Feb 6, 2012 In-Person Networking
Posted by Allison
My vagina must be either lazy or stupid because it never logs into WordPress to publish a blog post. It never uses Facebook and doesn’t have a Twitter account. And my vagina certainly never records videos for YouTube.
I didn’t know that others’ genitals were avid bloggers, but they must be. After all, why else would some people be upset about the gender of speakers at blogging conferences?
Full disclosure for those you who do not know: I work for BlogWorld, one of the biggest new media conferences out there. This post isn’t about a problem specific to that event, though. Every time we near a professional event in the new media space, feminazis come out the play, claiming that it isn’t fair that the male to female speaker ratio isn’t a perfect 50-50.
And they aren’t the only ones. Others are crying that there aren’t enough ethic speakers. Or there aren’t enough foreign speakers. Or there aren’t enough younger/older speakers. Or…
Let me start by saying that I wholly believe all conference organizes should do their part to ensure people from all walks of life are speakers. Being female and relatively young give me different experiences and perspectives. This is true about people of different races, religions, educational levels, cultures…everything that makes us different from other people can potentially make us a better speaker. And taking it a step farther, if a conference turns you down because the organizers are sexist, racist, or an other type of -ist, they’re scum.
Oh come on, you knew there would be a but.
But to pick someone as a speaker just to fill some kind of imposed “quote” is foolish. It makes a conference less valuable to everyone who attends.
When I go to a conference, I want the best speakers. I want speakers who can teach me new things or show me a new way of looking at the world. What you have between your legs doesn’t matter to me any more than you hair color matters to me.
The fact of the matter is, conferences have limited space for speakers. When organizers focus on hitting certain quotas (like including speakers of a certain gender or race), that means other qualified speakers are rejected. If everyone misses out on awesome information just because a speaker is male and there already are other males speaking, I’m going to be disappointed. Being a good speaker has nothing to do with your birth characteristics.
In a perfect world, speakers would be able to be picked blindly – without names/pictures/etc attached, conference organizers would only see the presentation idea. Of course this can’t work because speakers have to be researched. It’s not just about the idea – you have to prove experience, ability to promote your session, etc. But it makes me sad to think that gender, race, age, and other characteristics come into play at all.
The social media world is still dominated by white males. Does that mean only white males make good speakers in this industry? Absolutely not. But if you want to learn from the best, you have to go with who has experience in many cases, so it makes sense that a larger percentage of speakers are white males.
Furthermore, you have to go with the applications you receive. Conference organizers do have an obligation to hunt down some new speakers, in my opinion. But you can only do so much. You can’t make people apply to speak at your event. You can only invite them.
Think about it this way: Let’s say you own a company and need to hire ten people. You get 100 applications and 99 of them are from men. The one woman who applied is okay, but there are several men who would be better at the job than her. Is it your responsibility to hire her anyway, and to also go out and find four more females to fill positions so the ratio is 50-50, even though you already have several qualified people who want the job but just happen to be lacking a vagina?
Diversity is a good thing, and a woman can bring a fresh perspective to your team just because she has different life experiences. But at some point, you have to draw a line.
At the heart of the matter, this is just another form of discrimination. When you demand that a conference had more female speakers, just for the sake of having more female speakers, you’re discriminating again all the men who deserve to talk at the event. The same is true for all characteristics. We don’t need more black speakers or gay speakers or young speakers or whatever. We need more good speakers.
Until your vagina starts running a blog, I don’t think you should get a speaking gig because of it. Personally, I blog with my brain, so that’s how I’d like to be judged when applying for speaking gigs.
- 27 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Public Speaking (blogworld.com)
- Elements That Decide Which Conference You Choose To Attend (stateofsearch.com)
- Why So Many “Experts” Are Terrible Speakers: Top 5 Public Speaking Mistakes (forbes.com)