August 18, 2004
@ 10:16 AM

I saw the following excerpt in Shelley Powers's post entitled Differences of Humor where she wrote

Sam Ruby has posted a note about the upcoming Applied XML Conference put on by Chris Sells. When I looked at the agenda and realized that the conference managed to put together two days worth of presentations without one woman speaker,

Knowing the nature of Chris Sells's conferences this is unsurprising. They seem to mostly be an opportunity for Chris's DevelopMentor clique and their buddies to hang out. However Shelley's post did make me start thinking about how many women I knew who worked with XML and just like the time I started to keep a list of Seinfeld episodes in which at least one African or African American appeared in (don't ask) I started tracking down the number of women I knew off who worked on XML technologies who's works I'd rather see present than at least one of the presentations currently on the roster. Here is my list


  • Eve Maler - Sun's most notable XML geek after Jon Bosak and Tim Bray. She's worked on SAML and UBL. I meet her at XML 2003 where we chatted about versioning in UBL and what truly meant by polymorphic XML processing.

  • Jeni Tennison - the most knowledgeable person on the planet about W3C XML Schema. I've lost count of the amount of times I've seen her school members of the W3C XML Schema working group about the technology on various mailing lists. Also an XSLT and XPath guru. She's always pushing boundaries in the XML world such as with her work on layered hierarchies in markup vocabularies with LMNL

  • Priscilla Walmsley - the author of Definitive XML Schema which is probably the best book on W3C XML Schema on the market. She's also co-written a book on XML in Office 2003 which I haven't read but would love to get a presentation on especially with regard to some finer details on how Office uses XML schemas. 

  • Amelia Lewis - a co-author of the WS-ReliableMessaging specification and the author of an excellent critique of the W3C XML Schema primitive types in her article Not My Type: Sizing Up W3C XML Schema Primitives


  • Elena - the Microsoft XML Web Service stack rests on her shoulders. What makes Visual Studio.NET an awesome XML Web Service environment is that there is functionality that lets you point at a WSDL and automatically you get handy dandy .NET classes generated for you. Elena owns the meat of this code, a lot of which resides in the XmlSerializer class

  • Denise Draper - an architect on our team who in a past life has been a member of the XQuery working group, worked an XML data integration suite for Nimble Technology and worked in the AI field.

  • Priya Lakshminarayanan - the developer for the W3C XML Schema validation technology in the .NET Framework. She's the most knowledgeable about the technology at Microsoft, I'm a distant second to her breadth of knowledge about this somewhat arcane and cryptic technology. She the first person I've seen implement a tool for generating sample XML documents from XML schemas that didn't suck.

  • Helena Kupkova - the developer for the XML parser in the .NET Framework. She completely gutted our old implementation and doubled the perf in some scenarios. A totally impressive developer. More impressive is that she ships stuff like the XML Diff and Patch demo on GotDotNet in her spare time.

  • Nithya Sampathkumar - the developer on the XML schema inference technology in the .NET Framework. Once I took over as the program manager for this technology I grew to understand the subtleties involved in trying to infer a schema for arbitrary XML documents. A presentation on the techniques used in her implementation and the limitations of XML schema inference would be quite interesting.

  • Neetu Rajpal - the program manager for XML tools in Visual Studio. I've overheard some interesting conversations involving her discussing some of the trickiness involved in implementing an XSLT debugger. An in-depth presentation about what the XML tools team is planning to ship and the issues they encountered would be killer.

  • Vinita - the program manager for MSXML which is the most widely deployed XML library on the planet. Even without shipping in Internet Explorer, Windows and Office they still get millions of downloads a year.

  • Tejal Joshi - works on the XML tools in Visual Studio. At last year's XML 2003 conference I enjoyed hearing James Clark discuss implementation strategies for his nxml-mode in Emacs. I'm sure Tejal would have similarly interesting stories to tell.

  • Lanqing Dai - used to be developer for the XmlDocument class but has moved on to WinFS. I'd love to hear a her thoughts on how working in an XML-centric world compares to living in the item-centric world of WinFS.

There are more women I know off in the XML field both within and outside Microsoft but these are the ones whose presentations I'd rather see than something like XML as a Better COM (for example). Maybe next time Chris Sells should look around the usual XML hang outs both online (like the xml-dev mailing list) and within Microsoft internally for conference speakers instead of announcing them in his blog. It may lead to a more diverse list of topics and speakers.

I need to go watch Berserk. Talk to you guys later.


Wednesday, August 18, 2004 5:52:06 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Most of the official MS tech conferences are Wonderbread filled sausage fests too.
Wednesday, August 18, 2004 6:03:35 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
That's a pretty awesome list!

