Not often, but every once in a while, I find that I am the only woman in the program. More often, I see female session speakers and all male keynoters. Gender imbalance at the podium is present in most industries and professions. Is it tougher to find qualified female speakers? Very possibility. But thought leaders and organizations are making strides to ensure speaker line ups represent both genders. Here’s how:
Sought after speakers are starting to require gender-balanced programs before they accept a speaking opportunity. The Director of the National Institutes of Health who speaks about 125 times a year explains his stance.
Professional groups are creating searchable databases of women in the field to help make more diverse panels possible.
Diverse conference education committees tend to recruit diverse speakers, especially if we explicitly add this to their list of responsibilities.
Research shows that it is uncomfortable being the token woman. Make sure the speaker line ups are as equal as possible, and more women will likely sign on.
Women historically have had fewer chances to engage in public speaking. Create ways to give them more practice (which could look something like the Matchbox Virtual Media/SURGE model) and start creating your diverse pipeline of talent.