It was inevitable that StartCon was going to be brought up when Philip Dalidakis, the Victorian Minister for Innovation, came up on stage at this year’s Future Assembly.
For those unaware, StartCon is this massive startup conference organised by Freelancer in Sydney. In 2015, the Victorian Government announced that it “poached” the event and that it will be hosted in Melbourne for a couple of years, starting in 2016. It was then announced that in early 2016 that it would be still hosted in Sydney, with a move to Melbourne in 2017.
Then in September, the Victorian Government decided to pull out of the deal over StartCon’s refusal to include diversity metrics, and instead backed three other conferences instead. In response, Matt Barrie (the CEO of Freelancer) decided to release the emails between StartCon’s organising team and the Victorian Government, and the original contract – contending that Dalidakis and his team didn’t follow their side of the agreement.
Dalidakis still contends that the diversity clause was part of the original agreement, saying it was “non-negotiable”.
“When it came to negotiating with StartCon in terms of having the conference here in Victoria, I said to them it was non-negotiable the 50 percent diversity clause for both panels and speakers at the conference. That’s because it’s never about the men and women in the room, it’s about the women not in the room,” he told the audience at Future Assembly.
“At that point, StartCon refused to respond to LaunchVic’s request to discuss these metrics to be in the contract.”
Dalidakis also played up the importance of diversity in the IT industry, saying that people claiming they can’t find women for jobs are using it as an excuse; and that people who don’t want diversity should just leave.
“If people think when women make up 51-52 percent of our population, that we should be closing the door on job opportunities to over half of our population in terms of job opportunities, I reckon you should leave,” he said.
“I make no apologies for being a champion of change. If you’re not prepared to step up, well you can step out.”