On Tuesday, about 250 people gathered in the event space of Cloudflare's San Francisco headquarters for an unusual security conference—or, perhaps more accurately, one that aimed to modernize the longstanding tradition in security of creating alternative, transgressive gatherings. The one-day Our Security Advocates event offered a counterpoint to the monolithic approach of large, prominent security conferences, by offering a diverse agenda and set of speakers to promote inclusive representation in privacy and security fields.
Even the name served as commentary, playing off of the corporate-focused RSA conference that's also taking place in San Francisco this week. In fact, OURSA emerged less than two months ago in part as a response to the announcement of the RSA 2018 speaker lineup. Of the 20 keynote speeches, only one was slated to be delivered by a woman.
Critics flooded Twitter, including Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos, who started batting around suggestions for female speakers. Others quickly joined in. After less than five days, that discussion had evolved into OURSA, which garnered nearly 100 talk proposals, and sold out within 12 hours. At the conference on Tuesday, every single speaker was from a background that is typically underrepresented in privacy and security.
"The goal was just to make a statement," Parisa Tabriz, one of the conference organizers and director of engineering at Google, said on Tuesday. "We hope that OURSA will help other conference organizers recognize that finding speakers with diverse voices is not this insurmountable task. And we're tired, frankly, of hearing the same old excuses."
OURSA emphasized that it wasn't simply about calling out RSA, but rather to raise awareness of problems related to underrepresentation that pervade the industry. Attendees watched speakers and panels in the main space, milled around with popcorn and LaCroix, or met for