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Rather Than Platform Actual Women, This Tech Conference Apparently Just Made Some Up

Rear view of a female public speaker talking to an audience at a conference

I know no one was clamoring for yet another example of how frustrating it is to be a woman in STEM but they just keep coming, don’t they?

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Gergely Orosz—a software engineer who also writes the tech newsletter “The Pragmatic Engineer,” offering “observations on software engineering at Big Tech and startups—shared a bizarre and infuriating tale on Twitter and LinkedIn this week.

In his posts, Orosz describes an upcoming prominent online tech conference, which he says “successfully attract[s] some of the most heavy hitter men speakers in tech, and 3 women speakers.” Three women speakers is already not great for a conference that has about two dozen speakers listed.

But it’s so much worse than that.

“Now imagine my surprise that 2 of those women are FAKE profiles,” Orosz writes. “They do not exist.”

The conference in question is called DevTernity and it touts itself as being “the #1 international software development conference.” It does not have a call for papers (or CFP), meaning it does not take applications from prospective speakers. Instead, it operates on what it calls “the Hollywood Principle”—i.e. “don’t call us, we’ll call you.” Which seems like a pretty exclusionary way to run things no matter what, but is especially awful when they clearly don’t feel a need or desire to reach out to women in the field.

One of the women listed as a speaker at DevTernity is Anna Boyko, a staff engineer at Coinbase and a core contributor at Ethereum. Except she’s not. Orosz writes:

But I couldn’t find ANYHING about Anna Boyko. Asked current and former Coinbase employees; checked Ethereum core. Nothing! Could she be made up? On such a prestigious conference? Her profile was featured on the site since January 2023 (more than 10 months). The conference was about to start. Surely, she couldn’t possibly be fake?

But in the end, yes: Anna Boyko, one of the 3 confirmed women speakers at DevTernity doesn’t exist. She was knowingly invented by the organisers (the conference has no call for papers).

In the hours after Orosz posted his account online (and less than two weeks before the conference is set to take place), Boyko has been scrubbed from DevTernity’s list of speakers. Of course, as we know, the internet is forever, and you can see her on the archived version of the site.

The entire list of speakers has now been removed from DevTernity’s website but for a few days after Boyko was removed, another apparently fake woman speaker was still listed. Julia Kirsina was billed as a “Software Craftswoman, Tech Influencer @ Instagram.” In fact, her account, CodeUnicorn, is reportedly “the most popular coding account on Instagram.” It’s since been revealed that the account is actually (allegedly) run by DevTernity founder Eduards Sizovs.

Kirsina was listed as leading a number of “Master Classes” at the conference, all of which have now been reassigned to other (male) speakers. She was listed as a speaker both at this conference and at others run by the same team, which also have their own fake women speakers.

Why make up women?

Most people who organize these sorts of conferences know by now that it’s a bad look to only platform men in their field. According to Orosz, some prominent experts are showing up as allies and refusing to speak at conferences that aren’t inclusive.

So rather than actually take a second to think about, process, and respect that need for progress, these people appear to have just tricked everyone—speakers and attendees of the sold-out conference alike—into thinking they were supporting a group that supported women.

On top of being disgustingly disrespectful, this also just seems like so much more work than talking to actual women!

Earlier this week, DevTernity founder Eduards Sizovs posted an extremely lengthy message to Twitter/X, laying out a timeline of all the things he says kept them from their goal of “inclusion and diversity”—health issues, overbooked speakers, technical issues, blah blah blah.

You can read his missive here if you want but the only real useful part of the whole post is the community note users have tagged onto it:

(screenshot)

(featured image: skynesher/Getty Images)

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Author

Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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