My mistake and gender equality

I feel ashamed. I made an embarrassing mistake. I will do my best to have it never happen again.

A few weeks ago I got thinking about events at which I speak. I thought about the unbalance of male vs female speakers. In our industry, it’s common that some events don’t even include one female speaker. It’s so seriously awkward for many reasons:

  • While the IT-industry is unbalanced to begin with, at least 30% are women. In some companies, such as in our Norwegian subsidiary, it’s even 50%. So, there is no reason related to number of women in the industry to have events with zero women speaking.
  • Regardless of what personal characteristic is important to be successful in IT (mathematics, creativity, social skills, etc), there are no gender differences, only personal differences. So, there is no reason related to characteristics to have events with zero women speaking.
  • Because of the unbalance in the industry, especially when it comes to leadership positions, there are actually real reasons to have MORE women than men speaking, to even out these unfair odds.
  • Given the current unbalance, we can know for a fact that poorly performing male speakers are blocking really smart female speakers from sharing insights and experiences.

I concluded that I need to do something, regardless of my limited reach and power. I decided to make it a rule that I won’t speak anywhere unless there is at least a clear ambition to reach a 50/50 ratio. I decided that I would write a post on this decision. A literal minute later, the event organizer IDG (Webbdagarna), tweeted that they will ensure a gender equal lineup moving forward. That tweet made me pause the idea of my own blog post. It would look like an opportunistic timing and nobody would really believe that I had actually made up my mind about this before IDG’s announcement.

Just a few of days later, that same event organizer tweeted a question, asking for suggestions of good speakers for an upcoming event. Can you guess my response? Here it is…

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Five suggestions. All male. And I am officially stupid. It dawned on me a few days ago what I had done and I felt I had to think it through and publicly apologize. So here it goes: I am sincerely sorry. I feel ashamed for real. Moving forward I will:

  • make sure to only speak on events that have an ambition to have a balanced number of women speakers always suggest women speakers first (this means that I will turn down speaking if there are only male speakers)
  • in my daily job as a leader in my company, always clearly point out unbalance and work towards addressing it (one of the internal meetings I participated in recently had only male participants and it made me cringe, next time I’ll be seriously and openly questioning the planning at such a meeting)
  • … in terms of mentoring young professionals, I will prioritize my energy on female IT-specialists (and while I can see how this part of my post can be misinterpreted, I think you agree that we can’t let fears like that be in the way of making sure we encourage and build the best talent regardless of gender)

And finally, six suggestions for great and inspiring female speakers at future events include Therese Reuterswärd, Kajsa Dahlberg, Susanna Laurin, Annelie Gullström, Jennifer Belissent, and Laura Koetzle.


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