National Achievers Congress: a weekend-long conference with an audience of 10,000. The speakers were entrepreneurs and sales experts, sharing their knowledge, experiences and techniques on success, inspiration and motivation.
Of the entire panel of speakers, not one was female. After writing the blog, I received many comments from readers who in agreement about the negative message this sends out about the inclusion of women in senior roles. Thanks for your comments – which all chime with mine. Where are the women? And what can we do to rectify the situation?
An obvious place to start (apart from encouraging more women to put themselves forward, of course) is with the organisers. Today, I was very pleased to talk to the lead organiser. He acknowledged that he was aware of the lack of women, and said that he had approached a few women, who had all declined to speak. He admitted that the team set out to ask speakers who represented diverse areas of expertise, but had all come back with male speakers, because there was no focus on recruiting women specifically and most existing connections are through men.
The problem seems to be that there is a culture and tradition for male speakers, and convenience in maintaining the status quo. The organiser and I talked about changing the emphasis so that the team go out with the intention of securing a certain number from the outset, and make that a priority – that’s to say, a quota.
The organiser agreed that, for the next conferences (there will be a few across Europe at the end of next summer), he will set out with a quota of one woman each day of the conference. This is a long way off 50:50 but a great start to achieving equality. There are many brilliant businesswomen out there, and we need them on stage for the next conferences.
I will be compiling a list of potential female speakers to help the organisers, so please let me know if you have any ideas (or would like to speak yourself…)