Where are the women?
Last fall I sat on a panel at a 4As conference on transformation. Despite a woman as moderator, my fellow panelists were all white men. Last month at the Mirren conference in New York, I joined an innovation panel. Once again, the panel had a woman moderator but four male participants.
At Colorado University, speaking at the annual Innovator Series, I discovered I was the fourth white male in four years. (My suggestion to the audience was to refuse attending next year unless the series featured a woman.) And more recently at a Google creative council, the industry creative leaders who attended numbered 14 men and no women. One woman had been invited but didn’t show.
Farrah Bostic, a senior planner at Digitas in New York, with support and encouragement from the likes of Cindy Gallop (they both had a hand in assembling this useful list) and others, has been keeping tabs on the ratios of men to women on the advertising industry’s panels and juries. Her assessment of The Effies, the Clios, the Jay Chiat Awards and others reveals numbers that are abysmal. For some reason, in an industry that’s filled with smart women (though not necessarily in the highest ranks), and an age in which the majority of purchases are made or influenced by women, the public voices remain men.
So what’s going on? Are we witnessing an outright prejudice on the part of event organizers and award shows? Do we simply perpetuate the problem when men invite men who invite more men? Or is it just the natural outcome of inviting whoever is top of mind when we make lists of leading talent, selecting the people we already know and with whom we’re comfortable? I know I do a little of that myself when planning workshops.
I asked Farrah what she thought and she was kind enough to offer the following, reflecting responses that she’s received from event organizers and jury chair people.
- Conference organizers recruit from their peers, colleagues, and those they admire. If they don’t know or know of women, they don’t invite them.
- If they can fill the panels or juries, then they’re done. They don’t like to un-invite people and it’s hard to add women after the fact.
- Many conferences require some amount of travel; not all conferences reimburse or pay their speakers. This can be a hardship for women who have kids at home, or who are struggling entrepreneurs.
- I keep hearing, “the women we ask want to be paid.” But the women they ask are Danah Boyd, Jane McGonigal, Amber Case, Marissa Mayer. Of course they want to be paid. They make a living writing and speaking or are in high demand.
- Today I heard this feedback – the 4As only want women who are ‘heads’ of departments and running the show.
- There’s an outright assumption that in the areas of technology, game theory, network theory, and analytics there aren’t enough women to choose from.
She also goes on to suggest some solutions.
- Stop depending on the people (department heads) who’ve stopped growing in their careers, are no longer hands-on, and are a step behind the trends and technology defining the industry’s future.
- Start with a determination to make the list (panel, jury, speakers) 50 percent men and 50 percent women. Even if you don’t achieve it you’ll be better for trying.
- Pass the #toomanywhitemen list around to all the event organizers you know. (And use the hashtag on Twitter.)
- Women themselves need to step forward and make themselves available to event organizers, taking some of the responsibility. (Good post here on self-advocating.)
Why do I care? Lots of reasons. I think the future of this industry depends on its diversity. As an event organizer myself I’ve been guilty of a 25 percent ratio. (That was our last BDW workshop ratio, though women did turn us down due to family/kids/travel challenges.) And I have a daughter.
If you have ideas, suggestions, observations, please share. And pass the list around.
I love what you are saying here. I have been wondering this same thing since I entered the field a few years ago. Going through school, I would be the only female in a class of 20 men. Even now after graduating and becoming an Engineer, I am still only one of two females on a team of 35 engineers. I was recently rewarded for all of the hard work it took to get here by being personally invited by Dr. Jill Biden to the White House and the Capitol. I hope my story can encourage other young women to enter the field as it is so very rewarding.
Clearly I am a little late to the conversation: but I am a female Canadian creative director, I have been a judge at Cannes Advertising (there were 3 woman on my jury) and I am speaker on the circuit. I am active in the social and emerging media space and been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work and build quite a few innovative programs over the years for my clients. Being female and a creative director has never been the focus of my thinking, though many times in my career I have been on "boy" business and the only or one of few woman in the room. I get the conversation on why there are so few woman creative directors and woman speakers, however I always wanted to be know for the quality of my work I produced not that I happen to be female. Saying that hats off to you Edward for this post, I like your work and follow some of your thinking, and thanks for pointing us to female advocates and lists. Great post
Thank you so much for writing this edwardboches !! You have become my favorite "person-I-never-knew-before-but-really-need-to-pay-attention-to" this month. And that's saying a lot, because I just got back from a 3-city, 3-conference, hundreds of new people tour on Saturday.
Things like disparity and lack of diversity don't just go away because we are aware of them, but because we take direct actions to end them. And it's really hard to be the one taking those steps when you *know* that doing so isn't just a matter of increasing the presence of women and non-white participants, but in needing to decrease the numbers of white males in order to do so. Because no one is particularly fond of thinking "wait, so I have to give up something I like doing so that someone else has the opportunity to do it?" No matter how many people say "it's not an 'or' equation it's an 'and' equation" in our heart of hearts, we know that there are a limited number of opportunities and that people have a limited number of hours and dollars to invest in those.
