Distinct Lack Of Oestrogen In Most Marketing Conferences 

24 March 2015  
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Most marketing conferences are in need of oestrogeneration

Have you seen this hilarious picture from Saudi Arabia?  It’s the all-male participants of the womens rights conference?

women conference

As is to be expected from Saudi Arabia, a country firmly under the grip of Sharia Law, zero women attended the event. Perhaps more hypocritically, a single woman is yet to speak at a University of Qassim summit.

Oh how we laugh smugly because we live in Ireland, and sure we’ve got way more freedom than that.

Oh really?

Well not so when it comes to events.  I know much has been written about this in the past, but what is going on with the event organisers of Ireland?  I’m tired of it now. The reason I feel irked? The Marketing Institute conference, DMX, had two women speakers on its 2015 lineup.  That is less than they had the year before, because I was at it and I know I listened to at least three!  Since then, the Sunday Business Post, and repeatedly Swipe Summit continue to put up almost all male panels of speakers.

They claimed it was because it is not possible to get women to agree to speak.  To that I say – pull your finger out. Cultivate speakers throughout the year.  Offer decent money.  Maybe women aren’t up for speaking for piddly money because they earn more working at what they do? (Note: I have no idea how much the MII pays)

How come other events manage to pull in the speakers of an oestragenated variety?

  • Image Magazine puts on excellent business events, with largely women speakers. (Disclaimer: I did speak at one of these myself recently)
  • WXN also puts on excellent events with 90% women speakers.
  • Festival of Marketing in the UK had a higher % of women speakers last year.
  • Speakific is a place to look – many women on there (disclaimer: I am too!)
  • And of course there is the great Womenonair (some marketers there?)

I can sort of understand the Web Summit’s male domination because tech is very male. But Marketing is a very female profession.  There are lots of great women marketers out there.  Why can’t more of them be invited to share their knowledge insights and witticisms on a stage and promote their careers and develop their reputations?

Don’t get me wrong: I am not in favour of positive discrimination, but for God’s sake can event organisers inject a little more oestrogen into their speaker lineups?

3 Tips To Sourcing Good Conference Speakers

First of all, if you’re going to do this, do it right. Pick a theme. Give your speakers some direction. An overriding content message that you would like to have running through your event. Be it ‘technology in marketing’, ‘video is here’, whatever, but if you don’t have a theme or loose structure for your speakers, you’re going to end up having the same old Joe’s using their default slides that we’ve all seen many many times before… or else you’re going to allow those with something to push to be very pushy – that was why the old Marketing Institute Conferences failed (before they became all DMX and shiny) because you’d have CEO’s and CMO’s up pushing software, books, or whatever else they were pushing.

My favourite conferences of all time were the Reboot ones in Copenhagen, which sadly ended in 2009. There the organisers used to pick a theme each year, share it with previous delegates and ask us who we’d like to hear speaking on what! The quality and the level of thinkers that used to attract was amazing. But it took time and years and years of running it to have that level of crowd sourced support.

1.  Get on LinkedIn. I would have thought this was an obvious place to start. SWIPE organisers say they are looking for Marketing Strategy speakers right now.  A quick search threw up lots of women working at Paddy Power.  Paddy Power? Successful Irish entity that’s strong in digital – yes that’s the one.  So why not hit up Andrea Quirke, the Live Casino Marketing Strategy Manager?  Or her colleague Emily Bradshaw?  Or Gayle Gunning?

While you’re at it, why not search for other strong Irish brands or successful companies – like UPC (strategy is headed up by Meadhbh Quinn, Head of Marketing Communications & Brand – also former Meteor, and before that a self employed consultant ). Or Lisa Murray, Head of Customer Experience and Global Product Marketing at Verizon?

It’s pretty easy – and you know why?

Because there are loads of great women to choose from!

2.  Use Twitter Advanced search and old conference line-ups to see what speakers attracted the best coverage.  Look at CIM events in the UK, look to Holland and Scandinavia because in my opinion they are rocking it over there.  No harm bringing back over someone who had the Twitter machine blazing from a few years ago; just make sure you brief her well (see point on theme above) so you can be sure she’ll give you something fresh. A case in point: Sabrina Dent and her My Little Pony talk at the NCI Web Event a few years ago – brought the house down!

3.  Look to the UK.  Bring in a little foreign talent.  Why not? The cost of flying someone in from London or the Midlands couldn’t be that much more than a train from Cork? Speaking of which surely Ryanair has some women in their ranks you could ask?

Look at other conferences and research the companies the speakers come from.  Off the top of my head, I’d be looking at Sticky Content, iCrossing in Brighton, or We Are Social. Heaps of talent.

Possible Constraints:

If the organisers of SWIPE Conference are up against any of these constraints, they should come clean and let us know now. How are we supposed to help them source speakers if they must be:

  • Able to sponsor it
  • Must work for free
  • Or other onerous requests

Since I posted last week about the male bias in the Sunday Business Post event, several people have contacted me all saying the same thing: that they’ve offered to help conference organisers with their line-ups, but that they don’t want to know.  So let’s focus on the positive and commend The Sunday Business Post event organisers for saying yes they want help.  Here’s the help.  Now it’s over to them and let’s see them get on it.

