Why We Need More Women Speakers

By Mette Johansson

This blog is written on the occasion of the launch of KeyNote – Asia’s Women Speakers’ Directory

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Last week, I attended a conference – you know, one of those that have a new speaker every hour on various stages. After three days, one participant remarked that he had not come across a single female speaker. I studied the programme and, in fact, within the sixty or so different presentation slots, I saw two female names. Most of the main keynote speakers were men.

 

Research shows that group intelligence is increased when there is diversity in a room. However, even if you look at conferences on topics where women are well represented – charity, wellness, human resources, marketing – you’re still far from balanced gender representation on stages.

 

The imbalance of speakers on stages seems even harsher than what we see in boardrooms and governments. Even a recent discussion in the US on gender diversity hosted four male panellists – an event that had to be cancelled due to strong reactions from the public.

I asked a number of experts and industry insiders why they think there are so few women speakers. The vast majority of the respondents thought that it’s because women need more confidence to go on stage. We’re all familiar with the research findings that say that if you take a man and a woman who are equally qualified for a promotion, the man will say “I’m ready!” and the woman is likely to say “I’m not sure I’m ready” or “I’m not sure I meet all the criteria”.

 

The same is true for speaking on stages. Women may either lack the confidence to speak in front of people, or they may believe that there are greater experts or more interesting speakers than themselves. 

 

And that is why I’m proud to be the Chair of KeyNote, Asia’s new speakers’ directory for women. We’re providing more visibility for women who are already speakers today – and we will build the confidence of many others. It’s about raising group intelligence.

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