It's a rather simple numbers game - for more kids to have the opportunity to get on the swings, you either need to build more swings, or have some kids get off. Building more swings (or conferences/events) seems like the nicest choice, but when there's an audience and $ to be considered, it's not the mostly likely.
The thing is - I don't always think of my self as "coming from a woman's perspective" any more than I think of most male speakers as "coming from a man's perspective." Unless we are talking about "how do women of X demographic tend to perceive/see/react to something?" I seldom think of the gender of the speaker in favor of what s/he is saying - does it resonate? am I learning something? is there value?
But I think that's because of my own age. I'm not looking for women as role models so much as people who have information or experience that I can get from them. Were I 20 years younger - I'm sure I would be questioning why there weren't as many "successful" women in a given arena as men.
Still, I have wondered for awhile why the answer of "what does X-demographic value?" isn't simply asked of someone who represents X-demographic well. If you are asking "what do marketing executives think?" or "what do computer programmers think?" I'm fairly sure that gender is a tertiary quality there. But if you're asking "what do hispanic female consumers think?" the answer will seldom be one provided by someone not from that group.
Nonetheless, I kind of rudely came an participated in your comments before writing my own. I apologize. I just wanted to see how the conversation had evolved from your post and got a little excited by some of the comments. I hope you'll forgive my abrupt entry into your dialog - but I look forward to reading many more of them after this.
LucretiaPruitt All good points. I don't feel qualified to confront some of the ethnic inequalities so didn't go there. This was simply my personal experiences in doing a fair amount of speaking and participation in these things. I now try to do the following. One, I try and convince people who invite me to talk to consider a women from our agency instead. Or at least I inquire as to the ratio. I may still do the appearance (reluctantly if the ratio is bad) but work hard to make the point. Two, from now on when I'm running a panel I make an extra effort to include women. It's easy to have these conversations. What's harder is to effect actual change.
edwardboches I really love those approaches - but yes, hope you continue to keep your own speaking up - it's quite obvious that you have a lot of useful, relevant information to share!
Edward, really great post. I've been discussing this very topic for years with fellow women colleagues. At BDW, we always struggled with having women teach. At GS&P, I'm happy to say we're running at a good 60/40 (40% women) teaching digital. I had to stop talking to the same group of men, I was perpetuating the problem as well. I think the same group of people, support the same group of people. I'd love to see this change. That Google stat for Creative Counsel is embarrassing for them. Wow. Thanks!
Swervshop To Google's credit, most of their people at the program and running it were women. I believe the attendees is more reflection of the advertising industry and having women in very senior C-level creative slots at highly regarded shops. Look across the CP&B, Goodby, Martin, TBWA, Weiden, et. al. What percentage of ECDs or GCDs even are women?
Several of the women championed in this article -- Shelly Kramer, Mary Lou Quinlan and Stephanie Smirnov -- are speaking at an upcoming conference that will have ALL women on the stage and ALL men in the audience. The 3% Conference (www.3percentconf.com) is the first-ever Marketing to Women Conference for Men. Men with senior roles in marketing can hear from the elusive 3% of female creative directors (and other marketing to women thought-leaders) so they can become Guys Who Get It. You don't have to be a woman to understand how to market to women. But you have to care enough to know what you don't know -- and to recognize that male groupthink at most agencies can be suicide to your brand's survival.
The 4a's Account Planning Committee was never a board level committee. However, it is made up (mostly) of department heads and very senior people. I explained this to Farrah simply to demonstrate the fact that planning is, and always has been, a major priority for the 4A's. Now the narrative is "the 4A's only wants women who are heads of departments and running the show." That's taken out of context and a little unfair.
jenkseidel Accept my apology then please. I received that quote in an email from @farrahbostic and shortened it in an effort to emphasize a point. Did not mean to speak for the 4As. That being said, I'm thrilled to see that this is on your radar and that it matters to an organization that is trying to advance numerous causes in the industry. Per our email exchange I've left the initial post intact (as you said was fine) but welcome this and any other thoughts or comments you want to share. Thanks so much for your clarification.
jenkseidel Jen, I apologize for the misunderstanding. I didn't mean to suggest that the planning committee had been board level and now wasn't, or that it wasn't important to the 4As (though I do think since the APG shuttered several years ago the planning community, particularly in NYC, has not really found another 'home'). I also didn't mean to put words in anyone's mouth - the impression I got from our conversation and my chat with Nancy was that the desire of the committee members was to keep committee members and jury chairs at the senior-most levels. I didn't think that was exclusive to women; it's an unfortunate result that because women are less well represented at the highest levels in agencies they might not be on the radar of the committee members.
During our conversation I also said that I would very much like to help #changetheratio within the 4As. I have no doubt of your commitment to diversity on panels and juries; what I can provide is a list and access to those people and a bit of attention given to the issue so we can collaboratively improve matters.
