All-male panels: is there still any excuse for them?

Just before recess I was at a WWF event in Parliament on environmental issues, with rather a large panel of speakers – all male, all white and, with one exception, all middle-aged. I’ve now received an invite to another ‘green’ event, from the Aldersgate Group: a ‘Dragon’s Den’ type event on 11th September with the hashtag is #climatesummit. The pitches will answer: “What bold pledge from the Climate Summit would most effectively close the emissions gap and help you deliver a low carbon economy?”

Here are the names of those making the pitches and the names of the green ‘dragons’. There will be some occasions when all-male panels are OK – in a very specialist field, for example – but this is a pretty broad issue. Surely we can do better?

Business Leaders
– Paul Kelly, ASDA, Vice President, Corporate Affairs
– Jonathon Counsell, British Airways, Head of Environment
– Richard Folland, JP Morgan, European Energy and Environment Advisor
– Steven Heath, Knauf Insulation, Director – Public Affairs and Strategy
– Mike Barry, M&S, Director of Sustainable Business
– Andre Fourie, SAB Miller, Senior Manager – Environmental Value

Dragon Panel
– Sir David King, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Special Representative for Climate Change
– David Nussbaum, WWF, Chief Executive
– Nick Robins, UNEP, Co-Director, Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System
– Andrew Raingold, Aldersgate Group, Executive Director (Chair)

I hope that with Labour conference coming up people will have taken note of the criticisms raised last year, and we’ll won’t see much of this going on there. At the moment I only know about the panels I’m on – and they’re obviously not all-male!

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  • Susan Bloom  On September 2, 2014 at 9:16 am

    Dear Kerry,

    I’m not clear about the issue here. Is it that no women are invited to attend these panels, or is it that women are not interested in them?

    Susan Bloom (Ms)

    • kerrymccarthy  On September 3, 2014 at 6:38 pm

      I think it’s a mixture, as Stuart says – they don’t get asked, but there’s a smaller pool to ask from, so organisers who do want to try to get a balanced panel can sometimes struggle. I was on a nearly all female panel the other week at the World Humanist Congress in Oxford. Four women and a token man – and for once, not talking about gender issues either!

  • Stuart Bruce  On September 2, 2014 at 10:55 am

    Great post Kerry. I’ve sort of refused to sit on all male conference panels. The reason I qualify it with ‘sort of’ is that I’ve usually still done it and succeeded in helping the organisers to find a more balanced line-up of speakers. I have still sat on all male panels where we’ve tried and failed. And that’s the difficulty. The panels are often just a more visible representation of the much bigger problem of inequality in the workplace. I’ve often helped to put together conference speakers and panels and finding women for panels is far harder than getting them as keynote speakers. In this case the panel criteria appears to be senior person in corporate/public affairs or environment/sustainability in a very big company. This means the pool of women to select from could be quite small and then they’ve actually got to be available on that date. With solo speakers it’s better as it’s usually easier to adjust the criteria of what you’re looking for. It’s a problem I wish I knew how to solve. At the moment all I can do is keep raising the issue and trying to solve it.

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