A Diverse IETF

I wanted to return to a topic that we have talked about before: increasing diversity at the IETF. The word ‘diversity’ is a catch phrase, but I’m talking about bringing different kinds of people into the IETF who have not traditionally been here. Making IETF inclusive for all participants. I am very proud to report that at this Berlin meeting, we have attendees from a record 73 different countries. It is rare to have an organisation that draws people from so many places. This is something to be proud of.

But this is not enough. We need to go further. And I want to talk about the motivation in more depth. Why do we need to strive for a more inclusive IETF? And what are we doing about it? With this in mind, I worked with Pete Resnick to talk about our goals:

First off, we have room to improve. Geographic diversity is just one tiny aspect of the overall goal. What about vendors and operators? More academics? Gender diversity? Reaching to the areas of the world where there is still relatively little participation? Helping different participants to become editors and leaders? Coping with different discussion cultures? We recently talked to someone who classified the IETF as a “harsh” environment. IETF discussions go very quickly to critique and criticism of proposals, often in unnecessarily dismissing manner. Food for thought for all of us to improve our communication?

Secondly, diverse teams work better. They have more experiences to draw on. They have several problem solving and communication styles. Thirdly, the world competes for talent. The IETF needs to welcome everyone.

So, what are we doing? We can not claim we have made much of an impact yet, but we have started a number of efforts that will hopefully lead to great improvements in the long run. The Internet Society is helping us by increasing their outreach and fellows programs. Our Administrative Committee is planning an upcoming meeting in South America. Our leadership wants to get involved in a number of other forums and local events. We created a design team to understand the diversity problem and suggest solutions to make the IETF more inclusive. Volunteers created a mentor program that helps newcomers get introduced to the IETF. And there is a record 265 newcomers in this meeting.

This is all great, but it is good to keep in mind that we have only started our journey. There is a lot of work ahead. And we are probably missing many things that we should be doing. Please send us feedback!

Jari Arkko, IETF Chair and Pete Resnick, Applications Area Director

P.S. We wanted to thank Kathleen, Suresh, Mary, Adrian, Brian, Alissa, Barbara, and others for interesting discussions in this space.