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An interview with: Jill Binder

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How did you start to offer this type of training?

It happened in 2013. At WordCamp Vancouver, we only had 7 out of 52 nominations submitted by women and other under-represented groups. Then we only had 14% diverse speaker representation.

People weren't happy. Several people in our audience have spoken to us in private or even wrote blog posts about it in public.

I started talking to other WordCamp organizers, researched, talked to people in my community, and found out that the problem was that those of us who belong to a marginalized or under-represented group tend to feel like they have nothing to talk about or that we don't know enough about anything to talk about.

I felt defeated… until a feminist friend offered to brainstorm me. That one idea turned into what is now a full 4 hour workshop! This workshop was created by a team from Vancouver and contributed by the WordPress community around the world.

What do you think is the biggest barrier that keeps people from speaking in the first place?

Here's the thing: Usually, when a member of a well-represented group in a community knows a little about a topic, they feel like they know enough to talk about it. They have seen many faces like theirs on stage before. Conversely, when someone from an under-represented group knows a little about a topic, we often feel like we don't know enough to talk about it. We don't see people who look like us presented as experts. In addition, many of us set a much higher bar for “expert” knowledge than others.

How have midlife and the inability to see people face to face affect the work you do?

Hmm, good question. About 80% of my work was already online as I work with a global audience. Now it's 100% onlineeven for local events. I always work hard to make sure my workshop participants engage and connect with me, even online. This helps them learn the material better and have more fun with the workshop.

The biggest change would probably be the material itself. I try to put focus less on speaking on a live stage, and more focus on the experience of speaking online.

Can you tell me about a time when a participant in one of your workshops taught I Something?

Absolutely! Participants teach me things all the time. I am grateful for everything I have to learn.

An example is where a participant told me about the struggle I had to learn the names of people. He explained that people from cultures different from mine always have to work hard to fit in and be accepted, and that it's a little effort I can make to make people's workshop experiences more comfortable.

So now I'm taking a few extra minutes to google unknown names before each workshop. It's an easy effort, and most names even have a sound so I can hear it.

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When I do this, I am showing that I am trying, and I am also more likely to remember the person's actual pronunciation, even though it is different from what I had learned.

What's been the biggest change or leap you've seen in your time? (For the best or for the worst?)

In my day it was definitely this year: George Floyd was a great catalyst for much needed change. More and more people are recognizing the need for change, although there is still a lot of work to be done.

Communities are increasingly called upon for lack of action or for completely wrong actions, and community organizers are therefore looking for concrete and achievable solutions like ours. I feel that the work of our group is in the right place and at the right time to help make this change. More important again, it creates space for the voices to be heard.

What differences, if any, do you see between the WordPress community and other communities?

I think the WordPress community is more diverse and inclusive due to the friendly community and the ease with which people start to learn WordPress technology. This is not the case everywhere in the world, of course, as different regions have different challenges around diversity, but in my experience with other technologies this is the case more often in WordPress.

This is one of the things that brought me into the space of speaker diversity: at our events, we had such diverse audience members and contributors in our community, so why didn't the people on stage look like our community?

For most of this year, you have run workshops aimed at getting more people to become speakers. Is it your continued goal to move forward?

This is a great question. And that's a question we ask ourselves, in fact!

Prior to 2020, we were teaching Meetups how to organize our workshop on their own for their communities. Considering the events of 2020, I started offering part of the workshop to the community directly myself, online.

Now our group takes a 20 foot view to reimagine the work we are doing for this year again. We are asking for everyone's contribution.

Given the global changes this year and the changes underway in 2021:

What would be the most effective way to help organizers get more diversity in WordPress speaker lists? (not just gender, but also race, class, sexuality, ability, age, etc.)

What new obstacles do you see emerging from 2020 that will likely be factors in 2021?

We would love to hear from you. Could you please share your comments on this article before December 18, 2020.

I like to think that people tend to support others like you. What can WordPress or the wider tech community do to support you or support this type of work?

Oh, I am so touched by this wording. Thanks, Allie.

We would love a lot of support!

We would really love to have some feedback in the comments on [Input Requested] Re-imagine the work of the Diverse Speaker Training group (#WPDiversity).

It is very important to help inform the future of the work of our group.

Additionally, if anyone is interested in making a real, tangible impact with an inspiring group, we would love your volunteer help with the Diverse Speaker Training Group (#WPDiversity). Yes, allies are welcome too. To show your interest in seeing if our group is right for you, please contact me via Twitter or the WordPress slack: @jillbinder. I will follow up with you in the New Year.

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