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Fake women scheduled to speak at tech conferences, really?

On November 24, Gergely Orosz took to social media with details about fake women speakers on the agenda for the software developer conference DevTernity, scheduled for December 7-8. Of the 23 speakers scheduled, three were women. Unfortunately, only one woman was actually real: Kristine Howard. The other two women, Anna Boyle and Alina Prokhoda, were fake profiles that came complete with fake resumes and AI-generated headshots.

Eduards Sizovs, DevTernity founder, responded on X, formerly Twitter, on November 25 and denied he deliberately created fake profiles. He stated there was a mistake. There was a bug with test profiles, and they appeared on conference schedules in error. He also claimed a scheduled woman speaker from a previous year was a no-show, but her profile wasn’t removed from the site.

Thus far, the evidence does not appear to support Sizovs’ statements.

Diversity dilemma at DevTernity

Howard, an executive at Amazon Web Services and the only real woman scheduled to speak at the conference, posted on LinkedIn in response to the fake profiles. “Up until last week, I was a speaker for this event. I’m no longer participating.”

Howard is not alone. Other speakers began to pull out of the lineup, leading to the cancellation of the conference. 

Scott Hanselman explained on X that he didn’t know when his picture would be removed, and he would not participate in the conference. “I don’t condone this and will not participate. I remind all tech conference organizers that there are THOUSANDS of speakers of all walks of life, genders, ages and backgrounds.”

Onlookers continue to uncover more fake profiles in the DevTernity conference world.

“Making up fake female speakers is ridiculous but not new. Sadly, there are scam events and less-than-ethical organizers who think nothing of using made up speakers or even real speaker names to attract both other speakers and attendees to their events,” said Bobbie Carlton, editor-in-chief of Lioness and founder of Innovation Women, a women’s visibility bureau.

The issue of speaker diversity is at the forefront. This conference is an example of the gender gap in conference speaking. 23 speakers and only one real woman means 4.3 percent of speakers. Even including the fake profiles, 13 percent isn’t close to gender diversity.

To hear from real women speakers, read our interview with Janaye Ingram, speaking powerhouse and the Director of Community Partner Programs and Engagement at Airbnb.

About the author

Suzanne Drapeau

Suzanne Drapeau taught writing at the high school and college levels for 30 years and recently joined Carlton PR & Marketing. She spends her “free” time working/volunteering for the Hyperemesis Education and Research (HER) Foundation, where her main role is managing social media and building partnerships with other maternal health nonprofits. She lives in Michigan but hopes to become a digital nomad when her children finish their educations.

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