Panels are the Easy Way to Show Gender Diversity – or Are They?

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December 20, 2017
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February 14, 2018

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has received some harsh criticism lately for the lack of female keynote speakers at this year’s show.

Their answer? Of course, they explain they will “redouble efforts to expand women’s voices throughout the conference as featured speakers” next year. Who, in their right mind, wouldn’t say that with all the #MeToo brouhaha and Silicon Valley sexual harassment scandals going on?

But what about this year? Oh, two women will be “on the keynote stage.” Translation: They won’t be keynoting but they will be panelists for one of the featured discussions on the main stage.

And the letter goes on to affirm that there will be “242 women speakers” at this year’s show. You’re telling me that not ONE rose to the keynote spot? I see this all the time at conferences that I speak at as a concurrent session speaker! Ah….but I digress.

My main point is that the easiest way to bring a dose of gender diversity to a conference is to bring a woman on as a panel moderator or panelist. (The issue, though is much broader, and includes all visual diversity of all kinds: gender, racial, ethnic, etc.).

Yes, it is the easiest thing to do, and frankly, I appreciate the nod to make the lineup more diverse. You would be amazed at how often I get hired to provide a little visual diversity (Thank you!). Critics would call this easy way out as “pinkwashing” the panel. A sign of tokenism to gender diversity. Sigh. I guess it’s better than nothing.

So meeting organizers everywhere, PLEASE give a little thought to your mainstage lineup. When you look at your brochure and see a row of white men staring back at you, consider one of your brilliant female panelists to be on the mainstage!

Note: The term “pinkwashing” is traditionally used for companies presenting themselves as gay-friendly and progressive in order to downplay their negative behaviors – yet this sense, it’s about women!

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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.

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