We’ve all seen it – and then probably heard the response whispered through the public – and probably hashtagged on social media.
Another all-block panel.
Ian Yip, founder and CEO of cybersecurity startup Avertro has seen them too, and most importantly he is aware that he is complicit in it.
Yip went to LinkedIn ahead of International Women’s Day to share his reaction to his invitation to be part of a panel of all brands.
His response is short and concise.
“I have nothing against the other panelists… I have one major concern. I don’t do all-male panels. I have withdrawn my acceptance as a panelist at major conferences several times in the past simply for this reason,” he replied.
“How can we handle this?”
In his LinkedIn post, Yip continues: “Things are better than before, but if this is still happening, of course we still have a way to go”.
He also questions the best way to handle the problem when faced with it.
“Should we reject the invitation outright? Should we give them a chance to correct it? Do we still show up, but call it as part of the panel membership?” he asks.
“However you approach it, I think we can all agree that we shouldn’t accept it and do our part to bring about change.”
One of his colleagues, Biliana Rajevic, co-founder of Quantum Women, tried to unpack some of the issues by saying that one problem may be that panel organizers just don’t always know who’s around and therefore turn to people who they know, or have easy access to .
“This can be addressed by educating them about good candidates and telling them why they are suitable and what perspective they can bring to the discussion,” she wrote.
“And if female candidates aren’t ‘senior’ enough, invite the mid-career ones. And make warm intros.”
But Rajevic also saw a gender issue that could be more difficult to address.
“Unfortunately, women (at all levels) are more reluctant to sit on panels than men. This is something that both myself and others I know have observed when organizing panels or advising those who were organizing. The reasons vary, but self-confidence, stage fright, not thinking they have anything important to say are some factors that come into play,” she wrote.
“Good preparation sessions or tasting sessions (I was surprised how little priority people place on this, thinking that to make the discussion sound ‘natural’ you don’t need to rehearse), and encouragement could be a good start to addressing this.”