Because it’s 2015: I challenge you to make your #MRX conference Diversity Approved


Demand that your conferences be Diversity Approved! (Tweet this post!)

When Canada’s new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was asked why his cabinet was 50% male and 50% female, his answer was simple.  Because it’s 2015.  Such a simple answer to a long standing problem.

As I look back over 2015, I see that “because it’s 2015” didn’t apply to every market research conference. Some conferences had speaker lists that were 70% male.  Some conferences had speaker panels that were 100% male. No conferences had attendee lists nor industry lists that were 100% male let alone 70% male.

There are many reasons that men might be over-represented as speakers, but few that are acceptable.

  • Random chance.  As a lover of statistics, I accept that random chance will create some all male panels.  But since I’ve never seen an all female panel, random chance is not what’s at play here. If you’d rather see the math, Greg Martin calculated the chance of having all male speakers here. It’s not good.
  • 70% or more of submissions were from men.  That also is an acceptable reason.  If women aren’t submitting, then they can’t be selected. So on that note, it’s up to you ladies to make sure you submit at every chance you get. And don’t tell me you’re not good enough to speak. I ranted on that excuse already.
  • You haven’t heard of any women working in this area.  This excuse is unacceptable.  You can’t look for speakers only inside your own comfortable friend list.  Get out of your box.  Get online. There are tons of women talking about every conceivable industry issue. Find one woman and ask her for recommendations. You can start here: Data science, Marketing research, Statistics, Tech.
  • The best proposals happen to be from men. This excuse is also unacceptable. It demonstrates that you believe men are better than women. You need to broaden your perception of what ‘better’ means. Men and women speak in different ways so you need to listen in different ways.  It’s good for you.  Try it.

  • Women decline when we ask them to speak.  It’s a real shame particularly if women decline invitations more often than men. But any time a woman declines, ask her for a list of people she recommends.  And then consider the women on that list.  No women in the list? Then specifically ask her if she knows any women.
  • It’s a paid talk and they only sent men.  Know what? It’s okay to remind companies that their panel isn’t representative of the industry. You can suggest that they send a broader range of people.
  • We didn’t realize this was a problem. Inexcusable. Diversity has been an issue for years. People have been pointing this out to market research conferences for years.  The right time to fix things is always now.

When was the last time you prepared a sampling matrix balanced on age, gender, and ethnicity and then were pleased when it was 70% female, 70% age 50+, and 90% white? Never, that’s when. You stayed in field and implemented appropriate sampling techniques until your demographics were representative.  This is absolutely no different.

diversityapprovedSo, to every conference organizer out there, ESOMAR, CASRO, MRA, MRIA, ARF, MRS, AMSRS, ESRA, AAPOR, I challenge you to review and correct your speaker list before announcing it.

  • What percentage of submissions are from men versus women? Only when submissions are far from balanced is it acceptable for the acceptance list to be unbalanced.
  • Are there any all male panels? Are there any all female panels? (By the way, all female panels talking about female issues do NOT count.)
  • Are more than 55% of speakers male? Are more than 55% of speakers female?
  • Is the invited speaker list well balanced? There is zero reason for invited speakers to NOT be representative.
  • Did you actively ask companies to assist with ensuring that speakers were diverse?

If you can give appropriate answer to those questions, I invite you to publicly advertise your conference as Diversity Approved.

Will you accept this challenge for every conference you run in 2016? Will you:

  1. Post the gender ratio of submissions
  2. Post the gender ratio of acceptances
  3. Proudly advertise that your conference is “Diversity Approved”

Demand that your conferences be Diversity Approved! (Tweet this demand!)

2 responses

  1. The score for QRCA? 33 women and 16 men. Interesting, no? Great post.

    1. Definitely interesting. Qual is known for having more women involved so this makes sense. I’m curious what the ratio is in terms of submissions to presenters, or if you know the percentage of members who are male vs female. Glad to see there ARE women presenters out there!

%d bloggers like this: