I’ve decided to follow Jacob Kaplan-Moss’s lead and pledge that I won’t speak (or attend) any conference that does not publish an acceptable (to me) code of conduct/anti-harassment policy. I’ve already written about what should go into such a code, and I think Jacob’s post makes a number of good points on why a policy is important.
What would a code need for me to consider it acceptable?
First, it needs to define acceptable conduct. The Reasonable Person Principle section from the YAPC 2011 code is good, but something much simpler is fine too. In fact, I’m fine with something as simple as “we expect all conference attendees to treat each with respect”.
The policy should outline some explicitly unacceptable behaviors. This needs to be there for the benefit of people who are clueless. At a minimum, this should forbid sexual imagery in slides, unwanted sexual attention (or maybe just unwanted attention), and verbal abuse. If the conference has exhibitors, it should also forbid sexualized imagery and clothing for exhibitors (in other words, no booth babes). The example anti-harassment policy in the Geek Feminism Wiki lists more unacceptable behaviors, and that’s probably a good list to copy. But really, my concern isn’t that the policy have exactly the right list, just that there is some effort to outline the most egregious unacceptable behaviors.
It doesn’t hurt to say something about what the penalties for violating the policy might be, but I don’t think that’s critical. The existence of a policy implies that violators may be ejected from the conference at the discretion of the organizers.
Finally, it needs to include an explicit reporting procedure that includes a way for attendees to report incidents via phone and/or email. In other words, there needs to be a way for people to report incidents without finding a conference organizer in person (which may not always be easy enough to do).
Ideally, I’d also want to see an internal policy for conference staff and volunteers that gives some guidelines on how to handle these incidents.
I don’t expect my declaration to cause a problem for any future Perl events I’d want to attend. The last few conferences I’ve attended have had some sort of policy, and I expect these to become much more common in the future.
If you’re also a frequent speaker (or infrequent, or not a speaker at all) at Perl events (or non-Perl events), please consider joining me in this pledge.