SydStart’s first batch of speakers are all men, but organisers promise women are on the way


One of Australia’s biggest startup conferences has unveiled its first round of speakers for this year, and they’re all men.

SydStart, which was acquired by Freelancer last year, announced 10 Australian and international speakers last week, and they all have one thing in common. Of the ten speakers announced, none are female.

Speakers at the conference will include 9GAG founder Ray Chan, the “godfather of growth hacking” Sean Ellis, former director of product management at Facebook for mobile Mick Johnson and UnBounce co-founder Oli Gardner.

Senior international director at Freelancer, Adam Byrnes, says many women were asked to be part of SydStart, but a lot were asking for speaking fees, something which the conference doesn’t offer.

SydStart are, however, looking at rectifying the situation. Byrnes says they’ve now contacted many female entrepreneurs to be a part of the conference, including Adi Tatarko from Houzz and Joanna Wiebe from Copy Hackers.

“We’re really hoping that they’ll say yes,” Byrnes says.

Tristonne Forbes, a member of Startup Victoria’s Female Founders committee, says the lack of female speakers is very disappointing.

“It’s such a shame,” Forbes says. “There are plenty of women around, so there’s no reason why none of them are involved.”

It’s an all too common sight with some startup conferences – there’s even a Tumblr devoted to calling out all-male panels with a little help from the Hoff.

Some people are beginning to take matters into their own hands. At a conference in Cardiff, Andrew Grill saw that he was on a panel composed entirely of men, so he gave up his seat to a woman in the audience.

READ MORE: Springboard Enterprises Australia’s accelerator program for female entrepreneurs launched – sexism still rife in startup ecosystem

SydStart will be more successful if more women are involved, Forbes says.

“How could you not? It’s more unnatural not to have diversity than it is to have diversity,” she says. “And they’ll attract more people if they have female speakers there.”

SydStart will announce more speakers in the coming weeks, so we’ll wait and see if the next batch is a bit more inclusive.

SydStart will be held at Sydney Town Hall on October 29 and 30. For tickets click here.

Raising your first round of capital? Starting a crowdfunding campaign? Want to grow your business with Instagram? StartupSmart School can help.

Denham Sadler is the editor of StartupSmart. He was previously a journalist at the publication and has worked as a freelancer for the Guardian, the Saturday Paper and the ABC. In his spare time he likes puns and jaffles.