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How Well Are Women Represented as Speakers at Your Events?

By / Jul 1, 2016

GenderAvenger is asking speakers to pledge to not participate on a panel where women aren’t included. Could your association take that pledge?

A discussion on ASAE’s Collaborate forum earlier this week caught my attention (ASAE member login required). Some of that curiosity had to do with the discussion’s headline, “No more all male panels,” but another part of it had to do with a recent experience one of my close friends had.

This is the same anonymous friend I mentioned in a blog post a few weeks back. She was speaking at an industry conference for the first time, and she was nervous. Good news: It went great, as to be expected. But she did receive some comments from fellow attendees after her session.

Those included: “It was great to see another woman up on stage.” “It’s a pleasant surprise to hear from a working mom like myself.”

Obviously, she was flattered by the compliments, but she told me she was also surprised to have attendees make note of her gender. In fact, she told me she had never considered gender diversity at a conference until that point, but now she says in the weeks that have followed, she has made note of it in various settings, including her kid’s preschool graduation.

Which brings me back to the previously mentioned Collaborate post. It contained a link to an article from The Atlantic titled “A Pledge I Can’t Keep.”

In it, Senior Political Columnist Ron Fournier discusses his being asked to sign the GenderAvenger pledge.

The one-sentence pledge reads, “I will not serve as a panelist at a public conference when there are not women on the panel.” (Note: the pledge defines a “panel” as having three or more people.)

The pledge, and its related cause GenderAvenger, was created by Gina Glantz, a Democratic activist and former campaign manager, after she attended a political panel at Harvard following the 2012 presidential campaign where the panelists and moderator were all men.

“It just sent me over the edge,” Glantz told Fournier, before asking him to sign the pledge.

The GenderAvenger mission is simple: “To build a community that ensures women are represented in the public dialog.”

In addition to the pledge, the website also scores the male-female balance of conference speakers and television show panelists. The most diverse go into its Hall of Fame, while the least get a spot in its Hall of Shame.

Among the associations earning praise in the Hall of Fame: the Online News Association, where women made up 52 percent of speakers at its 2015 Conference, and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ 2016 Conference, where women were also in the majority.

Just in case you’re wondering, Fournier did sign the pledge. Even though he admitted to Glantz that there will be times he’ll have to break it due to his job duties. But, in those cases, he’ll publicly announce on Twitter that he’s broken the pledge.

Now it’s your turn: What is your association doing to ensure it can be in the GenderAvenger Hall of Fame? Please share in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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