Sunday 20 November 2011

Social media is for boys

Or at least, if the speakers at the last few traditional conferences on the subject were considered as evidence of gender monopoly.

Yesterday I went to a conference for the voluntary sector on tech and social media. The audience was an even split, in fact possibly more weighted towards female attendees. The scheduled speakers for the first half of the day? Entirely male. The leaders of the sessions in the afternoon which were unconference style? An almost even mix, taking into account the workshop sessions.

Now, there were what felt to be subtle intimations that I should not be complaining if I were not prepared to stand up at the front myself. There was equally, I think, some assumptions that I was in some way upset to not be asked.

I'm nothing to do with the voluntary sector right now and I am not a social media expert. I am not famous for anything. I have nothing to speak about and I didn't see the call for speakers, more importantly. Had I had something to say, and seen the call for speakers, I absolutely would have offered. I'm not much scared of a room full of people any more.

The fact still remains that the other women in the room weren't at the front either. And as I commented at the time, this was not an accusation, the conference yesterday was no more guilty than every single other conference or unconference I have been to, though unconferences tend to be slightly better, especially govcamps for some reason. 

I'm really bored of it.

But most of all, very most of all, I'm still boggling at the irony of one of the female organisers asking an entirely male panel why they thought there weren't more female speakers.

So, I'm going to ask you, because I know there are many women who read this. Why don't you offer to speak at conferences? What is it that holds you back from running unconference sessions? Why are we massively unrepresented at the front and yet have plenty to say online and across social media?


  1. Because the people organising the conferences think we are rubbish? that's the only reason I can think of.
    Doesn't matter, we know we aren't of course, but always remember hun,

    The Cock crows, but the Hen lays the Eggs.

  2. Good post. Rather depressing to hear about another conference with a lack of women speaking. I look at photos of various tech conferences and such events and still see too few women as speakers or even audience.
    We need to keep questioning why and pointing it out.

  3. @cyberdoyle I know and I don't actually want to be at the front in these situations, I want to learn from other people, that's why I go to conferences on the weekend but I want womens voices in there too. And I think you might be right.

    @janetedavis Yes. It's an _observation_ not an accusation and I don't know how many times I can reiterate that but if no one stands up and waves a flag and shouts 'oi!' then it'll just carry on.

  4. I don't think that's fair Chris. I can only go by the men I know who're into this stuff - Dan Slee, Andy Mabbett, Simon Whitehouse, to name but a few - and there's no way they'd think women are rubbish at social media, or anything else for that matter.

    I don't offer to speak/present at conferences, or unconferences (unless Dan stitches me up). Why? I'm no expert for a start, but I'm also not a confident or happy public speaker. That's just me. Happy to pipe up with an opinion mind :-)

    The stage is there for the taking ladies. If you want it, and you're not a wuss like me, take it.

  5. I share your frustration and I do have a theory. My world is education / academia and technology, btw, so i don't know if this has resonance beyond that.

    I think that the threshold for women being considered creative, interesting, insightful, inspiring entertaining or insightful, is way WAY higher than it is for men.

    In my experience, many women root their ideas in a social context, are careful to attribute their influences, and seek consensus. This has the effect of diluting their perceived ownership of the ideas they share.

    Facilitating and synthesising other people's ideas is the way many clever women in my world learn to operate.

    Anything else is seen as inviting extra scrutiny. You have to be really bloody confident to develop a professional persona as a female keynote speaker. Step one: you have to own your ideas. I'm just working at that myself. God knows what step two is!

  6. Kate, I didn't say male speakers think we're rubbish... its the organisers who don't perceive our value, or don't know we exist. And besides, we are usually too busy doing it to push ourselves, added to which many haven't got the confidence, but I feel its growing. Especially when lou who wouldn't say boo to a goose will step confidently up to the mark now. Its ours for the taking ladies, but do we want it? Really? If anyone reading this does, then JFDI.
    I don't believe in token women, it is a disaster wherever it happens, if females want the roles they have to stand up and say so. Organisers if they are any good know which women can deliver, if they choose to ignore them they are obviously not cut out for organising?
    Which doesn't say much for women if the organiser of this one was female...
    I know quite a few female speakers (eg Lindsey Annison) who can knock spots off most men, but I also know a few who are total rubbish. If I was organising a conference I would choose the best I knew. Sadly most organisers just crib the men off the last conference list, so until women get on the rota they won't get the offers.
    I also agree with Amberthomas, which is a more descriptive way of what I said earlier. The same applies in any sphere, not just academia.

