Microsoft and Amazon executives pull out of conference over fake female speaker profiles

Several tech executives have pulled out of an upcoming developers conference after accusations that the event’s organiser fabricated female speakers’ profiles.

High-profile engineering leaders in the developer community — including Microsoft Corp.’s Scott Hanselman and Kelsey Hightower, a former developer advocate at Alphabet Inc’s Google — cancelled their appearances at DevTernity, an upcoming online conference with tickets costing as much as $870 (R16,209).

Participants discovered the fake profiles late last week after Gergely Orosz, who runs a popular tech newsletter, posted on social media that he had identified fabricated profiles of women on DevTernity’s speakers list and notified attendees.

He also claimed to have found fake women’s profiles on the speakers’ lists for previous and future events.

Women who had previously dropped out of the conference or declined to speak were also not removed from the event’s website.

It struck a chord with the developer community, which saw the practice as misleading and potentially deceitful, and a step backward from their goal of diversity in male-dominated tech events.

The event’s organiser, Eduards Sizovs, said in a post on X that he “auto-generated” a fake woman’s profile after a female speaker had dropped out of the conference, but that it was a placeholder and not meant to imply a more diverse conference.

He later removed the fake profile.

Sizovs didn’t reply to a request to comment further.

Nearly half of the 23 speakers still listed on the event’s website have withdrawn from the conference, according to social media posts and interviews with panelists.

That includes Amazon Web Services’ Kristine Howard, who would have been the sole woman scheduled to speak, Howard confirmed in an email.

Hanselman, the Microsoft executive, said on X that he had rules for participating in conferences, including that they have inclusive speaker lineups. “I was duped by the fake speakers also,” he said.

Representatives from Atlassian Corp. and Just Eat NV also cancelled their appearances.

David Heinemeier Hansson, the creator of application framework Ruby on Rails, posted that he was withdrawing from the conference as well.

“What a strange tale. Never seen anything like this in decades of speaking at conferences,” he said, adding: “I’m out.”

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Microsoft and Amazon executives pull out of conference over fake female speaker profiles