Study: Not Enough Progress on Gender Diversity at Events

A study analyzing speakers at thousands of events since 2013 found a small improvement in the representation of women compared to last year's study. But not enough: Almost two-thirds of conference presenters are still men.

One of the biggest criticisms of the modern conference, the “manel,” is showing no signs of going away anytime soon.

That’s according to a new study from the event technology firm Bizzabo, which found that the gender distribution of speakers globally was two-thirds male over the seven-year period from 2013 to 2019. While that result was a slight improvement over last year’s finding that 69 percent of speakers were men and 31 percent were women, gender parity is a long way off, says Bizzabo cofounder Alon Alroy.

“This year’s analysis has shown progress when compared to last year’s study but, unfortunately, not enough,” Alroy said in a blog post. “The narrow 3 percent bump, even with taking into account the smaller data set used last year, shows that we still have a long way to go before there is greater gender balance within events.”

The  analysis included more than 60,000 speakers at events in 58 countries and 45 industries since 2013. Women were slightly better represented in the U.S. and Canada, where they made up 36 percent of speakers, and in Mexico (38 percent). The country closest to gender parity was Kenya (40 percent women).

But 19 countries had almost no women speakers, including South Korea, Norway, and Finland.

Likewise, gender diversity varied based on industry. Education management conferences pulled off a 50-50 split. Human resources events weren’t far behind. But high-tech fields ranked low. Three out of four speakers at information technology events were men; at computer software events, 68 percent were men. Other fields with a gender ratio hovering around 3 to 1 included insurance, engineering, and financial services.

Women were better represented at some types of events than others. Two types drew more women than men: job search events (69 percent women) and fundraisers and galas (58 percent women). But traditional conferences and conventions had the least gender diversity, with men accounting for 66 percent of their speakers.

“Fixing the problem requires a conscious effort on the part of conference organizers to look outside their immediate networks and to set goals, like aiming for 50-50 representation,” said Bizzabo cofounder and CEO Eran Ben-Shushan.

(sanjeri/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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