I was surprised over a year ago when I counted up the number of female speakers represented by a female-owned Dutch speaker’s bureau to find an overwhelming number of men. I just did a recount and discovered that there are five women out of the ninety-one speakers (that’s 5%).
A couple of days ago I checked out the upcoming LeWeb conference 2010 in Paris. There are seventy speakers, eight of whom are women (11 %).
I tweeted about this and got this tweet back from the founder of the conference, Loic Le Meur: “@FireflyCoaching we think those women are worth 5 men each.”
I decided to look at other events to see what I could find. The Sprout Challenger Day that’s coming up in the Netherlands has thirteen speakers, two are women (15%).
Tedx Amsterdam is also coming up. Out of the seventeen presenters, three are women (18%).
Interesting that as I was writing this I saw this quote posted by TedX Amsterdam on Facebook: “The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet” William Gibson.
The 2011 PINC conference to be held in Amsterdam will have two women out of sixteen speakers (13%). Looking back at all of the previous speakers at PINC, out of a total of 169, 29 are women (17%).
At the Mobile Convention Amsterdam, an Event for Mobile Marketing & Business, that was held in April 2010 there were six women speaking out of the total of thirty-six speakers (17%).
At the recent fourth edition of the Picnic event in Amsterdam 27 of the 129 speakers were women (21%).
Please don’t shoot the messenger, the numbers are what they are.
These conferences are successful. Is it possible that could they have a bigger impact, attract more female participants, and provide a more interesting mix of perspectives and experiences if there were more of a balance between men and women speakers?
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely don’t want to see more women speakers for the sake of having more women if they’re not fabulous. I honestly believe there are bright, talented, thoughtful women whose voices aren’t being heard.
So what’s the problem? Why aren’t there more female speakers at events and conferences? For one, I’ve heard that there are simply fewer women in tech. Another reason given is that it’s hard to find great female speakers.
Instead of focusing on why it is that way it is, I’d rather focus on the solution and how we, men and women, can all take action together to change it.
Let’s not fight about, let’s do something about it. Here are some ideas:
1. If you are a fabulous female speaker apply to speak at conferences and sign up at a speaking bureau so you can be found.
2. If you are an organizer of an event think about featuring more women speakers so that there is a balance between the number of male and female speakers. They are out there, I promise. And if you get stuck and can’t find anyone, ask me for names. I have a big network, I’m sure I can connect you with many savvy speakers.
3. If you attend events and conferences, tell the organizer that you’d like to see more female speakers.
4. Share this blog post with people you know who would like to help change this situation.
Have you noticed this as well? Do you have helpful ideas and suggestions? Please share in the comments below.
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It is a problem for those of us who would like to see more women. I think in general people don’t notice, but as you state the facts, yes there are not enough women speakers.
One great woman speaker doesn’t compensate for 5 men, that is ridiculous. But a trend that most conferences seem to follow, ‘lets have one token woman speaker and were done’. It is after all 2010.
Stephanie, I am delighted to report that my experience is completely different.
I have attended and spoken at the WIN conference (www.winconference.net) 7 times and the standard of speakers is always staggeringly high. There, maybe 2% of speakers are male.
I also attend and speak at Families in Global Transition (www.figt.org) and there maybe 20-30% of the speakers are male.
As chair of Connecting Women we do our best to pick female speakers too.
Sure, I have attended my fair share of HR conferences and met many male speakers. I was a member of the Professional Speakers’ Association in the UK and found it was about 50/50 men to women there to. However, I think men were much better at charging real money for their keynotes.
Maybe the FIGT and WIN conferences are female heavy because we go there to share what we know and don’t expect to be paid. Would I be right in surmising, then, that when there is money involved you get the men, but when it is all about content and giving, we get the women?
Now you got me thinking!
Thanks for your thoughts Jo. WIN is an amazing conference and I’d like to see more women speakers at events that are not women focused events.
About the money issue, I think that many of the conferences I mentioned are paid so that doesn’t really come into play. Could be wrong about that, if someone out there knows the skinny on this please share.
I actually know a lot of men who are very interested in content and giving.
I have a feeling it’s more about raising awareness of the situation and the willingness to seek out female speakers. And of course women proactively applying to speak at mixed events.
I’m very pleased to say that we’re currently organising a conference which will have over 75% women speakers.
It probably helps that the theme is ‘Women Shaping the Future’. (And our speakers are not getting paid for the event)
Thanks for sharing Vandy, have a fabulous conference!
there have been sme posts like this in my blog memory, and Ive had discussions on this. there are great speakers with awesome stuff to share being ignored. there are the same token women who work for big companies and sponsor the conference.
the answer you got from loic is revealing in its triteness, if he bekived that he would have less speakers and up the ratio. I am afraid you are flogging a dead horse here. That horse is very dead and deaf. As long as partners at a conference pay to get a spot to speak, the quality and gender mix will continue to take a backseat.
its a money game.
ps there are some awesome women it tech, but they have about the same chance as a threelegged horseina race.
its needs to be discussed more, but women dont want to take a stand here because they know they will be left off the list in future.
I appreciate your candid feedback Donna. It will take a combined effort from men and women taking a stand together to make some changes.
Stephanie, Thanks for putting together some numbers and your thoughts on this.
At the WordCampNL (thanks for putting in a good word for me to get the ticket), Erno (the organizer) said that there was 25% women as attendees. However there was only 2 women out of 16 speakers (12.5%). However, the 25% women attendance is already much higher than some other tech conferences I’ve been at.
It seems that when it comes to tech, women are more interested in applying the technology that the technology itself. This turns women into the users, while men remain the provider of technology. However, a diverse team – in technology or otherwise – includes different perspectives and often result in better products.
I’ve discussed the willingness to speak with a few tech women and we agree that women have a louder voice inside their heads that say – you don’t have anything original to say, someone else MUST’VE given a talk about that already. But we forget that many talks start with borrowed content – this has never stopped the men. Plus, giving a talk on a subject that you are passionate about will help that subject become more known. The more people talk about something, the more other people become aware of it. So, if you are in the business of introducing change, giving a talk would be great to spread the word.
Insightful input Clara, thanks so much! I’ve told you before that I think you should be out there speaking. It’s true, almost everything has already be covered before, and you can present it in a unique way and provide alternative perspectives. And being passionate about a subject is always a great starting point. Don’t wait – make the decision to make it happen. 😉
Thanks for drawing my attention to this post after you saw my video w/Coach Deb that mines the same content: http://www.youtube.com/user/therichbrooks#p/a/u/0/JkieQfCEMx0
At Social Media FTW we’re gender blind, we just want the best possible speakers! Men, women, boys, girls, gay, straight, black, white, yellow, orange, blue, tall, short, terrestrial, extra-terrestrial, it’s all good. Just bring good content.
And, for the next couple of weeks (posted 6/25/2011) we’re accepting presentation ideas: http://www.socialmediaftw.com
Hope to see you this fall!
Great to know Rich, thank you for sharing!