By Ruth Bayang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
It was a capacity crowd on March 1 at Tony Robbins Live! at ShoWare Center in Kent, Wash.
The bestselling author and superstar life coach to Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey spoke longer than expected, but the 7,000-strong crowd did not seem to mind.
Attendees left in a “beautiful state” — something Robbins referred to in his presentation. There was a sense of euphoria and hope and “let’s get it done!”
It was the culmination of a day-long event that also featured marketing genius Gary Vaynerchuk (via a 3D hologram) and Robert Herjavec of ABC’s Shark Tank.
All had something valuable to offer. All said something that contributed to my life.
Still, I was struck by the fact that there were no women on stage. Or any persons of color.
In fact, one of the speakers, who was pitching his “Publish a Book and Grow Rich” bootcamp, said that male speakers far outnumber women. And that there is a demand for women.
And this is not unique to so-called “motivational” events.
Last month, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) received intense criticism following an initial announcement of a lineup of its upcoming annual conference that featured no women. Many voiced their criticism and some signed an open letter calling for the AIA to take more meaningful action to address gender inequity in the profession. Elizabeth Diller, the founding partner of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, will now deliver a keynote address at that conference.
Finding women speakers is a continual challenge, even in fields where there are lots of women. Unconscious bias leads people to suggest male speakers first. When women do get asked, some conference chairs have said that women are much more likely to say “no” due to being busy and not wanting to travel so much, childcare issues, and not really seeing the benefit to their career.
There might be a bit of impostor syndrome going on here as well where women may have something useful to say, but will immediately assume that their message isn’t important — or they are not the right ones to bring it forward. Or they decline because they think they are being invited as the “token” woman.
Are there gender-specific blockers that are preventing women from becoming a part of the speaker community?
Ladies, is there even a speaker community in your industry?
Conference chairs can’t increase diversity in their speaker lineups if no women even submit to speak. So ladies, and especially women of color, it’s time to step up and let the world hear your message.
Ruth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.