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Diversity @ Enigma

By Ben Adida & Franzi Roesner.

The Enigma Conference and USENIX are deeply committed to diversity. We believe that having speakers and program committee members that represent a variety of backgrounds, genders, nationalities, industries, etc. makes for a better, more relevant, more insightful conference. We're also keenly aware that diversity doesn't just happen through good intentions: many groups have been historically underrepresented in our field, which leads to systemic and persistent under-representation. Biases and imbalance have a way of self-replicating. To build a diverse conference--to systematically de-bias an entire pipeline of speakers--takes planning, effort, and more than the occasional moment of introspection. We saw our program committee think hard about this, and we, your program chairs, worked hard at this, too.

We are proud of what we've accomplished so far: Our program committee is 47% women. Our speakers are 34% women. We're also covering a broader, more inclusive set of topics than we ever have.

But we, like all humans, are far from perfect. We missed an important opportunity this year: though we had enough women amongst our speakers and session chairs overall to ensure that each session would include at least one woman, we did not set up the sessions accordingly. We failed to notice this, leaving a session with all men. By the time we noticed, it was too late to rebalance our sessions without asking people (notably women) to do more work.

So while we can't fix it now without asking women to shoulder the burden of diversity, we can make a commitment to fix this in the future. With USENIX's support, we are committing to having every session at Enigma 2020 include at least one woman. We're doing this because (a) there is plenty of under-represented talent to tap, and (b) representation matters. We want women, members of other under-represented groups, to look at the Enigma lineup and find an idol, a mentor, someone they can look up to and identify with.

We feel a special responsibility to do this, as shepherds of this amazing conference, specifically *because* this conference is so highly regarded in our field. There is tremendous talent from all backgrounds and identities. It's our job to help that talent rise to the stage.

We're counting on you to hold us accountable. In fact, the only reason we noticed this gap is thanks to an individual speaker who had committed to never appear on a panel of only men, and who was willing to give up his chance to speak at Enigma 2019 on this principle. We were inspired by his willingness to sacrifice. We spent a good bit of time with this individual discussing how to make Enigma more inclusive, and we agreed on this path of action: he would remain on the panel, and we would commit to do better next year. He helped make Enigma a better conference. We're very thankful he did. We’re also, as a conference, in a good place to provide this year-over-year continuity of policy, because each co-chair serves for 2 years with staggering. Franzi is in her second year of co-chairing, while Ben is in his first. So, please hold Ben accountable for 2020!

There’s more we can do, and you can help: Why should we stop at 34% women speakers? And how can we do better when it comes to underrepresented minorities? We need all of you, our whole community, to encourage women and individuals from other underrepresented groups to submit talk proposals to Enigma next year. Let us know who should be on our radar but may not submit; and if you belong to one of these groups, we want to hear from you!

Ben and Franzi
Enigma 2019 Program Co-Chairs
enigma19chairs@usenix.org

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