A pledge is floating around the internet today that asks men to refuse to speak at technology and science conferences that feature all-male panels.
Not too long ago, Aashish organized a panel for his degree program at Mount Royal University, computer information systems. He brought in 5 or 6 different industry members to speak about their work as business analysts, IT managers and programmers for a variety of big companies around Calgary. Every single panelist that he brought in was a woman. The person moderating the discussion was also a woman.
I worry people see pledges like this and think it’s some irrational, aggressive feminist vendetta against men. If we are truly a meritocracy, why do we need to work so hard to bring women on board? No one is actively keeping them out anymore. There isn’t a men’s club sign on the door. And isn’t it true that women are notoriously hard to secure as speakers and pundits because they just don’t want to participate?
In my experience, yes, women often wait to get picked. They hesitate to speak up and position themselves as an expert for a variety of reasons. But, when women are asked and encouraged, they do participate. I have a leadership role in my company and I’m getting more comfortable with picking myself, but I definitely have benefited from mentors, men and women, who have picked me and helped me and said, “you know this, be confident.” We need to get better at picking ourselves, but in the mean time, a little help from the men in our professional communities isn’t a bad thing.