How Do We Fix SEO's Representation Challenge?

I've been sitting on this post for a while. And there is no clean intro to this, because no matter how much you try to be neutral in addressing a non-neutral issue, there will be offense.

But SEO has a gender, identity, racial, all kinds of disparity, issue. And it's not exactly a secret. And maybe with SearchLove happening this week, it just keeps popping up in my mind. Not unlike tech, the industry is largely male, white, and straight. With token other players thrown in to keep the appearance of balance. And basically every conference you go to has the same panels of speakers. Even beloved Moz with its 50/50 commitment recycles speakers that fit the bill more than I recycle my kombucha bottles. Just compare the lineup from 2017 with this year's lineup for the 2018 MozCon. Beyond being repetitive, it's not good for our industry. The same ideas from the same sources come up. For a small industry that takes issue with a singular central power source [Google] dictating how the rules work, we're certainly doing a good job of building a structure that closely mirrors that power distribution.

It's hard not to be frustrated. And other marketers I've talked to make comments similar to this. We're happy that more speakers are women and with progress that's being made, and that people of diverse backgrounds generally are being included--but why is it always the same people? You're telling me that you couldn't find another voice to put into the deck? I don't buy that. Maybe they're less splashy, because they haven't had the stage 100 times, but no less qualified. A less senior marketer who is gusty, thrilling to listen to, and can run a campaign with the best of them but doesn't get the stage. Rinse and repeat. And this goes double if they're a person of color, speak with an accent, are gender non-conforming...you get it. I get the economics of selling conference tickets [do not @ me bro], and having traditionally popular speakers helps do that, but the flip side of that is there is inherently no reason to attend something like SearchLove over MozCon except production value, because the panels/topics/speakers are nearly identical.

But it's more than just recycling the speakers. It's not including more representation. I've been the only women in the room. The most senior marketer who gets asked where my boss is so someone can pitch something. Who gets talked down to, talked over, or not talked to at all, because I must be new to the game or don't have the perceived credibility to hold my own based on what I look like. And I still have more of a voice and opportunity than some of my counterparts. And I can't tell you how deeply disappointing that is. That peers of mine who are insanely talented, fearless, blindingly creative, are passed over because to be considered, they have to be *that* much better than everyone else, have the biggest titles, the flashiest employer. Their bar is so much higher.

And I wish I had an elegant solution. Because the premise here is invite new voices, make space for change to happen, be an advocate for your peers and bring them with you, and open doors for them that they might not have access to. But that requires people who power and opportunity naturally flows to to pass it over so others can be included. And that ask is hard to stomach, because hey, you've worked hard too. I get it. So while I work on a better thought out solution, here are some of my favorite people in our space you're probably not following on Twitter so you can at least hear their voices. Tweet me yours so I can do the same [@vandernickr].

@AnnieCushing

@leximills

@sayfsharif

@ljmarcus 

@danaditomaso

@merci

@terezalitsa