Female commentators, boys clubs and quotasPosted: February 11, 2013
It’s not news that women are hugely under-represented when it comes to news commentary, professional panels and conferences – anything where expertise is valued. The excuse so commonly given is that the organisers just don’t know any women who are experts in x,y or z. Which is why I am so thrilled to hear about @theWomensRoomUK, who are setting up a database to ensure that the media can always find a female expert. Getting rid of the easiest excuse – that they just can’t find a woman – ensures that at the very least, organisers are left with just two options: to come out and admit to their misogyny, or to admit their complete lack of knowledge of their subject.
Which is exactly what happened to the organisers of a fundraising summit recently. Fundraising has a good track record, with many incredible women achieving great things, and heading up well-known organisations. So when challenged about why organisers couldn’t find women to speak at their summit, Giles Pegram stated it was because women weren’t the “thinkers” in Fundraising. Which shows a brilliant lack of knowledge about the fundraising sector, along with a healthy dose of misogyny. Is it any surprise that the event had to be cancelled – or did Mr Pegram really think that female fundraising directors would take a break from their tea-making-duties to come along to listen to what the men thought of their profession?
I have a feeling that the reaction will be written off as “hysterical” women and a problem with social media rather than fundraising. But I do hope it gives pause to the next organisers of a conference. Not “believing” in quotas is an easy thing to say when you’re represented. It’s not so easy when you’re on the outside. It can be very hard to know when you’re part of a club. You may think of yourself as an outgoing and approachable person. But if this cancellation can encourage organisers to look around at their panels, perhaps they will start to see that they are looking at the same faces over and over again. Maybe when they realise this, they will look for a practical and simple solution – such as that offered by @theWomensRoomUK.
So I’m singing the praises of The Women’s Room in two different ways. Removing the easy excuse, which will hopefully prevent laziness. And making it easy for those that want to challenge a boys club to find a way to do it. What a brilliant idea.