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The Drive for Conference Diversity

By / Oct 8, 2014 The Masie Center’s Learn2013 conference featured a “pit-crew learning adventure” to teach team-building and collaboration.
“If I want to listen, I just watch a videotape, If I go to a meeting environment, I want to spend 60 to 70 percent of my time doing and dialoguing.” — Elliot Masie

How conference content pros are working to boost conference diversity during the events they curate.

Most conference content developers are highly attuned to the need to bring diverse voices to the learning agenda. Some conferences succeed more than others on the diversity and inclusion front—Net Impact, for example, tracks metrics related to speaker gender and racial identity.

One of the biggest challenges cited by content planners is that diversity is not always visual. Many D&I elements, such as cultural background, political persuasion, and sexual identification, are less obvious and can be more difficult to track, planners say.

That doesn’t mean associations aren’t trying to address representation creatively:

Unsatisfied with its conference diversity, Net Impact partnered with Symantec Corporation specifically to establish chapters at historically black and women’s colleges and is working to get those members to conferences.

Beverly Hutton of the National Association of Secondary School Principals uses the conference’s Breaking Ranks School Showcase to highlight often-diverse leadership teams who’ve turned around formerly low-achieving schools in urban, rural, low-income, and other areas.

Elliott Masie of the Masie Center notes that a diverse speaker lineup can’t happen if it’s considered only at conference-planning time. “The easiest way to ensure we get diversity is by who we are talking to in our field throughout the year,” Masie says.—K.C.

Kristin Clarke

Kristin Clarke is books editor for Associations Now and a business journalist and sustainability director for ASAE. More »

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