The National Achievers Congress, which is a huge event with up to 10,000 people in the audience and some of the world’s top entrepreneurs – has one female speaker this year.
Last year, there were none. I wrote about this and spoke to the organisers, and Claudia Crawley of Winning Pathways Coaching also blogged about it.
After I’d discussed and negotiated for a long time for the organiser, he agreed on a one-woman-a-day quota for the next conference. Claudia and I compiled a long list of successful female entrepreneurs which we sent to the organisers to help them find speakers. One of their reasons for no women was: “We don't know any female entrepreneurs.” Now they had no excuse.
To the organisers’ credit, they have improved. This year, there is one woman. One woman is an improvement but disappointing. Added to that, she is last on the list of speakers on the website, and her subject area is the very ‘girly’ one of dress - not taken as seriously as the other 'male' topics.
The invisible forces
When asked about this issues, many people shrug their shoulders and say things like:
"It's not the promoter's fault."
"Women get the same chance as men."
"Women don't want it as much as men."These assertions are flawed for the following reasons. The organisers do not make an effort to include women. When I spoke to the organisers last year, they admitted they look only in their all-male networks to find speakers and it hadn’t occurred to them that they were shutting women out. They actually had quotas for speakers in certain topic areas, but no quota for women (hence my suggestion to introduce one).
If you are an ambitious woman, ask yourself if you would actually want to be involved in an event with a business model that discriminates against women. Most women can't be bothered – they feel 'locked out'. But who loses out? The 10,000 strong audience, losing out in the value they receive. Women aren't getting the role models they need, and no one is getting a fair representation of business or the world to learn from. Women and men instead unconsciously learn that men rule the world – no change there. Victory for the status quo.
The business model is set up to firstly benefit the organisers, secondly the speakers and thirdly the attendees. Speakers pay a large amount of money to take part and then split their earnings from the products they sell with the organisers. Neat for the organisers, but not so good for the women attending. Or indeed potential female speakers. Women are less likely to take the risk of paying to speak – first because they would be breaking into a lonely, hostile, unwelcome environment, and second because (as a generalisation), women tend to be conditioned throughout their lives not to take risks to the same extent as men.
Why don't women want to take the risk?
Contrary to what many people believe, this is conditioning, not nature. Gender stereotypes are firmly locked into our society and affect what how far women set the bar for themselves and how other people perceive them. Traditionally, men were always the breadwinners and women remained in the background, concerning themselves with their looks and not their brains. This a strong habit that’s difficult to shift, reinforced by gender myths, influential media, lack of role models and limiting beliefs about the personality and behaviour of the different genders that are rife in our society, and promoted by many business people themselves (usually unintentionally). We have to break these stereotypes, as well as challenge the structures that exclude women.
Do you want change?
Do you want your daughters and sons growing up believing that only men are welcome on world-class stages? If you are keen to see change, now is the time to get involved. Women need role models! There are many other business events that are as diabolically biased as this one. Last year, just a couple of blogs and a conversation resulted in an incremental improvement for this event. Change is easier than you think. Send me a message or comment if you want to join us in speaking out.
See Claire Godwin’s video here.
See Claudia Crawley’s website here.