It seems as though the debate over a lack of women in prominent media speaking engagements is raging. Daily, Twitter has been host to some pretty intense discussion around this topic, and the threads only deepen when venturing outside the arena of 140 characters. Blogs, forums, and even corporate sites have begun to delve into the debate as well. Strangely enough, we KNOW the women are out there, but when new media conferences are announced, the list of speakers are mainly men. So this begs the question - where have all the women gone?
It's too easy to call this an example of sexism - or is it? And does discrimination run deep through the entire industry? While numerous women have worked their way to the top of the media heap, Network World reports that only 8% of management roles in IT are held by women. With this number in mind, the lack of female speakers begins to make sense. In fact, the lack of female speakers may be a symptom of a more serious issue - that of persistent inequality, even in a sector that's perceived as being progressive.
Of course, organizations that promote the profile and ongoing success of women do exist - Wired Woman is an example, and I am a proud member. The organization is brimming with veteran talent, budding hopefuls, and everything in between. But considering it's 2009, the need for such an organization is astounding . While the new media industry demolished many barriers - the gender gap still exists, and women are feeling its cold shoulder.
I have stopped attending many industry events - specifically because I'm not interested in seeing the same speakers again and again. New media talent pools run deep, yet we're recycling the same people (men) and the same points of view (male). If social media does nothing else, it must expand our professional networks. We need to look outside our cliques and continue to break barriers that will eventually make even the most creative circles stale. Women who have achieved success in this industry are thriving, and by not sharing their stories, tremendous insight is being lost.