Hey Conference Industry, The Women are out there.
“Both women we called were booked that weekend.” This my favorite line from my peers in the conference space on why there are no women on the agenda. All male conferences are everywhere, even today. An article today in USA today highlights examples of some of the events and many of excuses conference organizers use about why there are so few women speaking. I’m pretty tired of hearing these excuses from my industry peers. I’m a conference organizer across multiple industries, and I assure you, the women are out there.
What can women do to make it easier for conference organizers to find them?
Self-promote, say yes and band together.
- Brand yourself on Social Media: Keep your profile up to date, especially on LinkedIn. Write descriptions of what your job involves, and your areas of expertise. Keep your bio updated. Write articles, or re-post articles that are relevant to your expertise. Add in a good headshot!
- Put your hand up for speaking roles: Reach out and apply. Get yourself in front of the conference organizer and programming directors with your bio and suggestions of specific topics where you can add value on the agenda. Why not? You miss every shot you don’t take.
- Join a Women’s Association in your industry: Conference organizers looking for women speakers often seek referrals from industry associations who keep directories of qualified women speakers and will be able to recommend members for roles that come up. For example, WAVE (Women’s Association of Venture & Equity) has such a directory for women in the venture capital and private equity space. CREW in real estate. WEN in energy.
What can men do?
Go to women’s events, recommend your colleagues, and call the organizers out.
- Go to a women’s event: Many men have never experienced what it’s like to be a minority in a business setting. Go to an event that is predominately women, and see if it’s any different for you. (Most women’s events, including the Kayo Conference Series, welcome men.)
- Recommend your colleagues: You have talented women on your team; be a cheerleader and pro-actively nominate them for speaking roles. Encourage your colleagues to put their hat in the ring for opportunities.
- Call the organizers out: The next time you’re at an all-male event speaking on an all-male panel, talk to the organizer. Tell them that you value diversity and inclusion, and you think they can do better. Your voice matters a lot in this dialogue.
What can the organizers do?
Lindsay Burton is the Founder and President of Kayo Conference Series LLC. Kayo Conference Series unites women investors for networking and deal-flow across sectors including Real Estate, Energy, Infrastructure, Private Equity, Venture Capital and Credit for annual forums.