Word from Web Summit 2017, Lisbon: Where diversity rules

Stuart Handley

06 November 2017

This week I have joined the 60,000 people that have made the journey to Lisbon for what the organizers call: ‘Davos for geeks’.

Namely, Web Summit 2017.

I’ll share some perspectives on the conference later but to start I have already been struck by the sheer diversity of delegates attending.

For too long my industry, the tech industry, has felt like the playground of university educated, middle aged, white men. But here in Lisbon I am encouraged by the diversity that can clearly be seen among the faces of delegates, exhibitors and speakers.

Women are present in significant numbers. Not yet 50/50 for sure. But Web Summit has a far more balanced representation than at most tech conferences.

The number of countries represented also means the Summit is blessed with a range of experiences and perspectives from many diverse communities.

Finally, the Summit is not only the domain of Millennials and GenZers, many age groups are represented. There are even some university educated, middle aged, white men...

Aside from resolving the significant issues of fairness and representation, why does diversity matter?

Innovation and technology have the potential to improve all lives. Imbalances of age, gender or race should not be allowed to inhibit creativity. And great ideas are simply far more likely to flow from the presence of many diverse contributors.

In a session on how marketing is changing in the digital era, advertising guru Sir John Hegarty (the H in BBH), made a pertinent comment on marketing, but one that also plays well more broadly, “without diversity, creativity starts to dry up.”