Board and Speaker Selection

About speaker selection for conferences and panels

Here’s a few strategies that I used to employ whenever I was able to influence panel selections for boards, juries, committees and conference speakers.

If you have the responsibility to select conference speakers, set out to fill the first half of the speakers positions with women. When those positions are confirmed,  then fill the rest with relevant and available talent.

From there it is curatorial exercise to match speakers to the theme in the context of those already selected. But you should remain open to women filling all or some of the remainder.

If men complain about the majority of women speakers. Let them but do point to the number of instances in the past whereby the same men have complained whenever there has been a majority of men as key speakers.

A word of warning. As part of the exercise of selection it is good to put the word out and ask as many as possible for their recommendations for the speakers.

Be warned that when you ask for lists of suggestions for speakers, many women will put forward more males than females. You have to then deal with that politely by thanking them, maybe point out the obvious, and state that all suggestions are to be considered.


A request of all who may be approached to be speakers or members of a committee or jury. If you really believe in gender equity then you need to practice this simple strategy.

When asked to join a board, committee or whatever, before you agree, you need to insist that you will agree to serve if there is at least close to equal number of women and men on the committee, board, speaker list or jury list.

State that you will agree once all the women have been selected and there is rock solid gender equity. Accept no excuses. Refuse any commitment unless this is done.

Otherwise by serving on a committee or panel that is not balanced, then you own and are part of that inequity.

And, once you are on the board or committee or listed as a speaker, and for some reason something happens to the numbers that results in a significant decline in the balance, be prepared to resign or step down unless actions are taken immediately to bring about the correction.

If you have to stand for election and therefore you cannot control the outcome, I suggest the following hard line strategy.

State clearly when you stand for election, that you will most likely refuse the position once elected if there is not something close to gender equity in the outcome of the elections.

This may seem harsh, but if everyone becomes aware of this outcome, then at least whoever gets to cast the votes or make the nominations will become more attentive of the needs of gender equity.

If men, and women, carry out this simple strategy, I suggest the issue will soon go away!



The happy faces above. What’s the problem? Hint: it is not just the boring outfits!

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