The Mantra That Makes It Easy to Create Diverse and Inclusive Events

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Elisa Camahort Page

Sometimes I wonder what year it is. That we must have conversations about, for example, homogenous speaking rosters or award slates boggles my mind.

BlogHer featured 90%+ women to begin with, so diversity & inclusion (D&I) meant much more than gender. We looked at race, age, orientation, geography, income, religion, and even the inclusion of both moms and non-moms.

By the time I left BlogHer, we achieved having nearly 50% women of color speakers at our events, and 40% women of color attendees too. The first milestone came first and enabled hitting the second. Putting D&I front and center and diverse people in positions of power and visibility signals to folks that they are welcome, that they belong.

When people ask me how we did it, I tell them it’s not hard. I have what I call my D&I mantra. I’m convinced anyone could achieve similar results by living by this mantra:

1. Value diversity & inclusion.

To achieve D&I, you must value D&I. Sounds obvious, but while people know D&I is a watchword today, that doesn’t mean they’re personally bought into its value.

When you see a marketing email from a conference and note it’s nearly gender equal, but then click in to see all speakers and discover they front-loaded all their women speakers for marketing purposes? That’s the action of an organizer that understands others value D&I, but doesn’t value it themselves.

Why should you value D&I?

Pick from a variety of good reasons:

  • Because representation matters. And helps you grow.
  • Because different experiences bring different ways of thinking and different solutions.
  • Because data shows diverse teams have better outcomes.

Take your pick, but figure out why D&I matters to you.

2. Prioritize.

Once you agree that D&I is good, you have to prioritize achieving it. It doesn’t happen by magic; it doesn’t happen by wishing. It happens by setting the intention. And setting goals. And measuring results. And adjusting your approach if you’re not seeing the result you want. It's like ANY OTHER GOAL. We set goals: at least 40% women of color, at least 10% LGBTQ community members, and so on. We tracked if we met our goals. We were accountable to ourselves first.

3. Ask for help.

I totally get it. When you ask for help to find more women, or people of color, or people from the LGBTQ community, or Boomers, or the disabled community, it can feel like you’re carrying a big sign saying, “Hey, I’m a sexist.” Or racist, or or or…

Get over it. Have the humility to ask for help.

I spent a lot of time building relationships with folks who were embedded in different communities, and I’d share my criteria and ask for their help in finding those unsung experts who deserved the spotlight.

Three things to keep in mind:

  1. Build relationships. I tried to not only approach people when I needed something. I also tried to approach my network with opportunities that would be valuable to them, not just me…delivering potential revenue or exposure or powerful relationships.
  2. I made it clear what my criteria were, because it went without saying that I was looking for awesome, unsung, qualified experts.
  3. I wasn’t looking, most of the time, for people to come talk about their identity itself, but rather simply to be themselves talking about their area of expertise. Of course we sometimes had the obligatory “women in tech” or similar session that was about identity, but news flash: If those are the only places you’re placing diverse speakers, you’ve failed. Full stop.

And that’s it. That’s my mantra:

Value diversity;
prioritize diversity;
ask for help to achieve diversity

It’s not hard, but you have to set the intention. Without intention you leave it to chance, and you can do so much better.

Elisa Camahort Page

Elisa Camahort Page, known as the co-founder and COO of scrappy start-up-turned-pioneering-global-women’s-media-company BlogHer, Inc., is now focused on writing (with her debut book, Road Map for Revolutionaries: Resistance, Activism, and Advocacy for All, available for pre-order now) and consulting with entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and organizations. Her mission: to make vision a reality and to help you complete your narrative.