IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

New tool aims for gender parity at conferences

Tired of attending conferences with largely male speaker line-ups? A new group called Gender Avenger aims to fix that.

Tired of attending conferences with largely male speaker line-ups? You're not alone. The occurrence of all-male panels at conferences, events, and on industry leader lists has become so common that an entire Tumblr account called "100 percent men" has been created to showcase instances of an all-male lineup, list, or event agenda.  Especially in male-dominated industries such as finance and technology, it has become increasingly common to see industry events featuring very few women speakers.  

Many women have written about this problem and offered ideas for how to fight it. Earlier this year, Sarah Milstein wrote at the Harvard Business Review that fewer than 18% of the speakers at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, were women, and she gave tips on how to find more diverse speakers learned from her own experiences as a conference organizer. Rebecca Rosen, a writer for The Atlantic, wrote a story last year offering another idea: men should sign a pledge to refuse to participate in all-male panels.  However, as Rosen wrote in a follow-up piece, the pledge received a fair number of responses that mocked her and the pledge concept. 

A new group called Gender Avenger offers another option: they are launching a new gender tally tool to allow women to publicly speak out on social media about a conference's gender ratio.  The GenderAvenger Tally  allows conference attendees to enter the name and hashtag of the conference they are attending, the number of male speakers, and the number of female speakers. The calculator generates a pie chart displaying the speaker gender ratio at the conference, and allows users to share the chart on Facebook and Twitter using the conference hashtag as well. The group's goal is to encourage conference attendees to publicly call attention to events that have largely male speaker lineups, in the hopes that organizers will respond and create more gender-diverse events in the future. 

"GenderAvenger is all about ensuring that women are always part of the public dialogue," says founder Gina Glantz.  "It made a lot of sense to create the GA Tally tool to make it easy for supporters to celebrate the good and expose the bad whenever and wherever they might be." Glantz started the organization after becoming increasingly tired of attending events and seeing few women - or no women at all - represented. She frequently heard complaints from other women who were tired of attending professional events only to see all-male panels and speaker lineups, so she decided to create the site to give women a tool that allowed them to take action. 

GenderAvenger's website also accepts nominations for its "Hall of Fame" and "Hall of Shame," which feature and highlight who is doing a good job -- and who isn't -- when it comes to the gender balance at conferences, in anthologies, in magazine-style industry leader lists, and more.  Eventually, the GenderAvenger team hopes to build a community of people -- women AND men -- using social media to speak out and push for more women represented in every aspect of the public dialogue.