Re: Diversity of candidates was Re: NomCom 2020 Announcement of Selections

Michael StJohns <> Mon, 25 January 2021 21:45 UTC

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Subject: Re: Diversity of candidates was Re: NomCom 2020 Announcement of Selections
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From: Michael StJohns <>
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Date: Mon, 25 Jan 2021 16:45:17 -0500
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On 1/25/2021 3:46 PM, Andrew Sullivan wrote:
> Hi,
> I think I'm the "Andrew" mentioned here, so I'm responding.
Yes you are the Andrew I meant!
> ObDisclaimer: I work for the Internet Society, and I'm responding with 
> that hat on, but this does not represent an Internet Society position 
> (i.e. I haven't consulted with the Board about this). I'm writing from 
> my personal address out of convenience.
> On Mon, Jan 25, 2021 at 02:06:53PM -0500, Michael StJohns wrote:
>> make a suggestion:   Let's have the last 5 or so Nomcom chairs plus 
>> Andrew drag in the appropriate people from some of the larger 
>> companies and ask them to help us with our candidate diversity 
>> problem.  E.g. a substantial portion of the folk that end up as ADs 
>> or IAB or other leadership are funded as part of their employment 
>> with those companies.   It might actually be a useful exercise to 
>> look at the input representations we're getting from those companies 
>> and see if perhaps they can work internally to help broaden the 
>> diversity of the set of people they send to the IETF.
> Is the idea that we talk to companies that are working in the IETF and 
> ask them about their employee diversity? 

Nope, the idea is "We have a diversity problem, and we're hoping you can 
help.  Could you take a look at the set of people you send to the IETF 
and see if there's anything you can do to increase the diversity of that 
set of people over the long term to ideally make it more closely 
resemble your internal demographics?"

> I confess that I am sceptical about the degree to which such an 
> approach would be received positively. 

Put the way you put it, I would agree.  But put the way I put it, they 
might find it an interesting challenge and supportive of their own 
corporate culture.  I'd probably try and engage with the diversity 
officer if such a position exists.

> For whatever it's worth, I have observed for some time that one path 
> to broader diversity within the IETF is a culture that is somewhat 
> less confrontational (not to say occasionally rude and nasty).  It 
> also seems to me that a set of tools that encourage more people to 
> contribute could help.  For people under a certain age, for instance, 
> mailing lists are primarily a relic of another age.  The idea that the 
> IETF is so special that it needs a completely bespoke set of tools 
> that interoperate with nothing else is also more than a little hostile 
> to newcomers.  These strike me as things the community could work on 
> without going to those who subsidize free IETF labour and suggesting 
> that maybe their employee pool isn't diverse enough.

All organizations have their own culture and their own norms. It's a 
fact.  As the IETF is some 35+ years old, we have a culture with both a 
lot of history and a lot of inertia.   It will change slowly, and it 
will tend to approach the recent norms of the most active 
participants.   That's not about bespoke tools - it's just the way 
things are.

And - please avoid the somewhat insulting inferences of what I meant - 
you could have avoided them in both places in this response by simply 
asking for clarification.

>> the ADs especially have to make.    In academic terms - an endowed 
>> chair.
> I think it is up to the community as to whether it wants to pay its ADs

That's not what I said and I think you know that.  What I noted was 
there were a number of very capable people in the IETF who lack the 
support to take on a role that's not directly related to putting food on 
their tables.  Providing one additional possible resource for those folk 
to get an offer of support is not "paying its AD's".

In this last go around, I became aware that a well-qualified candidate 
had decided not to stand due to a lack of sufficient financial support.  
I put out some feelers and was able to find a possible source of support 
and connected them with the candidate.   I'm aware of a number of sole 
consultants that over the years have been able to find sources of 
support for the work of the IETF (in the general vs the normal "please 
help us standardize 'foo'") and all I'm suggesting is to possibly help 
with that process.

> ; I suspect such a move would be controversial, but I will express no 
> opinion as to whether it's a good idea.  I think, however, that the 
> IETF would possibly have the resources to undertake that if it is 
> successful in its fundraising: the Internet Society has agreed to 
> match funds up to a ceiling (see the announcement from last year), so 
> the IETF would appear to have this option without the Internet Society 
> undertaking such fundraising on behalf of the IETF.  I believe also 
> that, in light of the control of the IETF endowment, it would be at 
> least confusing if the Internet Society undertook such fundraising now.
I suggested your participation as the person who selects the Nomcom 
chair, not for any desire to have the ISOC be funding AD and IAB positions.

Later, Mike

> Best regards,
> A