Saturday, June 27, 2009

organizers: get women on the program

Shireen Mitchell, whose Twitter handle is digitalsista, here offers useful tips for conference organizers about how to ensure their panels include women speakers--she's speaking in response to a Wired magazine conference which caused a stir by fielding a tech panel without women speakers. (Technology's one of several professions where women are noticing all-male speaker rosters.) In addition to these tips, an online petition was started. A similar protest was launched here against a MediaBistro conference without women on a critical panel.

You also can help ensure women get on the program by contacting your professional membership groups and asking them to write letters of complaint; letting conference sponsors know you'd like to see more gender balance on panels; and volunteering to serve on conference committees that select speakers. In this case, the worlds of tech and media responded to the rise of complaints on Twitter and other web sites: Both conferences vowed to correct the error. Make sure you let conference organizers know you want to see diversity--particularly women speakers--in every session.

Related posts on getting women on the program, including history, tips, and resources

1 comment:

Mary Fletcher Jones said...

When podcasting was starting to get really hot, I went to California for a weekend conference on podcasting. An EXPENSIVE conference.

There were no women presenters. The male presenters freely indulged in four-letter words. There were few women attendees. I had two podcasts at the time, but when I went on the Expo floor to talk to vendors, I was ignored flat by 75% of them, even when I tried to ask questions (some were quite welcoming, however). I had been told that the previous year, a sponsor had hosted a reception where the servers were naked women painted to look like they had clothes on. The year I went was relatively tame; just French maids at the reception, innocuous but not exactly enlightened. They also had a policy: no children under the age of 12 inside the Expo center at any time during the conference weekend, even breaks. So if a mommy podcaster wanted to BF her baby during a break, or have lunch with her kids, that would have been out of the question. Unbelievable.

By the end of the weekend I was so angry and frustrated I almost wish I hadn't gone. I definitely did not feel like part of the club.

I brought this to the attention of the male organizers afterwards and said it was not a favorable way to welcome women into the conference; that they could do better next time.

Their response: you're crazy.

We think we've come so far, and yet we still have so far to go.