Visbility Matters: Gender Observations at a Recent Conference

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I have worked in my industry for almost 10 years now.  I am passionate about my profession and am proud of what I have achieved in my career.  I have experienced the “glass ceiling” a few times with different companies.  When that happened I simply moved to a different company, or location, and the problem solved itself.  Currently, I enjoy the corporation I work for, and ultimately believe in their vision and values.

From time to time, a few of my colleagues and I have talked about feeling like our workplace can be a “Boy’s Club”.  I have always thought that was something I felt solely based on the location I work at and that my concerns were not a company wide problem. Additionally, I have recently heard more and more about our company’s initiatives to better diversify and have more female leaders in key positions. This excites me!  The thought that my career could be fast-tracked to help diversify our North America leaders is promising and something I am very excited about.

Recently, I spent a week at a National convention for my corporation.  There were approximately 800 attendees in key positions from all over North America.  While the overall message of the conference was a good one, I felt baffled and frustrated throughout the week.  I have noted my observations below:

  • Presenters:
    • Total # of key speakers: 12
      • Total # of women on that list: 2
    • Total # of talks I listened to: 32
      • Total # of times a woman spoke: 7

Within the first few hours of the conference I was disappointed by the lack of representation of women on the stage.  How is that we could have a captive audience of 800 people and only 7 women presenting?

Throughout the week I thought a lot about the term “visibility”.  While I think it is great that companies have programs to support women, visibility matters.  If you want your company to be diverse, and for women to feel there is equal opportunity,  make space for them.  Make sure that you have women presenting and speaking at meetings.  It is that simple, if you want to be more diverse, then be more diverse.  Make a conscious effort to have equality in presenters and information.  Appeal to both the women and the men.  Strive for balance beyond one or two token women.

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