Gender balance

in conferences on data visualization, creative code, information graphics

After a few discussions on gender balance in data visualization (and related fields such as information graphics and creative code), I simply decided to collect some data to find out how many women we actually have in the field, and how well they are represented at conferences.

To this end, I manually counted the number of male and female speakers at conferences (with a little help from my friends) in a Google spreadsheet and visualized the data with d3.js

How do I read this?

Each square symbol in the chart represents one conference. Most of them have two parts: a green one for the women and a brown one for the men. You can scale them vertically by the overall number of speakers or scale them uniformly (better readability). The horizontal position indicates the proportion of women speakers in the line-up of the event. There are different sortings available for the vertical axis, e.g. by time or conference series.

How do you interpret the results? What is the take away message?

There are a few measures which are interesting to look at:

  1. The average proportion of women in the line-up of a conference:

    That's roughly one out of six.

  2. The overall proportion of women in the speakers of all conferences combined:

    The reason that this number is higher than the first one is that larger conferences tend to have a higher relative numbers of women speakers.

  3. The estimate of the average number of women in data visualization overall: 23.1%

    From Andy Kirk's data visualization census. I counted only the 279 women and 930 men which stated they pursue data visualization full time or as part of their job.

So, overall, we are quite close to the average number of women in the field. All good, right?

Hmm, well—still, there is on average only one woman out of six speakers on stage if you randomly pick an individual event. And even if the number of speakers would match the number of professionals - why should we be happy with staying at one out of four? Personally, I would love to see much more women in the field overall - ideally half of the people, right?! Let's make this happen.

(For instance, by having more women speak at conferences.)

Doesn't it get better over the years?

Judge yourself. I can't see a trend. It does not seem to happen on its own.

Isn't this a totally subjective selection of conferences?

Yes, it is. Help me improve it. (I would like to keep it focussed on the fields of data visualization, information graphics and creative code, though.)

I found an error! I would like to add a conference! I have strong opinions one way or the other!

I would be really happy, if you could send me a note via this handy submission form! Thanks!


Moritz Stefaner, 2013