  7. Just a quick comment to try and address some of these points as one of the organisers of the conference we're discussing.

    It was raised to us (by one of our speakers) before the conference that we didn't have a female speaker. We discussed this point and felt that to go and find a female speaker simply because someone had said that we should felt a bit like tokenism - and that wasn't something we were comfortable with.

    In addition to this, as part of the agenda there were three workshops following the speakers - one of which was led by a woman and was actually put on by Plug In Lancashire, a group that aims to support woman in science, engineering and technology throughout Lancashire.

    @chris I hope you don't really think that we (as the conference organisers) think that "women are rubbish" - as that simply is not the case, and I'd hate to think that anyone thinks that of me.

  8. @Chris agreed. I'm hearing a lot that "if you want to be really succesful you have to give up wanting to be liked". If i said "I want to be a big name", I feel that people would pull a face, find that vulgar. In a woman that's not just ambitious, that's ruthless.
    Even worse, people who know I have a 2 and 4 year old would, and do, question my priorities. It takes a lot to put yourself forward. I've been told for years it takes a huge sacrifice on a woman's personality, to give up being seen as harmless and non threatening.
    I admit it ... I've done a couple of keynotes, I want to do more. That sounds awful, I'm afraid. Hmmmm.

  9. I do, of course, question the balance when I can/when relevant. When photographing conferences, unconferences and hack days, I do make a conscious effort to show women speaking and participating - even when they're in the minority.
    Yes, I think that generally women feel less confident about speaking, and feel a need to be the most expert person in the world about a topic before they can stand in front of an audience.
    I'm guilty of it - I have hesitated to answer calls for papers and to propose sessions at unconferences. When I have proposed sessions at unconferences, I have tended to offer to give way to or join in with a similar session proposed by someone else.

  10. Can I just add that after commenting on the lack of women in the main hall at the Thinking Digital conference in 2010, I was delighted to see far more women at Thinking Digital 2011 - and there were about equal numbers of men and women speakers.

  11. @Kate - Why do you believe Dan, Si and Andy are experts and you are not?

    @Amber - I think you've nailed it. We collaborate, we don't step on other people, we have fun learning, we ask questions publicly and discuss those ideas publicly and so sometimes the lines between who owned an idea and who contributed to the evolution of it become blurred. And while social media is wonderful for women _because_ of this, it is also actually perhaps making the problem of 'owning up' to an opinion or thought process more hard.

    I also do believe, as Kate has kind of alluded to above, that the place for boys if the front and not girls.

  12. Hello all, if a male and one of yesterday's speakers is allowed to join in ;-)

    I actually think the qualities being defined here as explicitly "feminine" are the ones which are highlighted by social media, and online social interactions enable us to learn to value these qualities over the old values of dog-eat-dog.

    Perhaps us men are excited about what we've learned in this respect, and eager to shout about what women already take for granted(?)

    Whatever,.... I agree there should be more women speakers at all events. In the past, I have been involved in sponsorship for events such as Girl Geek dinners to this end.

  13. Really great that LouLouK has raised this issue, and good to see what people say.

    I work with many great men and women and I do get plenty of encouragement from some, so its not as simple as blaming any individual.

    I guess the opportunities offered by social media to take a more social approach to ideas/communication, as john points out, are still being pioneered. Its bound to feel uncomfortable to reconcile the new ways of working with the platforms provided in f2f settings. Having a core of supportive people online, like this thread, is so important, and will fortify those of us that do try to translate the values of online into the f2f opportunities.

