that the way it should be?

On October 13th 2012 you spoke at Tomorrow's Web, where two of our speakers, out of three, were girls. Neither of you were chosen because you're female.

Today your comments, as an event organiser, saddened me. I'd already had an email earlier asking why we didn't have enough LGBT speakers / representation, I didn't think it bore much thought. I'm an openly gay man (admittedly white and middle class, as you've pointed out), so this email confused me slightly. It's tough for us to find representation anywhere that's not a negative stereotype, but why should I feel the need to add more speakers JUST BECAUSE THEY WERE GAY to a tech conference? I'd be making tokens out of them.

You're a designer first and foremost, your gender doesn't even cross my mind when I think about you or your speaking abilities. However it appears that today you'd rather be included in a conference that wanted you there as a token female, rather than because you had anything worthwhile to say.

You absolutely hate the idea of being a female token speaker, something I demonstrated today with a tweet of mine suggesting that if you ever wanted to be a token speaker at Tomorrow's Web, because you thought we might be a bit of a boys club, you'd be more than welcome to be one. So I'm really confused as to why you'd be petitioning to have more women speaking at events... because they're women.

To me and the rest of the Tomorrow's Web team, you and the rest of our speakers will and have always been asked to speak because of your stories and abilities. Not because of your gender, your race, your sexuality, your religion, or your social class. We just don't care.

If you don't want to support a progressive event that celebrates diversity and inspires young people to do brilliant things with technology, then fair enough. However don't for one second pretend that we're in any way discriminatory.

Chris Leydon.