You know our disdain for the DREADED ALL MALE PANEL but there’s another trend we find equally distasteful…
The dreaded ALL FEMALE panel. Yes, you read that correctly.
Sometimes in the scramble to right a wrong, some attempts can make the situation worse.
Not dissimilar to the thought process behind the Pink Tool Box (which we touched upon HERE), when some events go to include women speakers, they create a special showcase and invite celebrated, successful women to speak. Usually on the gender issues and the bias that is so top of mind.
By speaking JUST about bias in funding, being a female entrepreneur or “work/life balance” these ladies are also NOT being invited to speak on topics related specifically to their expertise, their companies or their products, or anything, frankly, outside of their gender.
They’ve been put in the “female bucket”.
Bettina Hein, an Innovation Woman speaker, was recently offered a fabulous speaking opportunity on a panel of successful CEOs, only to be told that it was a “mixup” — she was supposed to be offered a panel devoted to women founders. Hello, “female bucket” mentality!
So our heroine goes from panel of industry peers (admittedly, mostly male) to one focused on her gender. Her business credentials (and those of several other women founder/CEOs) more than adequately qualified her for the general business panel.
To her credit, Bettina spoke up, pointing out that inviting her to one panel shouldn’t exclude her from participating on the other. (Right on, sister! Amen to that!) Why not have her do both? It obviously never occurred to the organizers offer her both panels and instead they opted for the “mixup” message.
The hosting organization started with the best intentions; they were trying to do the right thing and get more women in the game. But by focusing exclusively on the specific female founder experience, they missed the big picture. They were not only preventing themselves from attaining more overall event diversity but created a “not diverse” event – an all woman panel. By fielding mixed gender panels, they could have produced better, more interesting conversations, offering their attendees a better overall experience.
If the goal is more diversity, those at the helm need to realize the problem can’t be fixed with any discrete event(s). You need sustained efforts to diversify across the board. As Bettina pointed out, it’s not an “either/or” — top women are willing to speak on both, being a woman and to their expertise.
Start with a goal of 50 percent female participation — not as a quota but as a guideline. Find and develop the resources to source the talent (Innovation Women, anyone?). Don’t be afraid to try new voices, or, in special cases, ask someone to do “double duty” and, like in this occasion, speak twice.
Those who see “diversity” as important will rise to the occasion.
Many thanks to Bettina for allowing us to share her experience. Book her to speak at Innovation Women.
Got a story to share? Speaking event or manager who should know about us? Ready to guest post on Innovation Women? Contact us HERE.