Pondering #manels on International Women’s Day

Late last year I was working on the marketing for a Precision Medicine event when a man from the life science industry (who shall remain nameless) caused a stir within the industry by refusing to speak at a different event, as they only had 2 female speakers out of 70. He wrote a blog that went viral amongst the life science industry and was one of many examples added to the #manel hashtag.

I remember this incident clearly, as I was upset by the situation and actually have not been able to bring myself to write about it coherently until now (5 months later)!

As a woman, this is of course not what I would wish. In an ideal world, there would be equal opportunity and diversity in every industry. This is sadly not the case. In this incident, the person in question essentially blamed the conference industry for the disparity and called for a boycott of all events until there were more equal speaking faculties.

However, what he failed to touch upon was the real issue.

Why aren’t there more women speaking at life science events? 

Because there aren’t as many women with senior level positions in the industry, as there are men.

This is not because of the conference industry. All event professionals work tirelessly to represent their industries; that is, by nature, the purpose of our product. We represent our industry and offer a platform for professionals to discuss, debate, and ignite new ideas that will push their businesses and the industry as a whole.

We do not push a gender-bias agenda. We work to bring the experts together in one room.

Events companies are in the business of making money. It would be foolish to suggest otherwise. No one would buy a ticket for a conference that did not have industry-leading speakers. It’s at the core of what we do!

#manels will be history one day

What the conference industry as a whole fails to do is to utilise these platforms to promote women making waves in traditionally male-dominated industries.

Event marketers should be interviewing female speakers, video their presentations, sharing their work across their social platforms and more.

Conference producers should work with their industry connections to uncover women who are beginning to change the way we work and invite them to speak.

Business development managers should encourage their clients to bring their female staff to events, so they to can network with the wider industry and learn. Don’t they say it’s who you know, not what you know? 😉

The events industry is just one example where we can all work with equality and diversity in mind. We create platforms that influence global markets. Let’s use them to promote individuals who stand out; whether female, male, black, white, or however you identify. Your physical characteristics should not decide what industry you should work in, or speak at a conference.

Let’s show younger generations that despite what history may tell us, there is no limit to what an individual can do if they work hard.

In the word’s of Russ Klein, CEO, American Marketing Association “Positivity is about being willing to think epic.”

So let’s think epic when it comes to equality.





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