Speak Up: Raising Women’s Voices Within the Tech Industry
An ongoing data-driven PR campaign centered on gender disparity at in the tech industry helped position Ensono as a leader in the IT industry while bringing attention to an important issue.
Lin Classon, a director at IT company, Ensono, stood in front of an empty women’s restroom at Amazon’s AWS re:Invent, while the line for the men’s room snaked around the corner. She tweeted a picture of the stark contrast to demonstrate the lack of women in attendance, which sparked conversations on social media about the gender gap in tech and posed an important question: Why do so few women attend tech conferences?
In the months following this tweet, Walker Sands worked closely with Classon and other executives at Ensono to create “Speak Up: Bringing More Women’s Voices to Tech Conferences,” a report that presented findings on gender disparity at tech conferences.
Launched in 2019 and promoted through a strategic, data-driven media strategy, the report generated more than 80 pieces of coverage, including placements in Entrepreneur, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Fast Company to position Ensono at the forefront of the effort to combat gender bias in the IT industry.
Since 2019, Ensono has worked with Walker Sands to launch two more “Speak Up” campaigns in 2020 and 2022, resulting in 60+ new pieces of media coverage that examined themes like the presence of women of color on stage at tech conferences, the obstacles women pursuing STEAM careers face, and the impact of remote work on female employees.
top-tier media placements
inbound speaking opportunities
Ensono came to Walker Sands looking to elevate its brand in a meaningful way. Specifically, Ensono needed a campaign that would:
- Associate its brand name with a social good initiative that was authentic to the company and its large enterprise customers
- Drive coverage in leading tech and business media
Inspired by Lin’s tweet and the importance of shedding light on women in technology, Walker Sands suggested collecting data that would examine women’s presence at tech events and their experience within the workplace. While Lin’s tweet sparked an important conversation on social media, no research on the topic existed.
To collect the data necessary to capture media attention and elevate Ensono’s brand, the Walker Sands team conducted research in the form of a conference audit (2019, 2020) and survey (2019, 2020, 2022).
For the 2019 and 2020 audits, Walker Sands audited 18 major tech conferences around the world (e.g., CES, Mobile World Congress) to discover: 1) the number of women who have given keynote presentations since 2016, and 2) the specific accommodations conferences provided (e.g., code of conduct statements, on-site nursing rooms, etc.). The teams searched for conference pamphlets from past years, placed calls to conference organizers and used tools like Wayback Machine to visit archived event webpages when information wasn’t accessible.
For the 2019 and 2020 surveys, Walker Sands surveyed 500 female-identifying full-time professionals in the technology industry within both the U.S. and U.K. In 2022, the team expanded the survey to also include 500 women from India. Each year, the survey focused on a key theme, ranging from observing the number of women attending and speaking at tech conferences to whether women experience sexual harassment in the workplace.
Ultimately, the findings from the audit and survey were packaged into 2019’s “Speak Up: Bringing More Women’s Voices to Tech Conferences” report and 2020’s “Speak Up 2020: Redesigning Tech Conferences With Women in Mind” report. After the COVID-19 pandemic and a shift to virtual and in-person conferences, the 2022 survey expanded to examine the workplace experiences of women in technology, continuing themes from previous reports around sexual harassment and leadership opportunities but expanding to new themes like talent acquisition and remote work.
To earn widespread coverage for Ensono, the launch of each data-driven campaign was supported by a media outreach strategy that targeted five media segments and reporter beats: women’s interests, diversity and culture, HR, tech and business. Reporters received personalized outreach alongside the report and a one-pager on research methodology.
Each year, the Speak Up campaign, whether a survey or report, has garnered significant media coverage, including placements in The Wall Street Journal and Quartz at Work, and is still widely inquired about today. The campaign has garnered 140+ media placements and 17 top-tier media placements in total.
Not only did the campaign generate extensive press coverage, but the report sparked conversations within the community. Ensono’s CMO was asked to give keynotes on the Speak Up findings at two conferences in 2019, and a student at MIT reached out for advice on making MIT’s conferences more inclusive. The co-founder and president of Davies + Dixon, a digital marketing firm in Seattle, wrote a letter to the editor in Crain’s Chicago Business to thank them for publishing the findings.
In addition to achieving Ensono’s goal of driving coverage in leading tech and business media, the momentum of the Speak Up report is ongoing. Since its launch, Walker Sands has developed a tip sheet and code of conduct template for organizations to use and customize when sending employees to external events, and Ensono has continued to drive women’s initiatives both internally within their workforce and leadership team and externally at local events within the Chicago community.
The Ensono and Walker Sands team is currently working on its fourth version of the Speak Up campaign, to be released in late 2023.