Where are the women?

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Manel: a panel of experts or participants, for example on a TV quiz show or at a conference, that consists of men only.

I saw this tweet the other day:

Just what we need, another predominately white manel selling their books via an event. Since I have an interest in the opportunities for women speakers, I asked via Twitter where the women were.

No reply.

I asked again a few days later via Twitter.

No reply.

Notwithstanding the problem using Twitter for pushing content, rather than a platform for social interaction, I e-mailed the organisation and received the following reply:

Hi Andrew,
Thank you for your note and for providing candid feedback. We agree with you that diversity is very important and work hard to include diversity in our event programming. In this particular event, we are working with 4 really great authors who we have long-standing relationships with and hope you will reconsider joining. We plan to host more CEO Rising events this year and welcome any recommendations you have on female leaders to include in the mix. I’d be happy to pass along your suggestions to our Editor in Chief and the Director of Events.

By e-mail

Rather than reply via e-mail, keeping the conversation binary and away from public view and in the shadows, I think it’s worth responding here.

Thank-you for your recent e-mail in respect of your event tomorrow (Tuesday 16th June). I am writing to express my continued frustration that conference and event organisers seem unable to source and appoint women speakers.

Organisers are in a unique position to amplify voices; making a commitment to equal representation by gender should be a core value of your venture. Similarly, I would expect a conference to be demonstrating their commitment to fairness and equality by including more BAME voices.

I am proud to be called an ally for women in learning but was a little surprised by your request to help source potential speakers.

I would be very happy to list the inspiring and brilliant women who have voices that need to be heard by your potential audience. Indeed, I had a list of 20 on the go before I deleted it.

Why? Just listing people who would be great speakers is meaningless if you’re not curating topics for them to work with. Anyone I suggest, who subsequently speaks with you, could legitimately enquire whether you’re fundamentally shifting your stance. If you continue to maintain a male dominated programme of events, they may reasonably be considered as a ‘token’ woman speaker.

I won’t be signing up for your session tomorrow. In addition to the prohibitive cost I would feel I was lacking integrity in supporting you whilst maintaining my position that #ItStartsWithMe.

Rather than working hard to include diversity, what are you achieving hard to include diversity?

I look forward to your response, either via the comments below or by e-mail.

Men reading this; please stop agreeing to be speakers at events, on podcasts, on TV, in articles on the web and print media if there isn’t an equal split of men and women speakers and at least a representative split by ethnicity.

This stuff matters.


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