There is one other thing that has come up in the penumbra of other comments on this post... My intention in posting the ratios of women as jurors and committee members and winners of awards in some of the current shows was not to blame but to measure. Maybe this is all part of the 'lean planning' idea I've been experimenting with and thinking about lately, but the idea is to have a vision, work towards that vision, and then measure progress or success so we can learn and improve. Right now I think most of the commenters here share a vision (more representative panels, fresh ideas from people we don't often hear from), but we haven't come up with a transparent and accountable approach to ensuring we meet that vision. I think taking the occasional headcount (by gender, ethnicity, topics, disciplines, seniority) to see how we're doing could be helpful - as a progress report, not a badge of shame.
But I also want to be clear - I'm not interested in the ratio for its own sake. The point of the #toomanywhitemen list is two-fold: to identify women at the top of the field who otherwise are less well known to the industry at large, and to spur this kind of discussion. It serves *no one* to sacrifice smarts, perspective and communication skills - we want great panelists, great speakers, great jurors, great committee members. But for too long it's been a false dichotomy that you have to sacrifice quality to get diversity. The list, I hope, illustrates the falseness. It should also be a tool, not a taunt; we should USE the list to get more points of view, more representation, and yes, more women on the stage and shaping the industry.
So I renew my offer - I want to help. Let's talk about how.
farrahbostic Great, and thank you. We have the October Planning/Strategy 'un' conference in development, and you can be sure that the ratio will be balanced. I met with the ladies from Digital Flash NYC yesterday to help us think outside of the box in terms of making the event highly collaborative and digital--not just people on a stage, and not just agency people.
I'm also thinking about developing a female-focused industry event where senior women can share success stories and lessons learned to help that next wave of leaders break through and become known. Maybe with someone like Mika Brzezinski (Knowing Your Value).
My first creative director was a woman, my previous agency's executive committee was all women, my current agency's executive committee is all women. The first person to judge in Cannes from the Philippines was a woman. I had no lack of role models when I was a copywriter trainee 20 years ago. Women hold many of our top marketing positions. The only time I become conscious of gender disparity is when I attend international conferences and award shows - and when I read an article like this. It makes me wonder what it's like in the rest of Asia.
Thanks for provoking such an eye-opening discussion.
Great post and interesting conversation that should be noted for its pleasant exchange of thoughts!
The viewpoint I found missing was the role of motherhood. It's been an eyeopening experience for me to go from 10+ years of being career driven to now need to choose between time spent furthering my voice and spending time with my child. Because, unfortunately anything in excess of client/billable work must be done 'after' (or before!) business hours, after client travel, after everything that 'must' get done.
Perhaps an element of Ben's self-selection?
datamy Yes, true. Have noticed in our own company, historically that when women have kids they obviously don't want the 60 hour weeks and four week shoot schedules that take them away from home. We attempt to create flex work schedules and other options, though it's still hard. So yeah, the business itself is not always the friendliest that way. Ideas?
edwardboches datamy Kudos to Mullen for finding ways to make motherhood 'work'! I'm always fascinated by the fact that, for an industry that prides itself on being innovative and forward (not to mention open) thinking, the 'in the office for the sake of the team' paradigm continues to be the norm. There seems to be a belief that in the office, between 9 and 5 (or 8) is the only way to be productive. Not conducive to the flexibility needed for motherhood...or, if we're honest with ourselves, creative thinking. Idea: there are enough successful business models (JetBlue customer service, still?) of physical decentralization actually adding to productivity...why can't entrenched agencies behave 'virtually' (if we need a label)?
The second stream of thought is to your original point re: the quantity of women as thought leaders, evidenced at conferences. Perhaps, to answer your 'ideas' question (through the motherhood lens) is as pat as saying a flexible work life would provide the pockets needed to think (the freedom), and then move those thoughts forward (the time). I think it's finding a way within the 'work' context to nurture thought leaders - obviously that combination of leadership, vision, mentoring, and institutionalizing the concept. Easy!
edwardboches datamy I rather question why this doesn't happen to more Dads, actually. There's still the stereotyping that motherhood changes a woman's priorities, but fatherhood is just a reason to try and climb the ladder faster to make more money.
It seems to surprise people when the roles are switched and a Dad wishes more flexibility to be with his family, or a Mom wants to achieve more career success in order to have money to pay for things.
We may have women in the workplace, but we still have Mommy/Daddy roles firmly entrenched as well.
Edward, I'm glad you've started this discussion. The same discussion has been happening elsewhere, which is somewhat encouraging. If you didn't see Sarah Milstein's blog post about it for O'Reilly, you should definitely check it out: http://radar.oreilly.com/2011/03/would-i-attend-my-own-conferen.html
While that discussion was more about tech conferences than advertising/creative events, I think the situation is essentially the same. In fact, I'd encourage you to learn more about why women rarely make it into the C-suite of tech companies by reading the comprehensive research report by the National Center for Women in Information Technology at: http://ncwit.com/thefacts
This is serious research, not conjecture, but it basically boils down to one thing: lots of women start careers in technology. They just don't get promoted because the boys at the top want to promote people who are like themselves. No surprise there. It would be awesome for an industry group (4As???) or university to undertake the same type of study within advertising and marketing, but I'll bet it would yield the same results.
