We seek her here, we seek her there, we seek her everywhere ……that damned, elusive Pimpernel
From the Scarlet Pimpernel/Emma Orczy (sic; pronoun change)
“They don’t even notice what they’re doing, do they?” My colleague leaned over and whispered to me as we both sat in the auditorium waiting for the conference panel of all-male speakers to begin. She didn’t bother to sit through the rest of the session and soon left, fed up with yet another ‘dude-fest’ of presenters.
Where is she?
In 2017, it seems we’re hearing the language of inclusiveness everywhere; ‘diversity and inclusion’, ‘gender balance’, ‘equity and equality’; supported by a growing acknowledgment of the importance of diversity to an organisation’s bottom line.
So, it’s still puzzling that some event organisers can’t find a diverse view and break down gender barriers at the same time. Their actions suggest they think that women’s perspectives aren’t relevant or our voices are not important.
I am passionate about improving gender equality in local government. So, it was particularly disappointing to see the National General Assembly (NGA) of Local Government present some all-male panels in June this year. There are many incredible women in local government. It’s not that hard to find exceptional speakers, particularly given Australia’s local government workforce is composed of 46% of female employees.
When the voices, stories, and experiences of women are invisible I want to shout GO FIND THE WOMEN! All-male, ‘dude-fest’ panels continue to deny women the opportunity to share our experiences and expertise. Put some women on the panel and I’m listening more intently to the diverse views – as are many others.
Elusive no more
There are moves for women to fight the unconscious biases that make us invisible in some areas. Female activists, social-media warriors, enlightened organisations and male champions are all working to directly address unconscious biases and processes that keep women invisible. Some examples of projects profiling and celebrating incredible women include Women in STEMM, Invisible Farmer project, #CelebratingWomen, Broad Agenda and Honour A Woman (the last, a movement I co-founded).
Making invisible; visible
Actions to address systematic barriers to women’s participation on panels, such as through the Male Champions of Change Panel Pledge are changing perceptions. What was once acceptable – even in the local government sector where only 11% of CEOs are women – is now being called out. When photos of the all-male panels at #NGA17 were tweeted, a robust debate ensued, calling out the lack of diversity. As a result, I’d like to think ALGA Board Members (most of whom are men) may have taken the panel pledge before next years event.
Next time you attend a panel dominated by all men, you might want to refer the organisers to the panel pledge. Or, if needing some humour, try the hilarious Female Conference Speakers Panel Bingo, in response to those outrageous excuses for not having more women speakers.
In 2017, women are incredible, not elusive. It doesn’t take a special magic trick to make the invisible; visible. Just a bit of effort. If you look you will see women here, women there; in fact, women are everywhere.