  14. Nice to see Duncan and John feel confident enough amongst us to comment!
    Duncan, really pleased you stood up for yourself and don't think women speakers are rubbish. How come you don't know any? Is it because you have never heard or seen a good one?
    John, yes, I know how exciting it all is, but that's the point I made earlier, the cock loves to crow, whereas most of us females cackle a lot and lay eggs. We both have a place, and i really shouldn't stereotype in this silly way, but truth will out. There aren't enough women who want to speak I guess, and those that do have to crow a lot more. Otherwise the organisers never hear about them.

    There are some really good cockerels to be sure, but some really good bantys get sidetracked and never heard.

    I am not fighting for womens rights here. If I want to sit and lay eggs and cackle I will, and if I want to crow I will.

    Some hens don't realise this. Its time they did. And its time they crowed.
    And if they can crow its time we heard them.

  15. Hi there, I’m one of the conference organisers.
    I think this post is confusing, two things really:

    Yesterday during the panel discussion, I saw the tweet from @LouLouK on the twitterfall: “Not criticism but observation. More than ½ audience women. Where are the female speakers? Again? #sovoltech”
    It was retweeted a fair few times, and nobody else was bringing it up, so I thought it necessary to talk about it. The question I put to the panel was "Is this panel representative of gender balance in the voluntary and technology sectors ? Similarly, what about other areas of diversity?" Basically, I thought that it should be asked, there’s nothing mind-boggling or ironic about it. Sectors/organisations should reflect the communities they serve, and if they don’t, we need to find out why. Openly talking about it is the first step, not leaving an elephant in the room (maybe there’s another conversation to be had here on ‘slacktivism’; talking, but not doing).

    Regarding the speakers, we’re not ignoring women, that’s just daft. All I know is that we asked for people to volunteer their time and only men came forward and offered. I don’t doubt that there are extremely competent female speakers out there, but we can’t force people to volunteer, they need to be assertive and come forward themselves. Having said that, Liz from @PlugInLancs bucked the trend and ran a fantastic workshop in the afternoon. One of the attendees commented on how good she was and how she really connected with them and understood their issues.

    I went to my first Barcamp last month (where apparently there were more ‘Daves’ than women!), and that was quite daunting. I’m not a techie and I was worried about saying daft stuff and looking like a wally. However, once I got there it was great, met some amazing people with fantastic new skills, I learned so much. I think people were keen to see new faces who are interested in finding things out for themselves.

    @Chris: To be honest, I am a little upset that this is making me (and Duncan) out to be crap organisers, when we do all of this (unpaid) in our spare time and just want to help people out. Criticism is always welcome, but sometimes it does make you think “why do I bother?”

    I know that the conference wasn’t perfect, but we had to start somewhere. It was a good experience and I really appreciate everyone who gave their time yesterday (at the conference and at our workshop at the Super Duper Fair) to help us.
    Nevermind, onwards and upwards!

  16. Cockadoodle do! Someone challenge me to turn this: into a talk!

  17. @Catherine @Duncan ... I wasn't at the event but I get the impression loulouk is saying it was an example of a common phenomena, rather than an oversight on your part.
    There is an event for developers in colleges and universities called dev8d, and it too has been the focus of discussion: . I presented the awards last year (cockadoodledoo!) And it is so noticably male-dominated, though many of the nicest, more generous and social men you could meet. I can't fault the organisors or delegates. Its just a sign'o'the'times but hopefully times are changing.

  18. around 7 minutes in you ask your question Catherine. It was a very good question. I also saw and probably retweeted the original tweet, and its great when someone in the room picks up tweets the way you did, so thanks for that.
    I guess my first comment did sound like I was criticising you, and it was just a generalisation and so I do apologise for it! I wasn't. I do tend to jump in right away and I should take more care as people have feelings and you obviously did a great unconference so don't take it personal. I did say 'conferences' not this particular one, which I gather was amongst the best.
    Another lesson learnt for me, stop generalising huh? Its my only weakness. (I wish)
    We learn something every day, and its only through participating isn't it? that is what I like about social media, and especially unconferences real and virtual. It just makes us stronger and wiser. If this had been one of those 'conferences' it wouldn't be generating blogposts like this is, because the organisers of those don't engage once its over. oops, there I go again, generalising. change it to, Most organisers of Most conferences don't engage with blogs and joe public, especially once the event is over. Unconferences rock. The digital britain one went on for months. Not that any of the powers that be took a happorth of notice.
    Crikey, just did it again then, did you notice?
    Must Try Harder.
    I am stopping now, before i dig myself in any deeper
    the end.

