Do people really want inferior conference speakers simply because they are chicks?


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.

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Seobitch is a pen name for a well known female expert in the SEO industry that most of you likely already follow. She has more than a dozen years experience and is a very respected expert in the field. Seobitch can be controversial but writes about issues that most people are afraid to talk about due to their employers, clients or friends. She also loves to tackle industry issues from a different point of view than what you normally see the "complainers" of the industry complaining about. She is also open to suggestions for future topics you would like to see the SEObitch tackle.

13 thoughts on “Do people really want inferior conference speakers simply because they are chicks?

  1. Lisa Barone

    “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.”

    Exactly. And that’s all anyone is asking. Instead of feeding us the same shittastic speakers, do your due diligence to find the SUPER SMART WOMEN and put them on stage alongside the SUPER SMART MEN. That’s your job as a conference organizer. When just 13 percent of your speaker list is made up of women (who, coincidentally, all work for your company, except 1), that tells me YOU think men are smarter than women. And then I have to judge you. And frankly, I don’t have time to judge you. So I ignore you. And your conference.

    We all want “only the best” up on stage. But it’s your job to find the best. And they come in two genders.

  2. Missy Ward

    Hey Jeremy,

    Affiliate Summit runs between 24-27% female speakers across our conferences and we typically have about 90-100 speakers. Our female attendance runs from 28-32%, so our female speaker ratio is pretty much in line with our female attendance. Additionally, our session selections are crowd sourced, so the speakers are selected by their peers.

    We have female keynotes, MC’s, session speakers, moderators, panelists… oh, and a female organizer 😉

    Considering that back in 2001 when I first started attending affiliate marketing meetups and conferences, there would typically be about 3-5 women to every 100 men, that’s pretty substantial.

    I can’t think of any of my female colleagues that ever received a speaking slot (or not received a speaking slot) because they were a female.

    Maybe our industry is just more progressive than most.

  3. Casie

    The answer to this questions is obviously no. If I’m paying to hear someone speak I want it to be the person who is going to give me the best info and the best presentation.

    That being said, I have been approached for a speaking gig because the organizer was looking for women speakers…and hell, I was going to take advantage of that.

    There are always going to be those people who complain about inequality but when it comes down to it, I hardly believe that anyone is sitting there going ‘nah, we don’t want women speakers’.

    1. Matt

      Guys, that was 4 years ago. Anyone who doesn’t ever change their mind probably isn’t challenging themselves.

  4. Richard M

    To me it depends on the type of conference you are talking about. If you have someone up there just spewing out information that doesn’t really need anything more than a good speaking voice and some possible “eye-candy” then I’d have no issue with the conference giving the role to someone “less qualified”. If you are doing Q&A’s or have to make of the cuff remarks rather than just a rehearsed speech then I definitely want someone that knows their stuff.

  5. Cray

    perhaps they should work as equally hard as the males do. And instead of crying about the situation, focus on the goal to attaining the spot. Don’t hate because you lack emotional control, take action and keep worthless emotions (if you aren’t going to use them properly) out of it.

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