Wed, May 04 2016
Last week, the international payments company PayPal decided to hold an all-male panel to discuss the gender equality in the work place. Isn’t it ironic? They want to talk about women and men but they just invite male representatives to the chat. They pretend to bring some clarity to the discrimination situation that exists in the professional world, but they forgot to invite women to have this talk? Isn’t it this discrimination in itself?
The title for the PayPal panel says, “Please join us for a discussion with our senior male leaders Edwin Aoki, Sri Shivananda, Jonathan Auerbach, Franz Paasche, moderated by Karthik Suri about how men and women can partner to achieve a better workplace”. If the intention was to publicly talk about the gender discrimination issue that exists in most of work places, then they should have had both male and female representatives to present their points of view and talk about how, all together, we can make this situation better. Obviously social media was revved in the face of the hypocrisy of this event. Twitter and Facebook users stated their opinions about the sexist, discriminatory and inequitable nature of the panel. A hashtag was created to protest the lack of female representation in panels worldwide: #panelpledge; and actions like “take the #panelpledge”. As well as a tumblr account was set up: http://allmalepanels.tumblr.com/
We all know how powerful social media is; in a split of second a new trending topic can be created, and what may first starts with one bad comment about the topic can rapidly turn into a thousand bad opinions. This, obviously, can be really harmful for a company; and we are talking about PayPal, an international business who’s services are used by thousands of people every day. They needed a quick reaction to these accusations that were made on the Internet about the company and their policy around gender discrimination. The group’s president, Nolwenn Godard, claimed the title of the panel was supposed to be “Gender Equality and Inclusion in the Workplace: a Conversation with our Males Allies”, and the event was focused on “male allies”. Well, unfortunately this side note was missed by accident or on purpose; this doesn’t work too well as an excuse, sorry. After this “misunderstanding” she had to take control of the situation and moderate the panel and ensure that the participation of women in the discussion was expected.
This whole situation and the sentiment on social media, has resulted in several male and female speakers starting to talk about how they’ve been witness to the lack of women in panels over the years, and how often there are full male panels at conferences that talk about issues around women with them not being included. Lucy Perry, CEO of the Sunrise Cambodia orphanage, tells how, after a decade of being a public speaker, she was often the only woman in conferences. She said: “I’m often the only woman in the program. The notion that a panel or speaker line-up would be adequate if it were chock full of men, makes no sense to me or any of the other 3.2 billion women on this planet. There are plenty of talented speakers who don’t have a dick. I’m one of them”.
The news became even bigger when several male speakers joined the boycott to all-male panels. Between those, five of Australia’s most booked male speakers refused to participate in any panel that wouldn’t represent both genders. This group of five includes Matt Church, Dr Jason Fox, Dr Adam Fraser, Dan Gregory and Darren Hill, and they are encouraging their professional buddies to join the cause.
Dan Gregory, CEO of The Impossible Institute, behavioral researcher and strategist, author and regular panelist on The Gruen Transfer, has publically said: “We believe that it’s time to force the issue and change the game. There are plenty of women who are experts in their field and highly talented speakers. The thing is, research tells us diversity makes groups smarter, so why are we dumbing panels down?” “The five of us are arguably the most booked speakers in the conference industry, and that gives us a certain amount of power in the conversation”, Gregory added. From now on, the group agreed to no longer participate in panels where there’s not diversity.
It’s 2016; it’s time for things to change for good. We cannot keep making excuses for sexist behaviour and discriminatory situations of any kind. Gender equality is not just a women’s issue, we cannot pretend to achieve a better workplace without men and women partnering together, and that cannot happen if women are not asked to participate.
Author: Berenice Ruiz, Marketing and Communication Intern, PRIA