I see it all the time: A panel that lacks visual diversity. It’s a bunch of middle-aged white men as panelists and no women or minorities. In fact, there is a new term for all-male panels. It’s a “manel” and they have gone viral via a Tumblr blog sarcastically called, Congrats! You Have an All-Male Panel.
Started just this February (2015), the blog “documents all male panels, seminars, events, and various other things featuring all male experts.” It features over 200 photos submitted from people from about 10 countries. It’s actually kind of funny because each photo has a witty call-out from David Hasselhoff (not an endorsement by David, just parody!)
Don’t get me wrong. I like men. I’m even married to one. And a manel is absolutely fine if the panel discussion is at the “Middle Aged White Guys Convention.”
But most conferences and conventions have a diverse audience. I firmly believe the panel should represent the audience – not just with visual diversity, but also differences of opinions, backgrounds and experiences.
It’s incumbent on the meeting organizers to make sure there is that visual and thought diversity on the platform – not just during panels, but throughout the program. As a panel moderator, many times I am handed the confirmed list of panelists. I may not have much influence over the selection, but I WILL point it out. Perhaps there isn’t diversity in this segment, but what about the rest of the program?
How could last week’s Denver’s Comic Con’s panel about Women in Comics not have at least one woman on the platform? As Alanis Morissette’ would say, “Isn’t it ironic, don’t ya think?”
The Mary Sue blogger wrote a lengthy blog about what happened and DC Comics’ response to the outcry if you are really interested in the specifics.
My experience is that meeting organizers:
- Simply don’t think about it.
- Round up the people they know aka the usual suspects
- Say they can’t find anyone
- Don’t bother to look for anyone with the right credentials.
There ARE talented women out there who can be on the panel or even moderate the panel (ahem, that is a bold reference to my skill as a professional panel moderator). You just have to go find them.
For more resources on how to make panels better, make sure to check out this knowledge vault which is chock-full of customizable checklists, worksheets, templates, agendas, sample emails, video interviews and webinars with industry icons and professional moderators.
Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator and high stakes meeting facilitator, shares her best practices for interactive, interesting, and engaging panel presentations. For more resources like this, or to have Kristin moderate your next panel visit the Powerful Panels official website.