I swear at least once every six months or so, some chick in the industry will stir up drama over some upcoming conference and the lack of girl power on the panels. Because apparently, we should be handed over speaking slots simply because we have boobs, even if we aren’t the best possible *PERSON* for the job. So hands up to those who want to hear inferior speakers simply because the conference chair has been harassed over the lack of females and has given a female a speaking slot over a better – but male – speaker. I didn’t think so.
While years ago there was a definite lack of females on the speaker circuit of industry conferences and female attendees were just as rare, nowadays you can walk into a session room, or the bar afterwards, and find many females hanging out, and yes, some of them are even speakers.
I would also like to think that conference chairs aren’t going through the list of potential speakers for each session and thinking “Nope, she is a girl, girl’s suck, we don’t want her.” From what I can tell, conference chairs seem to be thinking “Nope, he/she isn’t the best choice for this session” when they decide to turn down a potential speaker.
But should conferences bow down to a bitchy vocal minority demanding conferences include more female speakers? Especially when those bitching (well, usually tweeting) are often women who don’t even pay for attending various conferences, they get there on comp or press passes?
As far as I’m concerned, it the responsibility of a conference to give attendees the very best presenters on each session, regardless of whether they are male, female or a purple people eater. Should some guy lose a hard-earned speaking spot simply because he doesn’t have boobs? Should all those people who complain about the lack of female speakers be the ones who dictate the gender of the panelists? I don’t care who the speakers are, where they come from or what they look like, as long as they know their shit.
Also, has anyone asked these chicks who are supposedly missing from the panels if they ever sent in a speaker submission or contacted the conference chair about speaking? Chances are good they didn’t know about the conference, already knew they couldn’t attend it, missed the submission deadline or didn’t want to do it for whatever reason. While in some cases, conferences will reach out to specific speakers, more often than not, they look at the speaker submissions for each panel and pick and choose the best from what they received. I wouldn’t expect anyone to go out of their way to try and track down female speakers simply because someone complained on Twitter there weren’t enough female speakers.
Just to be clear, I am not saying that all female speakers are inferior to their male counterparts. There are many female speakers I would be quite happy to hear doing a solo session (and have sat through previously) because they know their shit that well and you know you will get a tremendous amount of information and ideas from the presentations. But I sure as hell don’t want to listen to someone speak who was given a session spot for the sole reason that they were a chick and someone complained the conference didn’t have enough of them.
What if a conference gave the bitchy complainers exactly what they wanted and some SEO conference stacked up the panels with hot chicks and made sure all the bio photos were cleavage enhancing shots or all full-body and showed them in tight shirts and short skirts? If you think the lack of female speakers at some conferences caused a problem with some, can you imagine the firestorm that would break out if the majority of the panels all had females that were clearly there for the men to ogle at, regardless of how well they knew the subject? But then, I am sure those guys who would be attending the conference wouldn’t be there for the knowledge! And that would be seriously fun to watch on Twitter with a bowl of popcorn!
And some final food for thought, excluding moderators, keynotes and sponsored sessions, SMX West had 28% female speaking spots, SES New York had 24%, and BlueGlass LA, which was the last “OMG, where are the female speakers” drama I saw erupt on Twitter, has only 13% female speaking spots.