Tech firms back rival ‘women-centric’ event

Monica LewinskyImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption There was criticism that RSA’s only female speaker, Monica Lewinsky, was not a cyber-security expert

A cyber-security conference with a line-up currently featuring just one female keynote speaker has prompted tech firms to set up a rival meeting.

Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky is currently the only female among the 22 confirmed speakers in the RSA conference keynote line-up.

Rival conference Our Security Advocates (OURSA) said its one-day event would feature more women speakers.

RSA curator, Sandra Toms, said not all its speakers had been yet disclosed.

The RSA Conference is one of the biggest gatherings on the cyber-security calendar and runs from 15-20 April in San Francisco. Around 45,000 people attend each year.

Rival event OURSA will take place in the same city on 17 April. It will have capacity for just a few hundred and, according to its Facebook page, all tickets are sold.

It also plans to livestream the event.

It will be hosted by security firm Cloudflare, which has a female co-founder. Other sponsors include Google, Facebook and Snap.

Popcorn offer

Backlash to the RSA gathering began shortly after its speaker list was revealed. Monica Lewinsky, as the sole female, has no experience in cyber-security but has spoken previously at conferences about internet trolling.

In a tweet, Facebook’s chief security officer proposed a list of 16 women speakers RSA could invite. He also offered to “hand out popcorn” if someone organised a rival event.

There is growing pressure on technology conferences to feature more women and other under-represented groups.

Tech trade show CES faced criticism after failing to find a high-ranking female executive to make a keynote speech at its annual gathering in Las Vegas in January.

Organiser Karen Chupka said at the time that there was “a limited pool” of women in these positions, adding that “the tech industry and every industry must do better”.


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