  19. shorter version here, thanks to @johnpopham

  20. This is a minefield. So, a quotation:

    "Behind every successful man is a surprised woman." (Maryon Pearson)

    I'll also lob in that to be successful these days men need some traditionally 'female' character traits whilst women to be successful (sadly) have always needed traditionally 'male' ones.

  21. Thank you for the awesome comments so far. @dajbelshaw lobbed this in on Twitter which I thought was fascinating:

    Also, apologies to those commenters who it looks like I ignored, I didn't refresh the page before reading and responding.

    Chris@ I think confidence is a major major issue, coupled with something Amber touches on further down which is that to stand up and say 'I want to state I am an expert on this and I know what I am talking about it' is quite difficult.

    @Duncan I did comment that after the 'trad' conference bit the balance equalled out much better with the workshops and unconference bit. I felt it important to mention that. I'm not on a witch hunt. I'm on a 'why the hell is this happening and what can we do about it' hunt.

    @ambrouk The next time I see a call for speakers I'm retweeting it straight at you. Because if I can see you doing it, and people like Ann Cunningham doing it, I ask myself why can't I. And so do other women and so it rolls. We all think something bad will happen if we put ourselves in front of others and self designate as an expert - but what actually is the worst that can happen? Do we know it will definitely happen? I have the utmost respect for women who speak and love the TED Women series - am I alone?

    @Catherine - I misheard the question but I still
    stand by the weirdness I felt at asking a bunch of blokes why women were missing (as it referred to an original tweet which specifically referenced women). So I decided to ask online and as an example of slacktavism - well I understand the issue a lot better than before I asked? And yes, it's easy to sit here and snipe from the sidelines, so now I'm trying to think how to persuade a professional speaker I know to give some free training to a bunch of incredibly capable women. But even in doing things there is a confidence issue. Can I? What if it goes wrong? What if no one comes. Running a workshop on Saturday was a big deal for me. But after making that comment I felt I had to.
    I thought the conference was fantastic and hope the other 20 or so tweets I sent reflected that but I find it interesting only 1 is remembered and is assumed to be negative despite best efforts to assure it was not.

    @Chris - I get you. I really do.

