Drupalcon Munich - Demographic Observations

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After decompressing for a couple of weeks from Drupalcon Munich, some observations have filtered to the surface. This is my 10th Drupalcon. It seems to be hard to believe. I've seen changes to the demographics of the convention that I think are worth sharing.

Our age

Back in 2007 in Barcelona, the average age of the convention go-er really seemed to be about 28 years old. We had some attendees that were older (like me) some that were younger, but by in large we were looking at a group of folks that were not at the beginning of their careers, but certainly not elder statesmen.

5 years later, the average age seems to be around 36-37ish. Again, some younger and some older, but the fascinating thing is that we seem to be aging, as a group faster than 1 year for 1 year. This seems to indicate that we are attracting professionals that are further along in their careers.

Is this good or bad?

Well, it swings both ways. Older community members bring stability and wisdom to the project. Still, like any population, you want enough young folks coming into the fold to replace those that leave. Attrition is a killer and open source software projects like ours can suffer from the equivalent of "HR attrition". Attrition in our community occurs when:

  1. People burn out and stop contributing
  2. People move to another technology
  3. People die

This is natural and to be expected. The challenge is replacing those individuals. They cover the full gambit of workers ranging from coders, to themers, to site builders, to product managers, to project managers, to business developers, to executives.

If we are attracting more mature people to our community, we need to do more to attract younger people into the community. This is critical for the sustainability of the project as a whole.

Our gender

We're doing pretty well on this count. Back in 2007 in Barcelona, the breakdown between men and women seemed to be about 3% women and 97% men. The Drupalchix Meetup at the Con in Barcelona was about twelve people. In other words, women were so under represented it was almost absurd. According to Geek Feminism, in 2007 opensource only had 1.5% representation from women. The technology industry as a whole has 10-30% representation by women.

At the time of Drupalcon Munich, the percentage of women was up to 17% in the Drupal project. The "t-shirt report" in Munich showed 79% men and 11% of women in attendance. This isn't scientific, but shows that no fewer than 11% of attendees were women. This is still not good enough. We need to continue to attract women to the project.

Our growth

If Drupalcons are a slice of the community as a whole, then we have flatlined in our growth. The last couple of American Drupalcons have had very little growth in the number of attendees. In Europe, there continues to be modest growth. Some have argued that this is due to venue size - but my sense given the curve of when the ticket countdown occurs, we would find we just couldn't sustain larger numbers.

Drupalcon Attendance
Growth in Drupalcon Attendance

This points back to our need to more effectively recruit new people.

Recently, on the Drupal Marketing Group, I wrote about our need to diversify. That, as a community, we need to embrace all our cultures. By extension we need to recruit more youth. We need to continue to be inclusive of women. We need to reflect, demographically, the population we want to serve. It should be diverse in age, color, and gender. There is still a lot of work to be done.