why your conference should have a code of conduct

I’ve been asked many times why a conference needs a code of conduct.  Depending on who’s asking, and whether I feel like taking on such basic education for a conference organizer, I give many answers: to increase attendance of women, to have a documented procedure of how to handle a situation, to do the right thing.

There have been many articles written about the problem of harassment at conferences.  The most recent to cross my radar quotes Leigh Honeywell:

“I’ve had enough crappy experiences at security conferences that I no longer attend them alone,” said Leigh Honeywell, a security engineer.

And that, conference organizers, is why you should have a code of conduct.  When people have bad experiences at your conference, they stop attending it.  When women have bad experiences at your conference, they stop attending it if they can’t come up with a way to guarantee their safety.  And when we have bad experiences at your conference, we talk about it.  I’ve avoided attending conferences because I’ve heard about bad behavior that goes unchecked.

If you don’t have a code of conduct that you enforce, you’re losing attendees.  It’s in the best interest of your conference, including best financial interest, to have a code of conduct.

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