Tackling the Male-dominated Speaking Industry Without Neglecting Male Talent
At IMEX 2018 in Las Vegas last week, I was introduced to Marie-Claire Andrews – a female professional who gives talks on solving the gender imbalance in our industry. She strongly advocates that there is no place for all-male panels in a modern-day events industry, stating she would flat out refuse to attend a talk where qualified and capable women were overlooked in favour of men. Whilst I respect anyone who fights for equality in any industry and would hate to see women being discriminated against, her presentation came across as being more anti-men than it was pro-equality, an attitude I think will only serve to hinder the progress being made within the industry.
As a woman in business, I agree that everyone should be given opportunities regardless of gender or race, but also feel that such an aggressive stance could be counterproductive in trying to solve the problem. I am strongly of the opinion that opportunities should be given based on merit and that women shouldn’t be given handouts purely to bring a gender balance to a panel. It would be a just as much of a shame to see male talent neglected just to fill a quota. There must be a system that can be put in place that ensures equal opportunities without making it harder for males to share their valuable expertise.
There’s certainly a gap in the market for a website that acts as an intermediary between speakers and event organisers – somewhere that organisers could advertise roles for speakers to apply for that could potentially be connected to LinkedIn. This would encourage event organisers to weigh up more potential candidates for a role, rather than taking the easy option of just picking an established speaker. By optimising access to the opportunities out there, the proportion of women getting these roles will naturally start to better equate to the proportion of talented women out there. Also, when platforms like this are started, they always tend to develop completely new branches that help raise awareness for all areas of an industry. This could pave the way for centralised support forums and coaching channels that help to nurture talent even further, helping raise the prospects of anyone interested in becoming speakers, regardless of gender, race and sexuality.
I think this is a much better solution than stipulating a minimum number of women that must be on a panel. It will naturally even out the industry’s gender ratio without seeing a man lose out on a position by default and the audience lose out on his expertise. Hopefully, everyone in the industry can start to view people as professional human beings (and the majority do in my experience) and put this gender nonsense behind us. If you could be certain that equal opportunities were available to both male and female professionals, then there can be no justification for dismissing an all-male panel of speakers.