Last week, I was sent a link to a creativity conference in Australia. A friend of mine suggested I follow the conference Twitter feed. The conference is called Creative Fuel (their site was down last time I looked). I went and had a look, and then moved on to Twitter to find their feed. I began reading some of the entries and came across this one…
Was there really such a gender imbalance at this particular creativity conference?
Apparently so. The speaker line up for Creative Fuel on 28 July 2014 has 9 men and 1 woman. Creative Fuel is part of a larger conference called ADMA Global Forum. This is the blurb from their website…
So why so few women speaking at ADMA Global Forum? I went and counted as many of the speakers as I could and found picture of 38 men and just 3 women.
Enter the Discovery Leadership Summit
This is not an Australian issue. This is a global issue, and we South African’s are as pathetic as the rest.
Two years ago I was involved in a conversation on Twitter around The Discovery Leadership Summit. It was the one where Bishop Tutu pulled out last minute. Two years ago there were no women speaking at the Discovery Leadership Summit. A collection of global leaders, and no women present? WTF!
Skip ahead to the 2014 Discovery Leadership Summit line up (it was held on 4 March 2014)…. there was now one woman speaker (Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita).
The most intriguing part of my conversations during the past week was the fact that not one of the people I spoke to, when looking at the speakers on the Creative Fuel website, noticed the massive void of women speakers.
Why is this I keep wondering to myself? Why can we not quickly and easily spot the massive skewed ratio of men and women when looking at a poster of faces? Is it because we’ve become accustomed to seeing ratios of 9:1? Is it because we don’t think women have a contribution to make?
Let me be clear when I say that this post is not about ratios. I’m not a big fan of the 50:50 representation idea. I am, however, a big fan of diversity of world view. Especially in forums where creativity and leadership are going to be explored. There’s no doubt that characteristics like gender, culture, age, amongst others, are huge contributors to diversity of world view.
Diversity is a not a ‘nice to have’ at these types of events. I’d go as far as to say that if there isn’t diversity amongst the speakers / contributors at a creativity or leadership forum, then you’re wasting your time and money being there.
I did come up with a solution. What if we represented the speaker line up differently for a conference? What if we didn’t show the speaker’s face? Might we see things differently? I sure as heck do.
Hi. Is there any chance I could convince you to revise this and make your point without using a cissexist graphic that equates gender with genitals?
Hey Tess. You’ll have to convince me with more than just a request 🙂
That was my point though. When people look at faces they didn’t seem to see the imbalance. I chose that graphic, or way to represent gender, because it forces you to see the gender. Faces weren’t enough. I spent many hours thinking about what images would force people to see gender? I looked at many options. I searched and searched.
So, all that to say that I’m open, I just need a better suggestion than what I have, that achieves the same result, and that is, forcing people to confront the gender imbalance through a graphic.
I think Tess’ point is that physical sex/genitalia is not the same as gender. A trans woman might have a penis, for example, and she’d still be a woman. I empathize with the desire to find a more attention-getting way of showing folk the lack of diversity gender-wise, but penises and vulvas aren’t helpful. And I’d prefer to see all the dynamics at play anyhow – are all the men white, heterosexual, cis-gender, and otherwise part of a homogeneous group?
I mean, if you’re going to indulge in something that cissexist, you might be better off with just pink and blue blocks. Or a pie chart with the same. Considering I’m trans and speak at technical conferences, how would I, or someone like me be represented? No curves, boobs and a question mark on my crotch?
You’re going for shock value, and I get that, but the equivocation of bodies to gender leaves me with a huge question of “where would I belong?” That said, I like the general idea, and recognize the necessity for it.
That graphic doesn’t represent gender at all – it represents sex, which is entirely different. In addition to the concerns already voiced, and in line with the graphic having represented sex, I’d like to mention that graphic also does not account for the existence and importance of intersex people at all. It sends the message that your concern is only for women with unambiguous female genitalia [side note – and this determination of sex based primarily on genitals is also highly problematic as well].
This makes me really uncomfortable because I don’t think the validity of my voice as a woman should be based on how distinctly female my genitals may or may not be. I’m a cisgender woman but I have some stereotypically masculine traits, and the recent surge in explicit cissexism [such as that displayed in the graphic in question] makes me worry that I’ll have to display my vagina to be recognized as a woman in situations like the one described here. That’s… not okay. I do not appreciate being reduced to my genitals in any setting, but it’s especially hurtful in the context of purporting to support wider and more effective representation for my gender.
I appreciate the thoughts, and don’t disagree at all. One of the thrusts of my post was to ask what image of a conference’s speaker line-up might get the attention of the general public to see the lack of diversity from a gender perspective?
I suggested an image. It worked for me.
I think for this conversation to be useful, from this point on, suggestions of imagery will be a far better use of our time. It’s easy to knock the image I used, as I knocked the use of faces in the conferences in my post. My question remains, what is an effective way to get people’s attention and have them see the lack of diversity?
Blue and pink blocks is a good suggestion, but perhaps a little too subtle?