Recently an organisation I am part of sent out their social media communications around their annual conference. They asked one of the female strong groups in town if they would share it. The word came back that they would not – because there was not a single female speaker on the run-sheet.
I was appalled – I could not understand how this happened. I knew for a fact that the Conference Committee had 2 or 3 women on it, as well as young people and people of colour. It was a very diverse organising committee – how could this result in a play-list of all old white men?
So I asked them what happened. They said they hadn’t deliberately sought men, they just picked the topics they wanted, and then thought who do we know that is a leader in that field, or a prominent speaker. And the first name that came to mind was a man.
This, you see, is the problem. The self-perpetuating problem.
Because when you do that, it is absolutely certain that the first person you think of will be a man. In fact, probably the first 5 people you think of will be men. And you will have the same men on your play-list as every other conference in town.
The trick is to go to the first one you think of, and ask him does he know any female leaders in the field that he would recommend as speaker at the conference. And if he does not know, does he know someone who would. Any expert in the field would certainly not want to admit to not knowing all the experts in the field… so for sure you will get some female names. You will also get plenty of male names – because nobody ever keeps those to themselves – but you will have a much more diverse choice with this technique.