Events can be an amazing way to showcase your abilities and increase recognition. From AMA’s Annual Conference, to E3, most industries have their own major events. But if you pay close attention – or even just have your eyes open – the majority of panelists at industry events are male, and most events have at least one all male panel. In this second part of “So You’re a White Guy in Marketing… Now What” we’ll look at why all male panels are a problem, and what you can do about them.

The Problem:

There are two problems with all male panels. This first is that all male panels subtly tell us that only men have the right to be considered industry experts, and the second is that having women on panels makes the panel more intelligent, and the conversation better.

When panels are all male, they imply that only men can be leaders in that industry. Just like symbolic annihilation in media, the more all male panels  you see, the more you think only men are industry experts. Therefore erasing women from conferences, makes us subconsciously think that they can’t succeed in that industry, and makes it less likely that the industry will move towards more equity.

In addition to this, all male panels are actually less interesting, and less intellectually acute, than panels with a mix of genders. When women are involved in a group, the group’s collective IQ goes up. Additionally, having women involved in any group increases collaboration, meaning that the panel will be more impactful for your audience, rather than just being a fight between panelists.

Why You Should Care:

In addition to the reasons above, the fact that marketing has its own systematic injustices should make you want to address the issue. Just earlier this year PR Week held a “Hall of Femme” event to celebrate women in PR and Marketing. The only problem: the panel that was set up to discuss how to address gender equity in the industry had no women on it. So how can you make industry conferences more representative?

What You Can Do:

Ask Who Else Will Be On The Panel

To be fair, there is a lot that goes into planning a conference, and event organizers don’t usually attempt to have all male panels. At the same time, they probably haven’t thought enough about the make-up of their panels. Therefore, if you’re invited to speak on a panel ask who else will be on it. Force event organizers to think about the diversity of their panels. If there are only men on the panel you can point this out and suggest that someone from a different background would bring more depth to the discussion and create a better conversation.

Suggest Female Candidates for Panels

If you’re organizing a panel, or invited to be on one, suggest female friends and colleagues for open speaking slots. By doing this you are able to highlight the amazing women in your field, while also make your discussion more collaborative and interesting for both panelists and attendees. <!--[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]-->

Discuss the Importance Of Diverse Panels With Your Clients

As a marketer, you probably work with multiple clients who hold their own conferences. Prompting them to think about diversity in their own panels is one of the best ways to expand your impact. If the previously explained reasons aren’t enough for your clients to want to include women in their conferences, explain how it makes the conference look good, and prevents a potential negative brand crisis.

Refuse to Participate in Male Only Panels

If all of the above fail, and an event is insistent upon having an all-male panel, refuse to participate on that panel. At this point the only reason that the conference will change its ways is if multiple panelists refuse to attend.