How Events Get Gender Balanced

Did you ever wonder how event managers go about achieving a gender-balanced event? I know we all expect it but in some industries, it requires forethought, special strategies and persistence. Read today’s letter to understand what one event manager is going through.
We have been talking with the executive director of a Boston-region nonprofit dedicated to supporting startup companies, including hosting events and providing mentors.
This organization runs a large annual event with multiple speakers, startup pitches, mentoring and more. The executive director talked to us of the challenges of inclusion and diversity. She described invitations going out to balanced, diverse and inclusive panels, and the responses coming back for #allmale panels. The organization had to change how invitations were issued. Now panels need to be pre-approved to ensure diversity. As a woman herself, she knows the message being sent with all-male panels, all-male mentors and all-male judges for the pitch contest. She’s determined it won’t happen under her watch.
So she started with the conference leadership roles – the content chairs, the track leads and the panel producers actively influence the makeup of the panels, speakers and even the entries for the pitch contest . She is actively seeking women and minorities for these roles, knowing they will be key to diversity on game day. And while she has had many conversations with “bada**” female executives, she has been unable to discover anyone in her target group able to commit the time – too busy, too stretched already. Even though this is an opportunity to be intimately involved with investors, numerous VIPs and get connected to super-hot startups. She came to us for help. And we’re making some introductions.
We’ve spoken before about why women say “no” and turn down speaking engagements. (See our article from January.) The reasons we cited were not what a lot of people expected; they had nothing to do with fear of speaking, shyness and other perceived female traits. The reality is that time is the biggest limiting factor.
But it may also be in the way we think about these opportunities. And while, yes, our motto is “Visibility = Opportunity”, sometimes, there are equally big opportunities behind the scenes.
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