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Adding Diversity to the Conference Circuit: Starting with SXSWi

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For the last two years I have had the distinct honor and priviledge to be a panelist at SXSWi. Unfortunately, I have been one of the only Latino panelists and potentially the only Latina panelist.

This is more often than not my experience on the conference circuit and one of the reasons that I joined with Ana Roca Castro and Louis Pagan in September of 2009, the original leaders of Latinos in Social Media to try and create a structure through which we could remedy this challenge.

On the conference circuit, the response that I get often for this dearth of Latino and Latina panelists is: we don't have any other Latino/Latina panelists because there is no one else out there. My experience has been that many of the conference organizers blame the digital divide.

However, although the digital divide is a very real problem that faces a certain part of our community the reality is that the Hispanic community is diverse and multi-faceted; and we have had some experts in technology, social media and new media for decades. The opportunity is making sure that these folks are getting the exposure that they deserve.

As it relates to SXSWi I first raised the issue with the conference organizers when I participated in their conference two years ago. In response, last year we organized the first ever Latinos in Tech panel at SXSWi which we hope to do again in 2011. This year, however, my objective is much more ambitious and I am partnering with the conference organizers at SXSW to make it real. Given the fact that SXSW is in Texas which is heavily populated by Hispanics, our hope is to bring to the table dozens of panels enfused with Hispanics, Tejanos, Latinos, Mexican-Americans, Boricuas, Chapinos, Ticos, Guanacos, Pinoleros, Catrachos, etc. This project has been two years in the works and I believe that now is the time for us to make it reality.

To date, more than a dozen folks have responded to my call to bring more Hispanic/Latino panelists to SXSWi. If you are interested in joining us or helping out, tweet me: @KetyE.

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