Diversity and Inclusion at CppCon 2022

One of the fundamental missions of the Standard C++ Foundation is to “support the C++ software developer community.” Support starts with ensuring that everyone feels welcome in our community, and as the leadership of the largest community gathering of the year, we take the opportunity to build a more diverse and inclusive community very seriously and try to expand it every year. Here are the new, expanded, and continuing initiatives currently planned, aimed at making everyone feel welcome at CppCon 2022.

  • (NEW) Double-blind review process: Creating a program that is as diverse as possible has always been a priority at CppCon. Each year, the Program Committee aims to create the best conference we can, and a big part of that process is obtaining the most comprehensive and accurate set of reviews for each talk submitted. Our goal is to reduce unconscious bias in the review process, and increase the diversity of submissions. Studies have shown that double-blind review processes have these effects, so this year the Program Committee will be reviewing the abstracts and outlines of submissions without the knowledge of the submitter’s names. To enable this, we will be asking presenters to take steps to anonymize their abstracts.
  • (EXPANDED) New tracks, new track chairs: Having more focused tracks, centered around more specific areas of expertise, is an important part of creating a diverse and inclusive conference. This may be counterintuitive, but focused tracks actually enable speaking opportunities for junior developers: They may not have enough experience with topics of broad appeal, but may still have the domain-specific expertise to submit talks that may be interesting to a significant subset of attendees. This year, in addition to the existing Embedded, Back to Basics, and Software Design tracks, we are adding Tooling and Scientific Computing tracks. If your talk is submitted to a track, your track chair will be happy to provide additional consultation on both your abstract and your talk. Reach out to them!
  • Supporting new speakers: CppCon offers mentoring for newer speakers. As part of the talk submissions process, we provide the option for one-on-one mentoring by experienced speakers. As mentioned above, part of the responsibility of track chairs is to provide subject-matter-specific mentoring to new speakers submitting to their tracks. If you are interested in this program, just mark it in your talk submission form.
  • (EXPANDED) Diversity dinner, now also a workshop: This year, CppCon’s diversity dinner will be expanded to include a workshop to discuss processes, experiences, and paths forward for improving diversity and inclusion in the C++ community. Attendees are encouraged to submit 10-20 minute talks on these topics through a separate submission process.
  • Women in C++ brunch: Building on the success of last year’s Women in C++ dinner, we’re hosting a women’s brunch for this year’s CppCon. Though we’ve always included women in general diversity initiatives at CppCon in the past, as more women have been attending CppCon we want to provide women with specific opportunities to network with others who face similar challenges. The brunch is intended to be an open, welcoming, casual environment for attendees to discuss diversity issues specific to women in C++.
  • Hybrid on-line and in-person conference: We recognize that not everyone’s life circumstances allow them to take a week out of their life to attend a conference in person. This year, CppCon will again facilitate on-line participation for speakers and attendees, with the goal of including those who can’t attend or speak in person. We’re employing a number of emerging technologies to engage with online participants, aimed at making them feel welcome as part of the community as much as possible.
  • Subsidized diversity tickets: CppCon sponsors a number of subsidized on-line and in-person attendance tickets for people from underrepresented groups in C++. More details about this year’s program, including how to apply, will be announced soon.
  • Code of Conduct: CppCon’s Code of Conduct (CoC) includes a dedicated CoC report handling team and CoC training for all conference volunteers before each event. CppCon publishes annual CoC transparency reports after each conference, starting with the CppCon 2021 CoC transparency report.
  • Professional live captioning for keynotes and large sessions: Professional-quality live captioning is expensive, but is important to us because it helps many attendees better follow the live program—not only attendees who are deaf or hard of hearing, but also the many non-native English speakers in the audience.
  • Gender neutral restrooms: Every year, at least one restroom at the venue gets designated as gender neutral to accommodate attendees who may not feel comfortable in either the men’s or the women’s restrooms.
  • Pronouns on name tags: While registering, attendees will be offered the option to add their preferred pronouns to their conference badge.
  • Accessible venue and stages: All talks are held at the conference hotel, which offers wheelchair accessible guest rooms, and wheelchair accessible seating and stage access in meeting rooms. See our accessibility section for more details.
  • Quiet room: We know that conferences and large gatherings can be stressful for some attendees, especially since the isolation caused by the pandemic. Being inclusive means making sure attendees have ways to manage that stress. We provide quiet room space for attendees to relax and recharge; see our quiet room section for more details.
  • Child care: Parenting responsibilities and attending a technical conference are a challenge to mix. CppCon wants to help attendees with children to be able to focus on the conference experience, secure in the knowledge that their children are in a safe and secure environment. See our child care section for more details.
  • (NEW) Feedback: We’ve set up a new email address, diversity@cppcon.org, to work on better understanding people’s reasons for being unable to attend CppCon in the past. We’re working on a survey process to learn more about how we can  make CppCon as diverse and inclusive as possible.

