Manels have been taking quite a lot of heat lately, which is frankly, a good thing to raise the level and awareness of meeting organizers, panel moderators, and panelists to make sure the panel is visibly representative of the audience.
Obviously, the best place to make an impact is in the planning phase of the panel where the organizer and possibly the panel moderator selects the best D.E.E.P panelists. This is the absolute best time and place to make sure that you are visually diverse (and this is not just about men/women. It’s about race and ethnicity as well).
But what happens when a panelist sees that he is part of the manel phenomenon?
This past week, Dr. Chris Mackie, the Medical Officer of Health at the Middlesex-London Health Unit and one of London’s top doctors, opted out of an upcoming all-male panel set to debate legalizing marijuana and local government communications. He offered organizers of the event to find “a qualified female” participant in his place – which they did! Wow! How did that happen? (umm…they looked around a little harder?)
The organizers then scrambled to get a woman on the panel (which they did!). Mackie then praised his replacement, Linda Stobo, a manager responsible for tobacco control at the health unit as one of the most qualified people he knew to speak to the panel’s topic.
Mackie then said, “I think it is an important issue to be raised because we don’t get the best panels when we don’t seek out expert women,” he said to The Free Press…”It’s just really about making sure our public dialogue is as high quality as possible, and I think that by seeking out expert women we can really help address that.”
But the conversation didn’t end there. He incited a rather polarized social media debate on whether he did the right thing or not:
Yes, he did the right thing:
“Thank you for recognizing the space you take up on the all-male panel. It’s incredibly important there is consideration of panel make-up in regards to diversity, inclusion, and equity including gender – among many facets. I’m hopeful that this can be resolved.”
Or, did he shirk his duties?
“So you’re basically refusing to do your job because of a personal agenda. Kind of a temper tantrum because it isn’t the way you want it. That doesn’t seem right from (London’s) Medical Officer of Health.”
Seems like you just can win these days. Best to thoughtfully select your panelists BEFORE the promotional materials for your panel discussion hits the press!