So, back to the problem of conferences. I think speakers generally reflect who is at the top of any given profession, so it's a systemic problem that is far wider than the speaker selection process. That said, I think the business model of not paying conference speakers (except for keynote speakers who have books to peddle) is also somewhat at fault. As another commenter pointed out here (and I pointed out on the O'Reilly blog), women make less money and often have more demands for their time (at least those that have families). Spending $1k-$3k to attend an event to work for free (not including the opportunity cost of creating a presentation and missing work) might not be that attractive to a lot of women. Or they simply can't justify it.
I've spoken at many conferences, but not so much anymore unless I can get some expenses covered. It's fun, but not always a productive way to spend what could otherwise be billable time.
BTW, I think all of these conversations apply equally (if not more so) to minorities.
One final point (that likely won’t go over too well with at least half of your readers), I honestly think a major reason that so many men are speakers (executives, managers, and a lot of other things) is because they don’t have enough self-awareness to realize that what they have to say or offer isn’t all that interesting or groundbreaking. Men are MUCH more likely to think they are fascinating (when they aren't) and have expertise in a topic when they actually don’t. Women, on the other hand, generally don’t put themselves out there as “experts” unless they REALLY know their stuff. Women aren’t brought up to have the same entitlement attitudes and braggadocio tendencies that men have. That’s just my personal observation, but I’m sure we’ve all seen this time and again in the workforce. Think about it.
CarriBugbee CarriBugbee That is an awesome line and thought (and funny in a sad way): "Men are MUCH more likely to think they are fascinating (when they aren't) and have expertise in a topic when they actually don’t. Women, on the other hand, generally don’t put themselves out there as “experts” unless they REALLY know their stuff." I may never speak again.
I've been really enjoying the debate this conversation has - pun absolutely intended - engendered. A couple of thoughts to throw in here:
* I'm completely uninterested in 'quotas'. They set up bad incentives. And I think the 'quota' conversation is always reduced to a false choice: Qualified Man A versus Unqualified Woman B. This logic is soooo.... Reagan-era. I'd hoped we'd moved on by now. I want Qualified Man A *and* Qualified Woman B.
* But I do think goals are good. If we said, as we assembled panels or juries, that it would be ideal to have representative panels - representative of the industry, representative of our consumers - then we could set it aside as a subject of agita and just have it be part of the process. Instead of relying solely on 'who do I know' - which is, whether we want to admit it or not, a pretty good way of getting a panel that could just as easily be labeled as 'who is like me' - then we might be required to look outside our comfort zones. These would make for more dynamic and interesting conversations, and - note to conference organizers feeling the budget squeeze - events people will pay to attend.
* That said, I think there are some conference organizers who don't even need the quota. I was on a panel at Social Media Week where the dynamic flipped. We had a white male moderator, three women, and an African American man. Everyone was smart and awesome. The audience didn't recoil in horror. No white men were harmed. They weren't looking for men or women, African Americans or whites. They were looking for smart people who could talk about cross-mobile marketing. They got a media strategist, a publisher, a creative and a strategist; and entrepreneurs moderated and organized the panel. I want this to be reflexive - done without thinking. But we have work to do before everyone is as progressive.
* I talked about this issue of self-promotion with @shirky about a year ago, after Clay's post about women's poor record of self-promotion. I agreed with Clay whole-heartedly; not a lot of people at the time did... and Clay said something that sticks with me: "I'm looking at next Wednesday, and next Wednesday looks about as sexist as today, so I want to know what we're going to do about next Wednesday." Waiting for society to change over to a place where we are all beautiful and unique snowflakes, prized for our independent perspective and diversity of opinions sounds to me like a long wait. I want to get those snowflakes up on the stage or in the jury pool now, before they even know how beautiful they are.
* I took inspiration in my call to #changetheratio in advertising from @rachelsklar. There is no kinder, more generous, or less hostile/aggressive person in the universe, and there are also very few people more effective. Rachel's call to arms with #changetheratio is this: "We love men, we love women. We just don't love the ratio." I don't want @benkunz or @bud_caddell *not* to be on panels, I just want @cindygallop and @sprinzette and @lizgumbinner and @smulokwa on them too. If nothing else, I found myself last year after #planningness considering going to BDW but passing because I'd already seen most of those panelists (for less money, and fewer miles traveled) already. I'm bored. I want new points of view.
* Bud, you're not wrong - gender balance is no guarantee of a diversity of viewpoints. But I'd wager it increases the probabilities considerably. Diversity is a difficult 'metric' - what do we mean by diversity (you mean diverse views, someone else means diversity of race, etc.)? I'm not asking for diversity; I'm asking for representation. I agree with Cindy that you can't be what you can't see. I have been lucky to have amazing women mentors (and amazing men as mentors - some of whom gave me my biggest 'breaks') - I want to ensure that this is a possibility for young women coming up in the industry.