Diversity and inclusion are a priority at CppCon, and we are dedicated to deepening and expanding our support for a diverse and inclusive environment. We look forward to your feedback, and are excited to see many of you—either online or in person—in September at CppCon 2022!

Daisy Hollman, Program Chair
On behalf of the CppCon 2022 organizing committee

Answering Your Questions About Our Case Transparency Report and Safety Policy

As we state in our CppCon safety policy, we take all reports of an attendee’s misconduct seriously, even if it does not occur at CppCon but could affect other CppCon attendees. Our goal is to prioritize attendee safety in a way that recognizes the importance of your physical and psychological safety. We are committed to providing a safe and productive learning environment at CppCon.

In this follow-up post, we want to answer the questions we have seen regarding our case transparency report and safety policy, and to provide additional details about our rationale and approach. We address representative questions in the latter half of this post.

We regret and apologize that it took so long to finish a safety policy and post a transparency report. We worked as fast as we could, and although legal and consulting reviews always take surprisingly long, because this was the first time we had encountered such a situation they took even longer.

We have taken the situation described in the transparency report very seriously and have put a lot of time and effort into understanding various aspects of this problem. After imposing the initial restrictions for CppCon 2021, the board has focused on forming a policy well before CppCon 2022 registration opens that prioritizes the safety of our attendees above all else. We are also mindful of our responsibility to ensure no unlawful discrimination takes place in excluding someone from participating at CppCon. Exclusion from participation should absolutely occur when the attendee’s inclusion could threaten other attendees’ physical and psychological safety, but needs to follow appropriate guidelines (for example, per Washington Human Rights Commission regulations; see ACLU summary document pages 3 and 8).

Now that we have formed a policy for historical incidents and incidents outside of the conference scope, we have placed the implementation of that policy in the hands of the Code of Conduct (CoC) team. We appreciate this team’s good work because this is not an easy issue.

As always, we welcome suggestions and are looking into all those we have received so far. We are continuing our work on ways of making the Foundation’s work more transparent. For example, we recently started posting board meeting minutes.

We invite your comments as we continue our work to be both transparent and respectful. We know some may disagree with the decisions we have made and we want to hear from you, whether you agree or disagree. We assume good faith intentions from everyone and we ask that you avoid charged language and labeling. We promise to do the same. It is our fervent hope that we can come through this difficult circumstance in a way that teaches us better ways to communicate. We are learning a lot.

Please send any concerns or suggestions to the CoC team via conduct@cppcon.org. The CoC team will forward them to the directors, if you explicitly ask that.

Our door and our minds are open.


Q: How does your decision to remove the individual from attending the conference fit with your inclusion principles? 

A: We followed our policy in judging whether this individual’s participation could threaten other attendees’ physical or psychological safety. While we do not believe a physical threat exists, we do believe the seriousness of the past felony could compromise some attendees’ psychological safety. As a result, we are not allowing this attendee to join the conference now. We do believe there are ways for this individual to safely contribute to the community, but more conversation needs to happen before such contribution should be attempted. The attendee is restricted from attending and/or giving talks until a time when the community is able to have those conversations.

Q: Why didn’t you post your restrictions until the day after the original social media post that publicized and heavily criticized this case?

A: The timing of that post understandably raises the question of why. In reality, we had been working on the transparency report and the safety policy it is based on for a number of weeks and we were in the final stages of approving those materials when the social media post appeared. They had already been reviewed on February 8 with the CppCon conference chair, CppCon program chair, and the Code of Conduct handling team, and what we posted has input from all of them.

Q: Why did the CoC team not handle this situation originally?

A: Because it required a new policy.

This case didn’t fall within the scope of the existing CoC policy, which covers the handling of all reports of misconduct at and around the conference. This case was an unprecedented situation that involved serious misconduct that occurred before the Foundation or CppCon existed.

