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Diversity with a Side of Caffeine

Early Wednesday morning of RSAC US week, we asked a group of co-collaborators to work with us to help improve the diversity of RSA Conference. A broad spectrum of people were represented – some long-term RSAC attendees and some new to information security – all of various ages, genders, geographies, verticals, positions and ethnicities.

In exchange for the 90-minute session, we promised the participants that we would implement one of their suggestions for RSA Conference 2019. Now, I went into this knowing I would want to implement almost all of the suggestions, but with a nudge from Jackie Glenn, one of our facilitators who is a wise diversity and inclusion leader from Dell Technologies, I realized the importance of not biting off more than we can chew and focusing on a big bucket to really make a lasting change. So, one it was – in the spirit of under promise and over deliver!

To accomplish our goal, we used one of our “boot camp” exercises for rapid ideation. Boot camp is what we lovingly refer to as our RSA Conference planning kick off meeting, which is an intense three-days of actively planning, breaking and rebuilding programs, ideas and concepts to develop the next RSA Conference experience (more to come on this soon, btw). 

All participants were assigned a table, and had an envelope with open questions designed to generate ideas and discussion – such as:

  • How might we create opportunities for diversity and inclusion in our keynote program?
  • How might we create a speaker talent pipeline that encompasses various aspects of diversity?
  • How might we create a space at RSA Conference for dialogue on diversity?
  • How might we create tangible diversity and inclusion actions so that our community can survive and thrive?
  • How might we make RSAC a place that more women want to be, lead and thrive?
  • How might we identify specific metrics/goals that relate to diversity and inclusion that are meaningful and actionable?
  • How might a 3-5 year focus on diversity positively impact RSA Conference? What steps should we take to ensure that outcome?

You know, relatively light topics… (NOT!). 

Jackie walked us through the dimensions of diversity to help us focus our discussion around helping to solve concerns for broader diversity categories. I loved her iceberg slide:

Credit: Jackie Glenn

This slide is now part of the “artwork” in my office (right by the brochure on how to use my overly complicated desk phone and calendar circled with future RSA Conference dates).

After much caffeine, we got to work. Teams were tasked to write down as many ideas as they could come up within 5 minutes. Ideas were spoken “out loud” so that new ideas might form in the minds of others at the table. Teams decided which ideas to move forward with, which ideas they would leave behind, and outlined the possibilities of what those ideas can do.

At 70 minutes in, we had a representative from each group present their big ideas which ranged from new ways to create “purposeful collisions” of like-minded people, to helping people forge connections, and exploring the language we use around diversity.

I felt energized and newly inspired! And my team and I walked away with a list of incredibly thoughtful ideas.

So, what is the idea we are working on?

Instead of one, we selected two….to start. The first is to outline guidelines for keynotes to include gender diversity on the keynote stage. The second is to improve our outreach to speakers to represent all aspects of the diversity iceberg.

While our ideas at this point are not fully fleshed out, we are getting to work. And, we’ll keep you posted on our progress along the way.

To the early risers on Wednesday morning of RSA Conference week – my sincere thanks!  We could not have done this without your thoughtful insights and collective experiences. And, we are looking forward to making your ideas come to life and continuing to partner with you along the way! 

Posted on June 14, 2018

Sandra Toms

by Sandra Toms

VP and Curator, RSA Conference

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