* Women face a ghetto at conferences in advertising, tech and other fields. Fashion, family and feminism? Women on the dais, women in the seats. Tech, automotive, sports, finance? Men on the dais, men in the seats. Men buy clothes and have children and care about women's rights (well, a lot of the men I know do); and women drive cars, code, watch football or NASCAR or hockey, and have retirement/investment/savings accounts. Why can't we be in on the conversation? We'll happily have you in our discussions of 'work-life balance' and 'having it all' and 'what not to wear' if you'll include us in discussions about the future of the internet, who'll make the play-offs, whether to go diesel or electric, and who pitched best at TechCrunch Disrupt.
* THE HASHTAG. I don't love it - but I embraced it ... let's face it - #toomanywhitemen, coined by one of those white men? The irony and self awareness was too good to let go. If @edwardboches can hack it, I think you can survive, too. :)
* Evolution & Biology: why does this come up in every conversation about women in tech? Women have been pioneers in every field of inquiry or endeavor in science and technology (Ada Lovelace, Marie Curie, the women who programmed ENIAC, I could be here all day typing names). However many thousands of years of evolutionary biology have built human bodies and brains for a great many things, but I would argue the most compelling uses of our bodies and brains are curiosity, adaptation and progress. Men and women have this in common; we should share the endeavor. Most of all, when people start talking about evolutionary biology and what condition a woman's brain was in at puberty, I hear my impatient father's voice saying, "THAT WAS THEN. THIS IS NOW."
* @stueccles said this to me and it never ceases to be the most persuasive argument: why would you actively exclude 50% of the talent pool?
Anyway - thanks to all for the amazing conversation and ideas that are being shared here; and thank you Edward for supporting the cause.
farrahbostic - I absolutely love this. I'm at a point in my life where I look at my daughter and think "crap. We were supposed to be much further along than this by now. I don't want her growing up thinking the same thing about her daughter."
Tomorrow is another day, yes. But waiting for it to magically evolve into a non-gender biased, non-racial biased day is futile. It's what we do today that makes tomorrow worth waking up to.
Here's what I vote for:
1. Edward, you should put on the conference, rather than allowing all of those other people to do so and then just accepting the invitation. I would bet that it would be an AMAZING conference.
2. You'd have to do at least one panel with @BenKunz and Cindy. And then let them help you fill out the other panels.
3. Bud is onto something about SXSW: most of those all male panels sucked. Probably one of the best panels I attended was with @uberblond and @jtwinsor.
4. Who says quotas are all bad? Make it a rule that if you can't get a killer panel with at least half women (or half something else) don't do it.
I'm sending in my advanced check today.
1. Rather than bias, dare I say it, the problem could be natural self-selection. Panels in our industry tend to combine technology and advertising; tech has always attracted more males (see your IT department) and speaking requires a healthy dose of aggression (yes, found most typically in males). The male inclination for geekiness + testosterone could be a source here.
2. The problem could stem from how humans develop. Studies of adolescent development find that both boys and girls progress in mathematics and spacial relations (the foundations for a career in tech) *until* they hit puberty, when the wash of hormones tends to cap our learning curves. Women, of course, hit puberty on average several years before men, and so their inclination in this space may be stymied by a natural selection. The latest bloomers in puberty -- the geekiest males in the chess club -- make the furthest progression in math, and this swell could be a root cause for their high numbers in the tech fields. This is not to claim one gender is better than another; it is simply a fact that as our bodies and minds change, we cap our aptitude for math, and men are slower at becoming adults than women so have an advantage in the geek-development years of pre-adolescence.
3. Finally, does it matter? Yes, I said it. I look forward to the day when panelists and leaders are picked by their aptitude and not their skin or race. I'm a white male, so should I be deselected from future consideration? Barack Obama is half white, yet we call him black. Our society's obsession with labels is silly, likely a necessity since we are just getting over thousands of years of bias and so need to overcompensate, but eventually these days will end. Yes, I'd love to see more women on stage ... but what I'd really like to see is more smart humans.
The implication that "people are all the same on the inside" has always been a convenient talking point but it simply isn't true. White people have different perspectives than people of color. Women have different perspectives than men. We should have no fear in acknowledging and embracing these differences, and putting diverse voices front and center so that our industries can learn and grow from them.
"Does it matter?" If you read the astute comments in this thread, clearly it does.
benkunz Every survey and study of women says that they think most marketers are clueless when it comes to engaging and connecting with them. (Bring home the bacon anyone?) There have been a few exceptions, If You Let Me Play, Real Beauty, Eileen Fisher. This is not about quotas or sacrificing smarts. This is about trying to get an industry that is supposed to be good at reaching/reflecting/persuading everyone to get more open minded. It's always the white men (and Clarence Thomas) who make the label argument in reverse.