  22. Hello all, I'm Liz Hardwick and I ran the Plug-In-Lancashire workshop that Duncan and Catherine have mentioned. There are so many things that have already be raised in these comments already, I just wanted to put my opinions across too.
    As some people have already mentioned it's great if women are part of speaker and discussion boards, however it shouldn't just be "because we need to have a woman there" that just seems to defeat the idea of empowerment.
    In my opinion, in this specific situation, I was in the right place at the right time to put the idea forward to the organisers of the event, way back in June when the idea was bouncing around. There and then I said in some way, Plug-In-Lancashire would love to be involved and help out. I think it needs to be a two way street though, I'd been helping out at some of their events prior to this, and I knew this would benefit our group to promote to a different audience.
    The reason speakers normally get asked is because they are the ones that are either always doing talks, or are at the front of the organisers minds, this again goes back to being there at the right time and making your intentions know to anyone who will listen. Men are historically better than women at this, we just need time to catch up.
    At the moment we are trying to promote #pluginlancs far and wide across Lancashire and it's speaking at events that helps us do this, and I'm thankful for the opportunity #sovoltech11 gave us.
    Recently I was very proud to be asked to do a talk at GeekUpBlackpool as a catalyst to get more women at the event, this was their 3rd meeting, they noticed the lack of women and wanted to try and make an effort to address this. I was asked to speak and also invite all the women I knew who would be interested to join us. I think this was a very positive and forward thinking move.
    I find normally that for social media and community media that I'm the only female at most things, I think the #sovoltech11 had 50/50 women/men because a large percentage of the attendees were actually VCFS and NPO reps rather than techies. There are many more females in social worker roles than men, then this story flips on it's head again.
    If event organisers are struggling to find speakers they should feel they can approach groups like the ones I help out with like Plug-In-Lancashire and Manchester Girl Geeks, to not only help find relevant speakers but also to seek advice and help about ways to try and improve female engagement, but these groups need to be open and willing to give this support. There's also something to be said for the time involved too, I spend a lot of time promoting these groups, talking at events and networking with anyone who will listen. This is what get's you in the front of people's minds, when they need to call on someone.
    If you want to gain more confidence to be able to put yourself out there as a speaker, it's worth linking up with these groups to gain the support in a non-judgemental environment if ladies are worried about what men will think, before putting yourself forward for the next big event.
    I recently got asked to refer a speaker to the MD of for a NW conference, as they knew I was a member of Manchester Girl Geeks, two emails later, they had a speaker lined up. Again I think it's just being able to use those links to your advantage - either gaining speakers, or being a speaker yourself.
    I personally would not speak at an event, unless I really had something I wanted to say, on this occasion for #sovoltech11 I did, and I made sure I got this opportunity. I found that #sovoltech11 was a great success for getting the name out there. Definitely worth the time I put in for it.

  23. @Liz Hi :O) Your workshop was phenomenal.
    I too don't want tokenism. But I also don't want to sit here and do nothing either if there is something I should be doing to encourage more girls to talk.
    Women in Tech are awesome. Geek girl dinners are awesome. They're not awesome when you work in Blackburn, live in Accrington and don't drive. So I use online instead to learn.
    Finally, thank you for the awesome tips on networking and I am not, for the third time saying that #sovoltech was not good. It was brilliant and if I had intended to crucify them I would have named them so this post appeared in search listings on the hashtag.
    I deliberately did not.

  24. Hello everyone, I just want to add a few thoughts.

    The success of events such as the Girl Geek Dinners is testament to the fact that women want spaces where they feel comfortable to contribute and network. The existence of women-only and women-friendly events like this shows that there is something different that such spaces offer- something that so far, traditional conference/ unconference spaces don't offer.

    I don't think this is the fault of conference organisers, specifically. The issue is wider, and relates to who controls and contributes to our public discourse. Plus, nothing is served by having a dig at people who are trying to organise events in their own time and for the benefit of the wider community. All models should be amended as we go on, to better reflect the purposes we're trying to accomplish. Perhaps the time has come to have a think about the current model for organising such events.

    There is a pool of women out here who would make fantastic contributors to these debates and we're not being booked to speak. Are they not putting themselves forward? Are they being regarded as less interesting as other speakers? Do women lack expertise or confidence in the role of the speaker?

    I don't have the answers to this, clearly, we have some fantastic women out there doing fantastic work. Every bit as expert and interesting as any other potential speakers. They don't seem too timid, but may lack confidence. So, what to do about it?

    I think it could be useful to organise some women-friendly or woman only spaces in unconference format. Perhaps, we could ensure that for an event, we seek to have women speakers as a first preference. By seeking women speakers, we would find that the expertise they provide, that has been lacking from previous programmes and has such potential to contribute to understanding for us all. This could ensure that future events would have a more balanced intake of speakers, since it would create more women who are considered to be "on the circuit".
    This would additionally ensure that a cohort of women would have the confidence that would ensure they were able to speak, having tested the waters at a friendly event.

    I would hope that such events could pave the way for inclusion of speakers who were not all depressingly male, white, hetero and cis-gendered on every conference panel. Ultimately, we as delegates are missing the multiple perspectives of a more diverse selection of speakers, because diversity increases the richness of any debate and the fruitfulness of conclusions drawn from it.

