You may have noticed more women on the tv panels during the media coverage of the recent violence. On too many occasions, the women were in the role of MC, directing questions to the real experts – who all just happen to be men. Having women there at all is a step in the right direction but it’s not far enough.
BlackRock, the largest investment firm in the world, no longer invests in companies without a diverse board. They know that diversity does two things: it means diverse experience is brought to bear on company concerns and has been shown to ensure a better bottom line..
People, the days of the manel are behind us. I look at a line up and automatically check the gender balance and I am not alone. If you are creating a company event and want to avoid arousing automatic resentment in the room, shoot for diversity on your conference stage, webinar line up or other public and internal events.
Here are five things you can do to make that happen:
Ask women. Both men and women “take care” of their female colleagues by not offering them additional roles if they are recently married or have become a parent. We have a name for the assumption that parent-hood particularly hampers the aspirations of women. We call it, “There goes your top talent.”
Ask earlier. Women may need a moment to see themselves in the role and figure out the juggling involved. Assuming that everyone will respond as quickly as Josh from Sales means that you are not taking difference into account.
Explain why it will be strategic for them personally and that their voices are vital for the company.
Institute ongoing training opportunities so that women get more comfortable on the conference stage and on camera.
Do a head count. Don’t even try the “I don’t see gender or color” line. If your speaker line up looks the same as it would have in 1954, it’s time for you to make some changes. When Blackrock says “diverse board” they mean there must be at least one woman and one member of the LGBTQI community. Note, this means they are counting.
In the lead up to International Women’s Day, I was approached by a hi-tech firm to MC their event. They wanted to open with their co-CEOS being interviewed on how life is for women at the company. The only problem was both CEOs were men. I suggested that two men explaining to women about the female experience at the company might not arouse the positive response they desired.
I didn’t get the gig but at least they changed the line up. I’m good with that.