We’re frus­trated too! The chal­lenge of find­ing women presenters.

In answer to a ques­tion on our Face­book page, we thought it import­ant to note what it’s like to go look­ing for presenters with great stor­ies, and dis­cov­er that many of the women you feel should take your stage, for a num­ber of entirely val­id reas­ons, just won’t do it, or find they can’t devote the needed effort.

So, here’s the not always sat­is­fy­ing story of how we go about find­ing women presenters.

Our ideal is an even split between men and women. Real­ist­ic­ally, due to a num­ber of pretty-well doc­u­mented factors, 40 per cent is a num­ber that’s dif­fi­cult to achieve, and when you get it, it’s a fant­ast­ic res­ult in the real world (though we’d still prefer half-half). To our frus­tra­tion, 30 per cent is some­times real­ity, though it’s pretty nor­mal.

Our all-women Speak­er Team put togeth­er a tar­get list of presenters this year that was very even, and we had two fant­ast­ic female presenters lined up with stor­ies we believe should have been told who both ended up pulling out. We’re work­ing on them for next year.

It’s worth not­ing that the major­ity of our volun­teer team are women. And they’re strong per­son­al­it­ies, with views and exper­i­ence that don’t at all make them shrink­ing viol­ets. There’s cer­tainly no bias to pick­ing male presenters. Every presen­ter we thought had a story we wanted to put on stage was iden­ti­fied and vet­ted by our Presen­ter Team. We real­ise and under­stand the frus­tra­tion of see­ing a male-heavy presen­ter lineup.

The real­ity of put­ting togeth­er some­thing like TED or TEDx (and many oth­er con­fer­ences) is that women in a pos­i­tion to speak, with great stor­ies to tell, often pri­or­it­ise lead­ing and ment­or­ing their teams, don’t feel they’re ready or expert enough, or want to focus on fam­ily and oth­er non-work com­mit­ments, well ahead of the time it takes to put togeth­er a con­fer­ence present­a­tion, travel, and spend days away in order to do it, let alone the 50-or-so hours it takes to put togeth­er a TEDx qual­ity talk.

One minor point of relief for us is that it’s no less dif­fi­cult for the main TED con­fer­ence to find great women presenters. This issue was actu­ally covered by TED’s June Cohen at TEDG­lob­al this year, and it’s worth watch­ing to see the frus­tra­tion that she (and we) face.

4 Responses

  1. I rep­res­ent three quar­ters of the tra­di­tion­al ‘tar­gets’ and could identi­fy with a fair share of oth­er minor­ity groups – but lets start with I’m a woman, I’m Indi­gen­ous, and I’m young(ish!). I’m also incred­ibly proud to be a part of TEDx­Can­ber­ra this year shar­ing an import­ant story of human­ity – and it’s not because I have ovar­ies! For­give me, but I thought the eth­os of TED (and TEDx) was Ideas Worth Spread­ing – shar­ing the power of ideas to change atti­tudes, lives and, ulti­mately, the world. I didn’t see a gender bias attached to this. Ideas worth shar­ing in this type of for­um come from humans – from all walks of life. I per­son­ally have ‘tar­get fatigue’ and think that if we keep labelling part of our soci­ety and demand­ing equal splits of their rep­res­ent­a­tion we are going to dilute the power of shar­ing and more import­antly, listen­ing and act­ing on ideas worth spread­ing. The TEDx­Can­ber­ra organ­isers have been an abso­lutely pro­fes­sion­al, inspir­ing and a fun team to work with. And believe me, they work incred­ibly hard and very long hours for free to bring this event to our city. So, instead of cri­ti­cising, why don’t we all just enjoy the col­lec­tion of people this event has pulled togeth­er, speak­ers and audi­ence, for a day of inspir­a­tion and thought pro­voca­tion, while embra­cing what we all have in com­mon – being human. See you on Septem­ber 7 🙂

  2. Pingback : TEDx Canberra: Speaker Prep | Ask Charly Leetham

  3. Pingback : Gender Gap Update [Uncertain Principles] - Insights Magazine

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