Now that the safety policy exists, we have delegated full responsibility to the CoC team to enforce and apply it as they see fit for the future handling of this case, and any new cases like it if they should arise.

Q: Was the individual allowed to lead an informal gathering at CppCon 2021? 

A: Yes, this was one of a number of “open content” gatherings that ordinary attendees are allowed to self-organize during the week.

In hindsight, this was not consistent with our intention to remove them from leadership roles. We did not have a clear definition of what “open content” is, and the intention was to remove them from conference organizational roles and speaking roles. Going forward, a leader of a gathering that appears on the conference schedule will be treated as equivalent to a speaker no matter how ad-hoc and informal it is intended to be, and someone who is restricted from being a speaker or panelist will also be restricted from leading anything else too. That’s a lesson we learned.

Q: Did you handle this offender with favoritism because you knew who they were?

A: No, we were very careful to avoid favoritism. During the period when the individual’s 2021 restrictions were being discussed, we were careful to avoid using the offender’s name because the board members who did not already know the offender’s identity asked not to be told. When forming the policy to apply to 2022, we were careful to create a general policy, not one with any individual case in mind, and we applied the policy as is to the situation.

Q: Is the individual removed from organizational roles? We heard otherwise.

A: Yes, they are. The individual was removed from all organizational roles in September 2021, and as far as we know this removal has been implemented and followed. Both the conference chair and program chair were informed immediately. The individual’s role has not been reinstated. We were informed that certain administrative things had not happened (e.g., that the individual’s name erroneously still appeared in one list on the website, and that their access to some internal files was not removed). The conference organizers have corrected these oversights; if you see anything else, please let us know.

Q: Is there truth in statements saying you removed restrictions from the individual?

A: No, we did not remove any restrictions. In September 2021, we applied initial restrictions to remove the person from all organizational roles indefinitely, and to cancel their talks for CppCon 2021. At that point, we had not made any other official decisions for future conferences due to the lack of policy. After finalizing the safety policy and evaluating the situation accordingly, we restricted participation for CppCon 2022. These are the only two official decisions pertaining to this individual, and the only two decisions that have been officially communicated to the organizers and CoC team. No private discussions in between those two decision points should be interpreted as changing restrictions; they were unofficial and likely to suffer from miscommunication, misunderstanding, and missing context.

Q: Is the Standard C++ Foundation the same as the CppCon conference?

A: The Foundation is a non-profit organization whose mission is to support the C++ software developer community and promote the understanding and use of modern Standard C++ on all compilers and platforms. The CppCon conference is one of the projects of the Foundation to accomplish its mission. The day-to-day operation of the conference is done by a team of conference leaders. For additional details, please see isocpp.org/about.

— Board of directors, Standard C++ Foundation

Announcing CppCon Safety Policy

The point of CppCon is to learn and connect with colleagues. The Standard C++ Foundation Board is committed to ensuring that you can participate in an environment that is welcoming and safe. The CppCon Code of Conduct covers the handling of all reports of misconduct at or around a CppCon event. We have additionally developed the safety policy posted here for cases where we learn of serious misconduct by CppCon participants even in the past and/or outside CppCon. We want to be transparent about the serious issue we are handling, which caused us to create this safety policy.

In the run-up to CppCon 2021, the Board learned that a frequent participant at CppCon had been convicted of a serious felony 10 years ago. This crime did not occur at a CppCon event, or to our knowledge in the C++ community, and we are not aware of any other report of any other offense by this person. We recognized that the individual’s participation at CppCon events could make other attendees feel unsafe, we investigated and considered this carefully, and on September 17 the Board voted to immediately remove the individual from all conference organizational roles and ban them from speaking at CppCon 2021 including canceling their already-accepted talks. They were permitted to attend as an ordinary attendee, including participating in open content available to ordinary attendees, until such time as we could establish a long-term policy. After CppCon 2021, the Board commissioned reviews of the case and its handling by an outside independent inclusiveness consultant and by an outside independent law firm, and we have developed the above-linked safety policy in case we encounter this unprecedented situation again. The individual will not attend CppCon for as long as their presence would be broadly disruptive to the conference.

We take all reports of misconduct seriously, even if it does not occur at CppCon but could affect CppCon attendees. Our goal is to prioritize attendee safety in a way that recognizes the importance of your physical and psychological safety. We are committed to providing a safe and productive learning environment at CppCon.

— Board of Directors, Standard C++ Foundation