So often, I hugely appreciate what you have to say, and the articulate way in which you contribute, but I take issue with each of your statements above:
1. Public speaking requires confidence, not aggression. I don't think confidence is an inherently male trait - and nor is aggression for that matter. Given the opportunity, people can be trained to speak well in public. Also, I'm lucky to work alongside a number of female geeks, who would certainly take umbrage at the notion that they don't have a healthy amount of geekiness.
2. I question the scientific evidence behind statements like "men are slower at becoming adults".
3. Of course it matters - I'm surprised you even asked - women should be equally represented on these panels, not purely for equality's sake, but because we have something intelligent, considered and valuable to contribute. Is the more pertinent question not, why do we have to fight so hard to be heard?
benkunz sad that you even have to ask if it matters. there is no sense of collective responsibility as a community to make sure that we are doing the right thing? though it is encouraging that most people disagree with you.
benkunz It DOESN'T seem to matter if you're already part of the 'in-crowd'. I'm not going to get on a soap box and plead my case from a standpoint of weakness. Yes, I hate labels as well, but we'll never get away from them. It's human nature to label as a way of organizing and navigating life. But if we can get to the point where we can have frank discussions and put all our biases on the table and explore each others baggage we'll be much better off. There are some things that I will never understand because they are intrinsically male or intrinsically Iranian. There's only so much insight we can gain from Simmons data. But having access to people of different persuasions can provide insights we would have never even considered because we've never had to LIVE as that, whatever that may be.
P.S. I've been in the IT industry for YEARS and unfortunately I still remain in the minority as a woman and an ethnic minority. There is so much opportunity for change!
benkunz Ben - 1. Forgive me for being straightforward, but natural self-selection has fuck all to do with it. There are many initiatives going on to tackle the root of this issue - to get more girls onto the computer science/tech track in high school.
Those initiatives will succeed when - sad to say but true - guys think girls who take science and math in high school and work hard at those subjects are hot and dateable.
2. See 1.
3. Yes, it does.
Every so often, I do this from a conference stage. I address the men in the audience and I ask them to do this:
I’d like you to imagine something for me.
Imagine that, for years, you’d been attending conferences where you never saw anyone of your own gender onstage.
Imagine that you never saw speakers and role models of your own gender, whom you could look up at and think, wow, if they can do it, then so can I.
And imagine that all around you, the vast majority of the audience at those conferences were not your own gender either.
How do you think you’d feel?
Well – that’s what we women live with all the time. Otherwise known as ‘the norm’.
The issue is role models.
You can't be what you can't see.
Men who have daughters - and particularly men who have daughters graduating college and entering the workforce - tend to convert to this perspective pretty quickly.
cindygallop1 Cindy, I like your response. I understand that societies, like trains, have inertia, and a culture in which women (or any other group) are not represented fairly misses the diversity of voice, ideas, and inclusion that is ideal. Inertia must be changed, yes.
My underlying beef is not with the concept of rebalancing or redirecting society to include women where they belong, in this case on stage as equal, smart humans, but with the "too many white men" label of this debate I've seen here or on Twitter that redirects bigotry toward the current incumbents. It's not fair that white men crowd the stage, of course, but to caste a negative label on white men such as myself is not the way to fix the problem.
As far as my thesis that the root motivation may have something to do with the innate differences in our bodies, minds, and how we develop as teens, I don't think that can be disputed. Equal rights does not mean we are the same, and I think everyone can agree that what makes us male or female leads to different characteristics and aptitudes. Such differences in mind lead to the diversity of ideas that are the root cause of this debate -- we need more of that.
All I ask is that you pan out -- way out -- to look at our society's evolution, and to hope as I do for the day that when asking whether someone is a woman, man, gay, straight, black, white, short brown hair like mine or long flowing gray locks like Edward's won't matter. "Why does it matter?" In that global view, superficial descriptions really should not.
Thanks for debating.
benkunz cindygallop1 Ben Ben Ben, now you are backing down from your evolutionary arguments. A. You never mentioned that the hashtag bothered you until now. B. You, who has a brilliant sense of humor and an appreciation for irony, not to mention hyperbole, should know that it's a bit over the top for a purpose (to get a rise out of people) but that it's not meant to be taken literally. C. It was available as a hashtag and you have to grab real estate quickly. (Kidding.) D. You and Cindy would make a great two some on stage to battle out this issue. We'll talk about that.
benkunz cindygallop1 now that I can stand fully behind. I look forward to that day too. I just think we have to make it happen rather than waiting for it to show up on its own.
benkunz - holy crap was that sexist nonsense. The idea that reaching physical maturity later somehow translates into a better facility for math is poor logic at best. If Suzy's capacity for mathematics is X and John's capacity for mathematics is X -1, no matter how many years John has before his brain apparently solidifies into sexist goo, he won't be better at it than Suzy, who not only reached X at an earlier age, but has had years of experience at X-level when John hasn't even had one at X-1.
Seriously dude. Quit buying into the tragic logic. Geekiness isn't something that happens just prior to puberty, it's part of who you fundamentally are. It's the sexist crap that a woman faces in the Tech industry that is the reason that enrollment of girls in Computer Science has declined steadily over the past 20 years after climbing for so many before then.
