Sometimes I just don’t know enough to stay quiet. This weekend there was a bit of a blow up regarding the fact that of the 53 speakers at the upcoming Office 2.0 conference, only one was a woman. Shelley is very upset:
The conference organizer wrote in Tara’s comments that we should suggest some women and to point out the conference, but that makes little sense when the conference is a month away, the speakers have already been slotted, and the organizer is less interested in representing women and more in getting attention directed to his conference. Well, he has his wish: I am giving him attention.
I have been told that the way to make a difference is for women to be more proactive; to submit proposals for conferences, to put ourselves on lists, to create our own conferences and web sites. I’ve been told these things, and I’ve watched as this has become the ‘accepted’ way to generate change in this Web 2.0 world. The thing is, I don’t see that it’s working.
In an effort to try to learn and challenge and debate (something I’m infamous for), I jumped feet first into the comment thread, both on Shelley’s site as well as a few other sites. The two blog posts that stuck out to me the most were Tara’s and Kathy’s. (As a sidenote, I read Kathy’s site nearly every day, and had no idea she was a woman… actually, I’d been so impressed with the content that I’d never really thought about it. I was too busy going "Yeah yeah! Now who am I going to send this entry to?")
Overall, it’s been an enlightening, thought provoking line of discussion. I’m certainly going to make a bigger effort to seek out more women in my role as speaker organizer for Refresh Dallas.
But it’s also been a bit frustrating, as I struggle to widen my perspective and challenge my own beliefs. Shelley tells me I "just don’t get it". Maybe I don’t, but how am I going to learn? And if I don’t learn, how am I going to change/help change? How do I begin to reconcile posts like this and this without some help?
I look at conferences like BlogHer and really applaud Lisa, Elisa and Jory for putting it together. I’m impressed that they took action to balance the male dominated dynamic at conferences. That said, I’ve yet to go to BlogHer, despite having tons of interest in the content lineup. Why? Mostly because I’ve not felt welcomed. Certainly not after reading posts like this. (For more of this discussion, check out Dave’s comment here. I’m no fan of Dave’s, not by a long shot, but this discussion is very worth following) It’s hard to not look at Dave’s post talking about how impressed he was with the event, which was followed up by an outpouring of irritation and not want to just back away slowly.
I’m not complaining that I didn’t feel welcomed, that’s my hangup. I completely and totally support Lisa, Elisa, and Jory in their efforts, and am happy to help however I can. I’m also committing to pay more attention to trying to expand my female contacts, offer suggestions for female speakers, and make changes where I can. I’m also going to step away from the open discussion threads, as they seem less about helping me learn than punishing me for not knowing more in the past. If I was smarter, I’d probably know to leave well enough alone!