A conference organizer lists imaginary women speakers to increase the appearance of diversity at his events

404Media tells the tale of Eduards Sizovs, the founder of a tech conference who also created several fictional women to help increase the appearance of diversity at said conference. Sizovs has been caught listing women who only exist as bios on his event's website as speakers. Additionally, the DevTernity founder has been spotted managing a popular coder's Instagram account that purports to be a woman and also appears fictional. Speakers are rapidly dropping out of the conference in response to Sizovs' inability to satisfactorily explain himself.

Engineer Gergely Orosz tweeted on Thursday that he'd discovered fake speakers listed on the Devternity site. Two women—Anna Boyko, listed as a staff engineer at Coinbase, and Natalie Stadler, a "software craftswoman" at Coinbase—were included on the site as speakers but appear to not exist in real life. Neither have an online presence beyond the Devternity website itself.

Sizovs responded to these claims in a 916-word tweet, admitting that he'd made at least one fake speaker, Stadler, in the process of building the Devternity site and then left her up. 


404Media also identified that another woman speaker Sizovs claimed had been hired but dropped out of the conference looks like a fake as well:

Before 404 Media obtained the IP logs, software developers pointed out that many of @coding_unicorn's posts are copied and pasted from Sizov's LinkedIn posts without any attribution, and Sizov's LinkedIn profile states, "I devote most of my time to … Growing the most popular coding account on Instagram with 120K followers: @coding_unicorn," without elaborating on what exactly that entails. On Instagram, the captions are paired with images of her posing for the camera with a laptop, usually showing a screen where she's supposedly in the middle of coding something. 

After being caught creating a different woman to speak at Devternity, Sizovs posted a lengthy explanation on Twitter that noted that "three brilliant female speakers—Sandi, Julia [Kirsina], and Kris," were scheduled at one point to talk at Devternity. Unfortunately, he said, Kirsina could no longer speak at the event because she "switched to helping with the organization (you can't do both speaking and organization)." 

In one of the few published interviews with Kirsina, she says "I don't like seeing women as victims because such a mindset turns men into suspects. Men suffer from biases equally to women." She added, "the project I am most proud of is my family." Bolaji Ayodeji, the writer who did the interview with Kirsina told 404 Media: "I didn't speak with this person, and the interview and conversation happened via email. Thank you."

I am baffled that the founder found it easier, or perhaps more convenient, to invent whole people rather than find some who'd add things to his conference he didn't have. Sizovs clearly knew he needed them. I've long suspected conferences aren't about teaching anything, learning anything, or even showcasing a product or idea. For the attendees, conferences are a paid party on the company card. The companies sponsoring the event are paying to put their visionary on a stage so later they can tell investors people like to hear their visionary speak (they do not.) The people running the event are usually involved in some underwear gnome scheme.