I know that this situation can’t last forever.  Have you ever noticed the way messaging towards kids is these days?  Cartoons, toys, story books – it’s all about strong females who do stuff and aren’t afraid to save the day.  I can only hope that this has a profound effect on young minds and that education and growing up doesn’t filter out the ‘I can do anything’ beliefs.


PS – Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology.

The post below is a bit negative and unsupportive of the cause.  If you’d like to read someone else’s thoughts who really gets it, then click on over here to Ireland’s Favourite Grannymar!

Ada Lovelace was the founder of modern computing, along with Charles Babbage.  She was the only daughter of the poet, Lord Byron, and was born on 10 December 1815.  A month after she was born, her mother moved back to her parents home.  It seems that the great Lord Byron was disappointed that his ‘glorious boy’ was a girl.  It’s a pity that he didn’t know that the sex of his child is all his own doing and not the fault of the mother.

Lovelace met and corresponded with Charles Babbage and during a nine-month period in 1842–43, Lovelace translated Italian mathematician Luigi Menabrea’s memoir on Babbage’s newest proposed machine, the Analytical Engine. With the article, she appended a set of notes. The notes are longer than the memoir itself and include in complete detail a method for calculating Bernoulli numbers with the Engine, recognised by historians as the world’s first computer programme.

She died at the age of 36, was famous as a traveler in the Middle East and some have claimed her to have been a bit of a party-goer with a reputation for drinking, gambling and scandal.  I think I’d really like to have been her friend.

What Is It?

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology.  Wanting to play my part, I was all set to write about women who excel in technology, but I ran into problems.  I think my definition of technology is too limiting.  I was trying to think of women who have come up with things that have set the world on fire in terms of hard core tech – code-crunching stuff.  Not designersNot bloggers. Or digital evangelistas.  Or super project managers.  Or amazing all-rounders.  Thinkers.  Creators.   Innovators.  I can list a whole lot of them for Ireland alone, but I can’t come up with a single Female Technologist – in the definition I have in my head of it.

Bill Gates.  Larry Page and Sergey Brin.  Steve Jobs.

Michael Dell.  Jeff Bezos.  Jerry Yang.

These are all men.  Men who have created technology that has changed lives.

Where The Girls At?

Why wasn’t Google started up by two girl maths geniuses out on a college campus?  There’s no denying that girls are outperforming boys in schools.  So why is it that they are not as visible as they should be?   Is it because the girl maths geniuses are out doing other things and have more balanced lives?  Is it because society breeds women to not have the combination of talent and ballsy-ness that is required of successful entrepreneurs?

I’ve said it once and I”ll say it again – I don’t understand how so few women work in the web.

It’s an area that lends itself to all types of skills and offers a high degree of flexibility.  It offers careers for those who are design oriented, writers, programmers, problem solvers.  Maybe it’s because it’s not seen by young women to be sexy?  If you’re a great organiser, maybe it’s more exciting to work in Events than the Web.  If you’re a writer, you might aspire to being a journalist or a PR press release writer and get to go to lots of new product launches. Better than being someone who writes for the web.  I don’t know.  If you have answers, please share them with me.

If you’ve read this and thought “I am so sick of all male panels for marketing events, I’d like to have a rant about it”, why not get in touch? This is something I feel strongly about.

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  1. Fair play for managing to write a post for Ada Lovelace day. I’d been trying to think of something to say, but like you, kept getting bogged down wondering why there are so few women in the field. Just wondering if you’ve had any negative comments about the Girl Geek Dinners from men? I’m a little tired of hearing ‘oh THOSE dinners. Yes well I’m not sure I agree with women having events on their own. I don’t quite get the point’ (from both men and women).

  2. @michelle – Interestingly and perhaps typically, the only negative comment I’ve ever heard was from someone who attended both Dublin Girl Geek Dinners herself and yet made some remarks about them being ‘male bashing sessions’ – when clearly they are not.

    @stewart – Spot on! She’s the head of product development at Google. Super cool. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marissa_Mayer

  3. @michelle – Hhm, sifting through yer man’s negativity about the whole thing, I did manage to pick up a positive action statement:

    Go into schools and say “hands up who uses myspace (or facebook)” who wants to make there own? in a few lessons they can be posting and receiving from databases and the creativity will bloom…

    Why not? I’m going to propose that GGD create a group who make themselves available to go into schools – and show the girls (and boys) just how cool and chic a girl geek can be.

    Nice one! Expect more thought out musings on it the day after tomorrow.

  4. Great idea – you should meet up with the unis about this – I was chatting to a lecturer friend of mine at the weekend, and he said they’re organising groups to go into schools up here in the North to promote people to go into engineering (which includes software engineering) – might be more effective for them to go in with a group of GG in the business than just (mostly male) academics!

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