No, you the white male should not be discriminated against. Not if you're really, truly good at what you do. But to pretend that you don't have an advantage based on your gender & race is never going to help the issue. Here - read this and educate yourself. http://www.uakron.edu/centers/conflict/docs/whitepriv.pdf Ms. McIntosh's essay is considered pretty definitive on the subject.
I have privileges due to my race, the society into which I was born and the country, and the economic prosperity of my parents. That doesn't make me inherently more qualified or smarter than someone without those advantages, but it sure does make me more likely to benefit from opportunity than those without them, and less likely than someone who is white & male.
@farrahbostic @edwardboches I am SOO the opposite of a white man and trust me, I have known it every day I've been in school (currently at the Brandcenter) and working in the industry. I went to SXSWi this year and I found myself checking out the 'uniform' of the conference attendees and speakers. Needless to say the abundance of folks I saw and listened to on panels were not women nor ethnic minorities. I think it would be interesting to conduct an anonymous conversation about gender, race, etc to hear exactly what people think uncensored. I think we'd all be better off if we can get our junk out on the table and deal with it without judgement for our biases and points of view.
I do have to admit that somehow it still feels somewhat awkward to do a great deal of self promotion...it feels like bragging, which I guess is the essence of self promotion. I feel like it's akin to being a tattle tale since both are rooted in self interest. Add to that always being told as a black kid, that I have to work twice as hard to get the same level of respect/grades/etc as my counterparts. It took some growing up to get to the point where I could see the value in being confident enough in MY skills and ideas to fight for them to see the light of day. I'll be following this thread and thank YOU for raising the conversation.
smulokwa farrahbostic edwardboches I think that is alot of it women are much less likely to self promote. There also is an old boy networking that has been passed on, we learn from what has been modeled. Not too many of our mothers were taking us out networking! Also, look at some of the male speakers and imagine their female counterpart. There is a large double standard in expectation for polished good looks from women vs men. Male geeks can be grossly overweight or thin and bald and its irrelevant not so much for females. Females still have to attract to be heard. Males can be heard to attract. Not fair but reality!
However I speak on a different circuit and can tell you that once you get heard a few times all the scales of prejudice fall and the playing field levels its carving out the opportunity!
smulokwa farrahbostic edwardboches Sybilina, I didn't want to go there, but that's an even bigger issue. At my last BDW workshop, 80 attendees and only one, maybe two non-whites. It was pointed out to me by a co-speaker and I made a bit of a stink about it to the attendees themselves reminding them that their agencies and companies needed more diversity and that it looked pretty bad to have everyone in whom their companies were investing training be white. There are lots of reasons we have this problem, but in a diverse country, a global economy, a changing culture, it's a major shortcoming for ourselves and the clients we serve.
Thanks to Edward, Farrah, Cindy, Soulkat and others for helping to motivate progress in this area. Women leaders continue to make strides but are underrepresented at the top. There's no doubt that this lack of inclusion in leadership roles impacts invitations offered to many sharp women to serve as judges or speakers.
Here are a few quick thoughts on ways to continue the progress on the speaker front:
• Encourage male leaders to turn over one or two high profile judging or speaking invitations they receive each year to a great woman in their firm.
• Academic institutions understand that by requiring faculty members to publish "to make public", both the faculty member and the institution's profile are raised. Maybe it's time for business to follow this example. More firms could set a specific, annual speaking or judging goal as part of the job description and review of key professionals (both women and men). With this incentive, more business people will make a point to promote themselves. Side benefit: As they focus on putting themselves on the map, the company's profile will be raised, too.
• Lobby the board members of the 4A's and other influential industry groups to develop and promote a woman speakers bureau, starting with the toomanywhitemen list as a base.
• Encourage a high profile group to develop an important national conference with a reverse female to male ratio of speakers and then promote the hell out of it.
• Women can ask their buddies in other firms to remember to suggest them if their friends are invited to speak at or judge an industry event.
• Review and share feedback on great women speakers so that others organizing events can learn of them, too.
cooktench Diane, this is a terrific set of suggestions. We're working on the 4As, but could use all the help we can get. Our goal is also to develop the list beyond a list - we've got the basics of a CMS in place that will allow us to use the emails, titles, twitter handles that we don't have enough of from some of the names below (but don't worry, lots of googling in my future!)... and will be a place for women to flog their papers, speeches, panel or conference participation, slideshares, awards, etc. This way there's some context to the names, and also a bit of positive feedback that says - yes, make great work, think big, share ideas, explore new territories... AND GET CREDIT FOR IT.
i also think there's going to have to be a sea change in agencies' desire to keep hold of what their employees are thinking, doing, making and talking about. Because you're right - we're investing in a million little brands here, and when smart people get credit, the company gets credit. But not all agencies see it this way - yet.
farrahbostic A CMS will be great for sharing information. I'm happy to google info or help in some other way. I'll contact you next week when I'll have a bit more time.