    So thanks, Lou, for raising this. I don't see it as negative or critical, but perhaps it's time to pay it some attention...

  25. Just an aside- with reference to the parents who attended- who was providing the childcare for all the speakers' and delegates' children during their attendance at the unconference?

    I wonder if this is an additional barrier for some- certainly, weekend events for single parents (male and female would be very difficult due to the lack of available childcare) I suspect that the speakers' children were mostly being cared for by their partners (who I suspect might be women) in order to facilitate their attendance.

    This is probably not something most conference organisers might consider, but it could be worth bearing in mind if a woman friendly space is designed at an unconference? Or, I'm afraid the men might have to stay at home and look after the kids..... ;-)

  26. I tried to write a quick response to this but it ended up being a 24 volume essay about the gendered focus on tools instead of processes.

    An abridged version can be found here at my blog (its still too long for Blogspots 4096 chracter limit)

  27. I think there is a dangerous assumption being made here that everyone who stands up and speaks at an event is an "expert".

    As my twitter bio says, I am "constantly learning in public". The only thing I consider myself to be expert in is my own experiences, and that's what I talk about at events. My main reason for wanting to speak at events is to throw things into the pool, and hope others will take them up, refine them, and make something of them. I consider event speaking as a learning process for myself as much as for the "audience".

    I think if we assume that everyone who speaks at an unconference or informal event is an "expert", we risk opening up a divide which will make such events just as useless and irrelevant as traditional conferences are these days.

  28. I told women from three different organisations about SoVolTech, and introduced them to Duncan on Twitter. All of them would have been excellent speakers, if they had turned up! One organisation accepted, but sent a male speaker. One organisation declined. The third organisation expressed an interest, but by that time, all the speaker slots had been filled.

    I don't like all-boys gatherings, even though I'm allowed to attend them. There are plenty of smart women around! And even if they aren't on the platform, it's the audience that makes the event a success.

  29. I think both posts and discussions and , raises some interesting points on social media and diversity, clearly here the discussion has focused on gender, and many of the points raised are equally applicable for BME, LGBT and disabled communities and how inclusive is the world of social media? I have been looking at how BME communities access and use social media and are those communities engaged?
    An event exploring inclusion/diversity and social media? Anyone interested?

  30. @midhal definitely would be interested in hearing about other communities and how they are engaging. Think the idea of a diversity/inclusion and social media event is brilliant - let's make it happen!

  31. As someone who would have loved to have been at #sovoltech11 (it was just too big a trip for me to fund at that time) I don't think I would have offered to speak. Knowing who was in the room I don't feel particularly like an expert but having read all of these posts I'll put myself forward for some unconference stylee action at the next one.

  32. Wow - the comments on this post have gone crazy since I first tried to post mine and my phone got in the way! Some of my points might already have been covered in those comments but I'm being lazy / quick and only skim read!

    I'd have to say that I think this is a bigger issue than gender imbalance - panels also tend to be mainly white, middle class and middle aged at these things, also not truly representative.

    I think it is partly about speaking up and volunteering (and having the confidence to do so, and the support to do it too) but also laziness on behalf of event organisers. You tend to see lots of the same people speaking - no criticism of anyone here or any event mentioned here, just a personal observation.

    I was pleased that the speaking panel had an equal gender split when I spoke at the Public Sector Web Network Epic Social Media for the Public Sector event in Glasgow recently. There were three women and three men on the speakers list - not sure whether this was planned or just worked out that way!

    Also, what might be of interest is that Carrie Bishop tried to address this issue some time ago. I'm not sure how far she got but there was definitely a list of women who'd be happy to speak at conferences of this sort. Any use?

  33. There's a lot we can do to improve this situation. I like the way that Lou framed the question: "Why don't you offer to speak at conferences?" Because the gender balance in the room was more like 60% female, 40% male. It was only the speaker panel that was all male.

    Social media is all about developing conversations and growing communities and collectives. It's not about representing other people, it's about actually engaging and involving and creating a sense of "us". The audience makes the conversation and the community.

