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June 2012
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Where are the Women Conference Speakers? The Unwitting Sexism that Surrounds Us (Part 3)

Posted by: Alex Linley, as part of Capp’s Female Leaders Month (June 2012)

 

I have just returned from a fabulous two days at Le Web in London. Organised and hosted by Geraldine and Loic Le Meur, Le Web is recognised as one of the most exciting internet and technology conferences around. This was no exception, with contributions from people like Kevin Systrom, CEO of Instagram, Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, Niklas Zennstrom, CEO and Founding Partner of Atomico Partners (but perhaps better known to date for founding Skype) and Martha Lane Fox, our very own UK Digital Champion.

 

Nudged by Sarah Szalavitz, writing in Wired magazine (04.12, p. 65), I was interested in the question of “Where are the women conference speakers?” A quick tally up of the speakers at Le Web suggests 70 male conference speakers relative to 9 female speakers, and 27 male interviewers relative to 4 female interviewers (Le Web uses a great combination of presentations, together with lots of interviews on Loic’s famous sofa).

 

Let me be very clear: this isn’t a rant about Le Web – the conference was as superb as ever. But it is another opportunity for us to look at the subliminal messages that surround us about women, and about what women can and can’t do, and should and shouldn’t do – at least as suggested by these subliminal messages.

 

By my very rough estimation, the proportion of male to female conference speakers (7:1) was maybe only slightly lower than the proportion of male to female delegates (I’m guessing at 6:1), but it does make it even more important that we give visibility to female conference speakers who can engage, educate, entertain and inspire their peers together with an emerging generation of female talent.

 

To this end, Caroline Ghosn, CEO and Co-Founder of The Levo League deserves a special mention. The Levo League is an online community for Gen Y professional women, designed to help them through modern career challenges and development, so a great platform to address some of the very challenges that we are exploring as part of Female Leaders Month at Capp.

 

Martha Lane Fox – whom many of you will know from lastminute.com fame – also deserves a special mention, not only as an inspiring woman herself, but as someone working to inspire under-served populations in the UK through the power of the internet and modern technology. Working with the UK government, Martha Lane Fox is also helping the internet transform public service provision – a topic being spearheaded by the fantastic Mike Bracken, Executive Director of Digital, and one person who is restoring my faith in government to get caught up to the 21st Century.

 

And to complete the credits, I’d love to take this opportunity to acknowledge the other female speakers at Le Web, in the hope that it encourages more women in technology to step forward and showcase their own talents. Respect to:

 

Sandy Carter, Vice President, Social Business Sales and Evangelism, IBM Corporation

Sonia Carter, Head of Digital, Kraft Foods Europe

Soraya Darabi, Co-Founder, Foodspotting

Carla Henry, Yves Saint Laurent Beauty and Fragrances (L’Oreal Luxe)

Madlen Nicolaus, Senior Marketing & Community Manager, Salesforce Radian6

Maria Poveromo, Director, Social Media Systems, Adobe Systems, Inc.  

Rebecca Quinn, Director of EU Strategy & Operations, Wildfire Interactive

 

I hope they serve to inspire the many talented women in the world to stand up and take every opportunity they can to showcase their own talents, and in turn, to inspire other women to do the same.

 

It’s only by doing so that we will be able to start to overcome the subliminal messages that otherwise undermine our intent and ambition, often without us even realising. It’s time for us to change that.

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