Edward, Women in business can be found in the same place as women in the trades, and women in the professions. Just under the testosterone ceiling. We can be be business owners, educators, contractors, CEO's, and yet most of us still are required to have male approval for advancement or contracts. Or to be asked to speak. Seems to be.
We women can give wonderful talks and we can travel. Sometimes we choose not to. The women 40 and under have lived with technology and they are innovative and bright. The over 40's have adapted and that is also important in business. Women have great things to say and to teach and to talk about. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Edward, sometimes we women use our family obligations as a convenient excuse for not saying yes to an invitation. We simply don't want to take part any longer in being the 'accepted'. And we don't want to be included just for the numbers. We should demand to be vital members.
I've been writing about exclusive white-haired pink-cheeked men for a number of years. Locally here we have two clubs. One that is more well known is The Inner Circle. The members are either all white, pink-cheeked men or they have some really hairy women under those top hats. www.groundhog.org/inner-circle/ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Thank you Edward for your post, I think organizations can change this by setting a public goal of 50/50 male/female ratio, this will pressure the organizers to work even harder to find female panelist. They may not achieve this goal at first, but with a genuine effort the gap can be reduced over time. The official opposition party in Canada has been working towards the goal of 50/50 male/female ratio for electing Members of Parliament. In the last election they were able to run 40% women candidates and successfully electing 39% women MPs. If this gap can be reduced in politics, which is a very harsh environment for women, then I believe it can also be achieve for panels discussions. I am a student of advertising and not yet in the industry but I've seen plenty of women who can make great contributions to panel discussions.
Thank you so much for this post! I'm sick of the lame excuses and lack of effort to include more women. In fact, after noticing ihaveanidea's new book CD:Y0 had ZERO women featured in it, I tweeted them to see what the deal was. He claimed that he asked "both sexes, and it was the ones that wrote back that made the book." I just find this really hard to believe and completely unacceptable.
As someone who attends his fair share of conferences, I'd love to see more diversity in speakers and panels. But I suppose I measure diversity more strictly in terms of perspectives, opinions, and attitudes. The advertising echo chamber is often smaller than the actual conference itself - each panel at SXSW generally repeated themselves far too often. A diversity of gender and race can surely help fulfill this requirement, but toying around with anything that smacks of a quota seems, to me, to be missing the larger goal of diversity. Maybe I'm sensitive as a white male. That's possible. I'm also sensitive that I feel like I have a diverse perspective and it feels strange to be discounted as a speaker solely because of my race and gender. I have no argument that our industry could use more diversity of all kinds, this whole debate just seems a little myopic to me.
bud_caddell Yes you do sound like a sensitive white male. A smart one, yes. Perhaps diverse in his thinking, even. But come on, you think that a panel of all white men can actually represent the thinking of women? You are delusional. Just as someone who's open minded and progressive believes he can empathize with urban minorities. Or just as a biological parent thinks that a friend's children who were adopted are just like her own. And, let's admit, all of these events are incredibly clubby (I admit guilt as well; I invite my known friends to BDW and will have to fight instinct to change that.) Surprised that you suggest that this argument is myopic. I hate to say it to someone I respect so much, but I fear it's your view that's myopic this time. Hope you like debate.
edwardboches Ha, you know I like debate. I'm taking issue with quotas, specifically, so I think we actually agree. To your point, I don't think a panel of all white men can represent the perspective of other genders, but I think diversity is, ahem, more diverse than simply mixed genders. If you have a panel representing the exact distribution of race and gender of the world (not our industry, b/c that is decidedly a bro-fest) that still talks about the same ol' shit, it's not a diverse panel or presentation. My point of contention of this conversation is that gender diversity always equals diversity. People inherently accept the simplest solution that satisfies their immediate need, so my fear is that panel admins will simply check off the "gender" box and think they've done their job. And quotas make that acceptable to do. You've given them the box.
edwardboches My beef is essentially this: Diversity, with a big D is the goal, and gender diversity is just one solution of many that should be employed. So it's not even a beef, but a build. But I have a feeling I'll just be painted as a scared white guy.
bud_caddell Damn, I hate when disagreements turn into agreements. Yes, diversity of gender and race does not guarantee diversity of thinking. But no, or very few women, most likely assures there isn't much. Or at least that one important perspective is missing. Plus, women make most purchase decisions. (They even buy their boyfriends' clothes.)
bud_caddell edwardboches Bud - agree that diversity can embrace many things. But even just starting with a better representation of women and ethnicities begins that. 4As Transformation 2011 - 55 male speakers, 8 women. 4As CreateTech 2011 - 14 male speakers, 2 women. Techcrunch Disrupt 2011 - 36 men, 6 women. Wired Disruptive By Design - 17 men on stage, 2 women. (I won't even get into ethnicity ratios.) All of this perpetuates what my friend Jon Pincus calls 'a closed loop of guys talking to guys about other guys', and in that context, what passes for diversity and innovation isn't.
True diversity drives true innovation. And is critical in this context also for the role models it provides.
You can't be what you can't see.