Women, we need you on the stage at conferences

ElsaMarie DSilva
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Where are the women? We need you at more conferences! If the question is how? Then here are eight ways of end the saga of missing women at events.


Last year we did a study with SheThePeople on the composition of newsroom panels in the Indian television industry and not surprisingly, over 80% of them comprised of men. This is a common sight at conferences and other events where women are pretty much absent from the stage unless they are the presenter or handing over the gifts.

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This lack of presence of women from major influencing and decision making events actually perpetuates a stereotype that women cannot be in charge of an important portfolio nor can be considered an expert. Though in reality, many women work behind the scenes gathering information for their bosses and often do the hard work which is then presented by a “male authority”.

We need more women to be seen and heard and change the discourse as we are losing out on a very valuable perspective. So here are eight ways to get a woman to speak at events

  1. Organisers need to make a conscious effort to find women with relevant experience to speak. It is a myth that there are not too many women experts. If you look hard enough, you will find them. The clique of inviting the same speakers, year after year, is not enjoyable for audiences or speakers. Freshness of content is a must to keep audiences engaged and hooked to come back the next year.
  2. Women should take responsibility of being found by organizers who often sight “Missing Women” as the reason they don’t have gender equal panels. So Ladies! Sign up for public discourse and join the dialogue
  3. Panelists need to pledge to speak on an equally representative and inclusive panel. Sree Srinivasan, New York’s Chief Digital Officer and Social Media Guru is one such pioneer. Last year, he “leaned in”  to support his daughter by pledging to never speak on All-Male-Panels (Manels).
  4. How does it feel to be a woman in ? This question has been done to death in conference after conference with women considered as Subject Matter Expert only on how it is to be a woman? Unfair, yes? Have women represent topics basis their expertise not their gender alone.
  5. Organisations need to develop the public speaking skills of their women employees. Unlike men, women are often reticent about speaking in public and voicing their opinion. Therefore it is incumbent upon the organisation to hone these skills and encourage women to share their views.
  6. If you are a freelancer or an independent consultant, the onus on being the best rests with you. There are plenty of resources available but you must prioritise this investment in yourself.
  7. Use Social Media to your advantage, ladies. By having a personal brand with focus on your profession that showcases your professional expertise and competence, you allow others to speak about you, refer you for speaking opportunities and increases the probability of you being found when searched.
  8. Last but not the least, do not be afraid, embarrassed or shy in reaching out to organizers and contacts expressing your willingness and availability to speak at events on your topic of interest and expertise. We are often guilty of not taking the initiative owing to insecurities but if opportunities do not come to us, we must either create them or find them ourselves.

We hope to hear from you about what else can be done to increase the representation of women in events and conferences. Please leave a comment and let us know.

- ElsaMarie D’Silva and Monica Jasuja have jointly authored this guest post for SheThePeople.TV. Both ElsaMarie and Monica are regular contributors to SheThePeople.TV

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