I recently blogged about women speaking in conferences (or the lack thereof). Since then I have engaged in some fantastic conversations about it. I heard from several women and men on the topic via twitter, blog comments, emails and in person — everyone has something to say. Either an opinion on the causes, a suggestion on the solution, a testimonial in how that affected their own lives or just a word of encouragement on the relevance of the issue.
Today I received an email from Dani Malik asking for suggestions for women to speak at conferences. I provided suggestions and then proceeded to spam every woman I know professionally in my address book with the same request (sorry ladies… not really though). Regardless of putting a list together, I received some AMAZING responses, from testimonials, to references to anecdotes about being a woman and how that impacts their lives professionally, including speaking at conferences.
I’m still frustrated that I don’t have an identifiable “thing” that I feel I can do to affect this. Trying to tackle this issue is hard not because it’s just a hard issue, but it’s part of a more complex problem, which is women and career issues in general. Or women issues in general. It can be very easy to get stuck with paralysis by analysis – specially for me, the over-thinker.
I am not comfortable addressing feminist questions. Or discussing feminism. I suppose because I am part of a small elite and have been shielded from most of these issues. Maybe because I was brought up by a mother who told me constantly and repeatedly that I could do anything, a grandmother that would play ‘president’ with me (where I was president of Brazil and she was my second-in-command) and a grandfather who challenged my intellect at every opportunity. Or maybe because I really didn’t care about what other people had to say about roles. Or maybe because I was always a big sports jock and I firmly believe that being involved in sports, specially in leadership roles, make a big difference in how you face other non-sport situations. Who knows, whatever the reason, I have not experienced or never felt strongly that I was discriminated or been presented with barriers that were that different from what my male counterparts were presented with.
Or maybe not, maybe I’m just kick-ass talented and know how to overcome such barriers — but even writing that makes me feel self conscious (very likely the reflex of being brought up ‘as a woman’, where regardless of your cultural background and upbringing, will likely assume modesty as positive trait). Still, whatever the genesis, I don’t feel knowledgeable enough to discuss bigger feminist issues, so I’ll try and stay away from that (while probably very relevant and likely an influencer on the issue of speaking at conferences).
So ladies, what is up with us? I don’t want to ask why are we not speaking at conferences anymore, but what can we do, what can I do, to encourage and support you to do it? What’s missing? Where’s the tipping point? Are we missing tools? Understanding of the ROI? Time? Motivation? Peer pressure?
What would help you? I want to hear it – I’m very interested in doing something about it.