Earlier this week, DevTernity – a prestigious, international tech conference based in Latvia – was canceled as it was revealed that the event organizers had created fake profiles of female speakers to create a more diversified panel 🤦‍♀️

Yep, you heard that right. 

Not only has this jarring action had an impact on the event and the real female speakers there, but it’s also questioning the authenticity of diversity in tech 💔 

Let’s talk about what happened, why it happened, and what it means for women like us 👇👇

What happened? – A quick recap 🏃‍♀️

  • Just a few days before the conference, it was discovered that DevTernity had made up fake profiles of female speakers for their conference. Gergely Orosz made the news public – see the LinkedIn post.
  • DevTernity organizer, Eduards Sizovs, claimed that the fake profiles were placeholders. He explained in an X post that some female speakers had dropped out, so they used the fake profile on the website until they found a replacement. 
  • However, Orosz proved that fake female speakers had been added to the conference for over 3 years. And were even added to their 2024 lineup. 
  • As a result of these allegations, several female and male speakers dropped out of the conference, and it was canceled. Leaving ticket holders up to €870 out of pocket (returns pending). 

Why did this happen? 🤔

Although Sizovs provided his explanation, it doesn’t quite add up. 

This didn’t just happen as a response to a last-minute drop-out, this has been repeatedly done for years. That can’t be an accident. 

This is more than just a lazy attempt to maintain a diversified speaker lineup – it’s a blatant disregard for the need of fair representation of women in tech, and the opportunities they deserve.

Sizovs purposefully chose to invent profiles of fake women than to carry out a proper search of female speakers outside of a typically male-dominated circle, build a relationship, and then invite them as a speaker for the conference. 

And who experiences the horrific damage from this? You guessed it – us women. 

So, why was this so damaging? ❤️‍🩹

  • It shows we don’t have the allies we need: Women are already a minority of tech, making up under 30% of the workforce. If powerful men like Sizovs lack even the interest to become allies, then we can’t go far. 
  • It’s causing a negative chain reaction for women in tech: This caused the real female speakers to walk out, and their chance to empower and inspire women was taken from them. It has created a chain reaction that further disencourages women to succeed in tech.
  • It’s questioning the authenticity of others: This situation is causing the public to ask, “Who else is doing this?”. Liz Fong-Jones, a developer advocate known for labor activism, states, “This is damaging to all women in tech, even the ones that have nothing to do with the conference. Because now we’re going to get asked, even more often, all these questions about our authenticity.” 

What does this prove? 🤨

This is just creating another uphill battle for women to take up their rightful space. We need powerful men in these positions to be our allies and feel accountable to give real women the opportunities and space to create a truly diverse workforce – and not just in tech. 

Let’s talk about quotas. Workplace quotas are quite a polemic topic, and there are ongoing debates both for and against them. It’s important to remember that there are more than enough qualified women in every single industry across the globe – with or without quotas. 

But we feel this instance shows that having a compulsory quota of women in both public and private sectors guarantees a fair representation. Quotas can help make sure that powerful men like Sizovs are not able to fabricate women and lack the effort or interest to make workplaces truly diverse. They must be held truly accountable to search for the right profiles (which often are outside of their natural circle) and achieve the desired representation we deserve. 💪