This week it will be a bit of a different blogpost than you are used to read from us. Usually we talk about cool prototypes, explain bits and pieces from the Bitcraze ecosystem or let external parties/researchers show case their awesome work that they’ve done on the Crazyflie. Today’s blogpost will be more about a societal topic that plays a big part within the robotics world: diversity! Bitcraze is helping out with the Diversity Scholarship of this year’s ROSCon, which we’d like to advertise about, but is also complimented by some words about diversity in robotics and how this topic is reflected upon within Bitcraze itself.

Diversity & Robotics

It’s widely acknowledged that the field of robotics lacks diversity. While there have been improvements, significant underrepresented groups remain, including women, individuals in LGBTQIA+ communities, people with disabilities, and those from racial and/or ethnic minorities. There are some interesting communities to look into if you are part of these groups yourself. However, if you know of any other ones that are interesting, of course, let us know.

Other than these earlier mentioned groups, we do not regard ourselves as the absolute expert on diversity in robotics, but we have perhaps a simple but interesting statistic to share from our experience. We usually receive requests for guest blog posts on our website from external researchers and engineers looking to showcase their work with the Crazyflie. We thought it would be interesting to graph the gender distribution of these guest bloggers:

Gender of our guest blogposters on bitcraze.io

As you may have noticed, before 2020, all of our guest bloggers were male, and only in recent years has that changed. It’s also worth mentioning that to our knowledge, none of the bloggers has openly identified as anything other than cis-gender male or female. While this shift represents progress, it’s important to acknowledge that there is still room for improvement. Additionally, it is essential to recognize that this tiny statistic does not fully reflect the diversity of the robotics community but rather (perhaps) pertains to a specific subset, such as aerial robotics.

Diversity & Bitcraze

So let me just cut to the chase, Bitcraze is a very small company with currently only 6 full-time employees. Currently, we don’t have any formal policies on hiring and promoting diversity. However, we do have a very open culture within the company where we can discuss these topics at our coffee breaks without restrictions or judgment. There is a genuine interest in sharing and discussing negative experiences related to the lack of diversity at previous workplaces, so we do talk about it a lot.

In terms of our impact internally and externally, for now, we don’t come across enough hiring opportunities to implement diversity policies. We can perhaps also invite more diverse guest bloggers to contribute to our website, or make our developer meetings more welcoming. However, there is only a limited influence that we can exert here with our small company. Therefore, the choice to support other communities we love to improve diversity is perhaps the most we can do to contribute to this cause.

We are already involved in the ROS community by helping out with the ROS aerial community working group (blogpost1, blogpost2) and we loved the atmosphere during ROSCon when we were in Kyoto. When the opportunity arrived to be a co-chair of the diversity committee of ROSCon 2024, together with Belén Torres from Wymaq, we gladly took it and are hoping that is were we can make more of a difference.

Diversity Scholarship at ROSCon 2024

This year’s ROSCon will be held in Odense, Denmark, between October 21st and 23rd. Since 2016, the ROSCon organization has launched a diversity scholarship opportunity, and this year’s event is expected to be the biggest one yet. Individuals belonging to the underrepresented groups in robotics, as mentioned earlier, are invited to apply for the scholarship. The deadline is April 5th, so please don’t wait too long to apply. Check here for the ROS discourse post and here for the diversity scholarship application on the ROSCon website.