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Where Are All the Women Conference Speakers?

Topics: Work Culture

In a world with roughly even numbers of men and women, you’d think conference planners would want to evenly represent the genders on panels. But the lack of gender diversity is a pretty common complaint of conference goers these days. In fact, it’s not rare for conferences and events to book no female speakers at all, especially those in the STEM space.

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Conference Attendees Are Crying Foul

Attendees have taken notice, and are speaking out, using hashtags like #allmalepanel to note male-only conversations in news and politics. There’s even a Tumblr: Congrats, You Have an All Male Panel.

The Demand Is There

There are some voices out there shouting for more diversity up on the dais. Entrepreneur Susan Danzinger wrote in Forbes that there’s a huge demand for more female voices at tech conferences.

She promotes a “leg up” approach in which women who are approached by organizers, but can’t commit, give promoters the names of five other women. And women should “encourage each other to apply to conferences, help prepare each other for talks and be in the front row cheering each other on.”

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Organizers Claim Difficulty in Filling Seats With Ladies

Of course, when you have a culture that doesn’t promote women to top posts, you might not have enough female c-level execs to ask. You have two dozen male CEOs and only one female CEO in a field, and you’re going to get a skewed panel, gender-wise. Lindsay Coates, president of InterAction, tells NPR that “invitations to speak on panel discussions are often reserved for the CEOs, presidents and executive directors of organizations — and they’re usually men.”

PayScale’s report on the gender pay gap also shows that women are less likely to be promoted than men, and earn less as they move up the ladder:


Why Does This Matter?

When you’re at a conference, you’re hoping to do a lot of things at once: get inspired, learn something new, network, and stay on top of industry trends. You’re also looking for some hope in your own future. If panels remain male-heavy, why would we expect different in our boardrooms or articles of incorporation? You start to see something frequently enough, and it gets to be “normal.” One lady on a panel? Guess that’s just how it should be. Not a good solution at all. In fact, it’s an infuriating one.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you attended lots of #allmalepanel conferences? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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