The GenderAvenger Pledge: Speaking Out, Taking Action, and Getting Things Done

by Ricardo Camacho [  CC BY 2.0  ],   via Wikimedia Commons

by Ricardo Camacho [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Speaking out is important. Action gets things done. So, this spring, we added a challenge to men: take the GenderAvenger Pledge to not serve on all-male panels. Slow and steady, the signatures are coming in from all over the world, and some of our signers have put their commitment front and center when asked to serve on a panel.

Garrett Boone, Chairman Emeritus and Co-founder of The Container Store, was one of the first to take the GenderAvenger Pledge. Recently, he was asked to participate on a panel at the inaugural Culturati Summit. Garrett was interested in serving but sent this note to Eugene Sepulveda, Founder of Culturati and CEO of Entrepreneurs Foundation of Central Texas:

Garrett Boone

Garrett Boone

I need to ask you if any women will be serving on the panel. Women and girl’s gender equity is a pillar of our family foundation and I have signed a personal pledge to serve only on panels that include women and I intend to keep that pledge. Hopefully this is not an issue but I wanted to bring it up now.

Eugene’s response? “I love this question.” He proceeded to list the women currently committed to several panels as well as breakout sessions, saying “We’ve been prioritizing this from the start.” The panels are still in formation, but we know that when organizers make it a priority, events reflect gender balance. We look forward to seeing the final program.

And, like Eugene, we loved Garrett’s question, too! It is a terrific example of how to approach organizers and, you never know, You might just find the same positive response on the other side.

Keeping it simple and to the point seems to be the order of the day for the signers of our GenderAvenger Pledge. While we’ve heard many excuses for all-male panels — some very complicated and convoluted — the reasons for taking the Pledge are quite simple:

  • Aidan Morgan and Charles Glasser said it was “the right thing to do.”
  • Howard Greenwich said having an all-male panel is “just stupid.”
  • Tim Hollo, who says he’s organized “quite a few panels”, expanded on that sentiment: “It's lazy, stupid sexism to have all-male panels, and it's not at all difficult to find superb women panelists. It really makes me angry to see how prevalent it still is… it's not hard to get gender balance. Just do it.”
  • Geoffrey Hayes signed on “to support women in Silicon Valley,” where the technology community has been notoriously short of women in public roles.

Ultimately, several supporters focused on the benefits of having women in the public dialogue:

  • Michael Kieschnick signed on “in order to improve the quality of panels,” while Jaxon Barnes said “I believe everyone benefits by supporting diversity.”
  • Punit Dhillon summed up his support this way: “Because men need to realize that a company or industry will never realize its full potential without women.”

Most of our Pledge-signers are men, but a few women have also lent their support. Jessika Hepburn said very simply, “If everyone is the same, what can we possibly hope to learn from each other?” Indeed.

We need many more men to take the pledge and to follow it through with conference organizers. It will take all of us — men and women — together to make this change happen. 

Forward this to a friend and ask them to sign on!

Want to read more about why men are taking the pledge? Read what Steve Rosenthal and Keith Mestrich said. Then read more about the men who inspired us to create the GenderAvenger Pledge and join our growing list of fellow pledgers.