    I think it's good that we should be reflective about our practices, and discuss what we can do to keep improving them. I think the structure of Saturday's event could have been more participative, and that's something worth looking at for future events. The chairs were around tables on Saturday, which is much beter than in rows, but we didn't do any group work; if we chatted amongst ourselves, we didn't feed out chats back to the room.

    When I've been to events like this before, everybody in the room has stood up and introduced themselves, said where they were from and what they were interested in and hoped to get out of the day, and contribute to the day. That way, when the post-it pads for the unconferences go round you get lots of ideas, and get to cluster them.

    It's also important to recognise there are a lot of people around who like to sneer, and criticise, and undermine everybody else. You only have to look at the top of the comment thread here and you'll see one of the nastiest and noisiest of our neighbours has steamed in and started slagging off Catherine and Duncan.

    It really isn't surprising that people don't want to put themselves forward, if they're going to get treated like that. That's not a gendered thing either - it creates an environment where nobody wants to come forward except thick-skinned buggers with big egos who like throwing their weight around. That doesn't do any good. We all deserve better.

  34. Louise - really glad you posted this - I posted something similar about CityCamp London which was a brilliant event with terrible gender balance in the speakers - I also noted that it must be even worse if you look at this from the point of view of other minorities.

    However - this is a personal issue for me and I think we need to note the lack of women on panels and speaking as IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME. which is absurd (though possibly not absurd when you learn that we have a cabinet with more millionaires than women in it).

    I always like to have a plan and so rather than thinking about why its like this I have been thinking about how to have an effect on it myself. This is what I try and do:

    1) Put myself forward - I am horribly forward about doing this
    2) Try and suggest other women when events are being planned - have been running a twitter list of suggestions:!/curiousc/women-speakers-2-0
    3) Insist of gender balance for events I run
    4) Do exactly what you have done here and point out the lack of gender balance where people miss the mark

    I don't think that the kind of events that I attend are run by people who don't want to address this issue - everyone I have raised it with has been somewhere on the range from mortified to apologetic.

    There are brilliant women out there who can speak well on every topic. If organisers are not finding them its because the networks are not working to suggest them - so lets use our networks. We know when events are being planned - between us we should know the organisers - lets try to raise the issue before we have to write the disappointed blog post afterwards.

    So - slight rant over - glad you made me think about it again Louise - I will be going through my diary and seeing what events are coming up and seeing who I can bother about this issue in advance and the event happening!


  35. Hi all

    I'm really pleased that this post has generated interest and discussion. As alluded to and pointed out by some of the above responses, this issue extends way beyond the world of social media advocates and tech people. We live in a patriarchy, more value is put by those in power on what men say or do, so what we experience in our day to day lives is men dominating everything, from politics to social media conferences. In expressing this I in no way mean to suggest that all men do this, or that I don't want to work with men, or anything like that. But from the day you pop out of the womb, you are treated differently depending on your gender, and that can't but help shape how you are in the world.

    I've had a similar post brewing up inside me, so I'm grateful to you for expressing your feelings Louise. Mine relates to 3 experiences in very different settings:
    1) An evening class I attend in which women often outnumber men 2:1 yet men dominate the discussion with about an 80/20 split in favour of the men
    2) A conference I attended recently in which all the speakers were men... oh and surprise, surprise, most of the delegates asking questions were men, until finally a woman got heard
    3) A seminar (in a series on equalities and social justice) in which a smaller number of men than women attended, but quickly developed a conversation in which only male voices were participating, and women had a hard time nudging themselves in.

    Garry helpfully suggests in his post that it is worth exploring how open space processes can be used. I totally agree, and I think there should be emphasis on the *how* - what questions can be asked to ensure that individuals (male or female, or any other characteristic) don't dominate and that others can feel supported to contribute?. I can't help feeling that skilled facilitation is crucial, and I am not aware that it is an ingredient of unconferences (a reason why I shy away from them). I would love to hear from people who have been involved in open space processes who feel that there was a balance of contributions and support for those less likely to contribute. Then I can overcome my worries and get involved :-)