I have to admit, I've never worked with a female developer. And not for a lack of trying! My first company was run by a woman and our PMs were all women, but when we were hiring, we had only 1 woman come in to interview. There's a lot of societal reasons that's the case.
Wednesday, August 18, 2004 6:15:37 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I posted the call for speakers on my blog and asked all former attendees to share it with whatever part of the XML community that they were a part of. Then, of the 54 responses, I only got 1 woman who proposed a talk. Further, in the meetings to decide which talks to choose, I pushed to have that one woman as a speaker simply because we had so few women but was accused of reverse sexism. When you throw your own conference, Dare, I trust you'll do better.

BTW, I've saved one slot for a last minute speaker and if anyone of those women you mentioned would like to send me an abstract that knocks my socks off, I'm more than happy to consider it.
Wednesday, August 18, 2004 6:55:48 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Just so you know, a women is sponsoring this conference and is very very much a part of driving the event. She will also be haggling speakers throughout the two days. ;)-

Chris and I both would love to see a last minute abstract from a strong speaker with innovative or applied XML and WS content. We left a slot open just for that. If it turns out the hot topic that comes last minute is presented by a women, awesome!

P.S. You forgot Michelle Leroux Bustamente and many other strong female minds out there. My hero was Jeri Edwards... I wish she was still around in industry, I would ping her directly if she was.

P.S.S. I am trying to decide if content in my head is strong enough to present at this event.
Wednesday, August 18, 2004 10:16:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Chris Sells, you might consider what it is about your conferences that doesn't attract more women into submitting abstracts. Perhaps there are few women reading your blog. And perhaps theres a reason for this.

As for 'reverse' sexism, sorry, but I don't buy this anymore. There's ways of putting a conference on that reaches out to women, and encourages them to participate. Not 50% -- that's too much to hope for in this male dominated field. But 0%? Someone blew it somewhere.

Curious -- did Tim Bray submit an abstract, too? All your speakers submitted abstracts, were considered evenly, and weren't invited for being a 'name' or ole buddy of yours?

As for a woman sponsoring this conference, it takes women being in the front to generate more interest from women to the field -- not women behind the scenes. Women have been 'behind the scenes' enough in the past.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004 11:17:56 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Of course I invited well-known people in the XML industry. That's how you put butts in the seats and what fun is a conference with no attendees?

As far as the "ways of putting a conference on that reaches out to women, and encourages them to participate," can I get some specifics? I thought I was inviting people to the conference. What did I do to turn away women?
Thursday, August 19, 2004 1:28:45 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
The thing is, Dare mentioned several women who are well known in the industry. They might also put butts in the seat.

If the women don't speak, they don't become as well known. If they aren't as well known, they don't get asked to speak.

All it takes is every conference giver to make a effort to look around and say, "What can I do to add some needed variety to this conference". Chances are -- that variety will come from the women.

Look at the women who Dare mentions? These are women who are leaders in the XML community. I'm not into the MS XML world, but I know of several. How could you have missed them in your 'effort to put butts in the seat'?

You ask why more women didn't send in abstracts? Ask why more women don't read your blog, or don't care about your conference, or haven't even heard of it--because someone somewhere doesn't really care.
Thursday, August 19, 2004 2:08:51 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Not to interject my butt where it doesn't belong, but don't you think you're being a tad bit hard on Chris?

First of all, if the problem is that he didn't reach out to women more actively, well the blame also has to fall on his co-sponsor Rebecca. Also on those others who knew about this event and did not spread the word to these women. If any of you knew of this event, did you spread the word?

Secondly, but why spread the blame in the first place? It's obvious that the lack of visibility of women in technology is a problem. I wrote about it here: We do need to focus on diversity. But pointing fingers and flinging blame is hardly the answer. Instead we should focus on being unifying and constructive.
I hardly doubt Chris had malicious intentions in putting forth an XML conference and it isn't his responsibility alone to rectify the gender imbalance in technology.
Instead, we should focus on being more constructive about this. If you think Chris can put more women in the spotlight and seats, offer suggestions on how he could have done this.

Dare's list is a good start...
Thursday, August 19, 2004 11:51:06 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
You missed Joyce Chen off your list - shame on you :p
Thursday, August 19, 2004 2:45:03 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Do any of those women WANT to speak? Are they good speakers? Just because they are more than technically qualified doesn't mean they are good speakers. I attended a presentation last week by a guy with TONS of experience at Fortune 25 companies and he was a poor speaker. Didn't keep on topic, didn't get to points in his talk, etc...

Shelly is just blaming the victim of her particular cause. Any non-Americans on the speaking list? How about non-whites? Native Americans? Essentially she is saying, "It's your fault your speaking list isn't more diverse because non-white-men don't like you.". That's pretty silly.
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