Breaking the Trend of All-Male Panels

By: Shonda Smith, Speakers Bureau Manager, Peace is Loud

I find it hard to believe that all-male, all-white panels these days are unintentional. The recent Atlantic article, “The Odds That a Panel Would ‘Randomly’ Be All Men are Astronomical”, highlights at least the gender aspect of uneven group arrangements and serves as an important read on the discourse addressing the stark inequality often present in the speaking world.

As the article demonstrates, there is simply no excuse for the overwhelming occurrence of all-male speaker panels. Mathematician Greg Martin’s probability analysis found that it is statistically impossible for a speaker’s lineup of one woman and 19 men to be random. He concludes “…any conference without any female speakers must have come into being in a system that does not treat gender fairly.” He also notes that gender bias doesn’t just affect the number of female speakers at an event, but also the nature of their speaking spot—for example, an event could have a decent number of women speakers in side sessions, but none as plenary or keynote speakers.  

The lack of women speakers in panels or at events is a loss for all of us. Across the globe, women are at the forefront of conflict and building peace in their communities. Their insights and lessons learned are incredibly valuable gifts to an audience. It is important that women themselves tell their own stories—stories that we all are better for having heard.

As Manager of Peace is Loud’s Speakers Bureau, I am proud to be part of an organization that intentionally works with a roster of phenomenal women, only—women who are on the frontlines of peacebuilding and the fight to end injustice across a broad spectrum of human rights issues. The voices of women in this arena are often unheard and Peace is Loud is one antidote. By amplifying the work of these women leaders, we are reversing the outdated existence of an all-male speaking world.