If Men Really Didn't Like All-Male Panels, There Wouldn't Be All-Male Panels

Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that Americans don’t like it when men-only groups make decisions about women. “Citizens don’t like all-male panels” the Post’s researchers found. Moreover, the study showed that American men seemed to dislike all-male panels “even more than American women.”


We take one small issue with this, which is, to put it bluntly: if men didn’t like all-male panels, there wouldn’t be so many all-male panels. Period. The article makes it seem as though the all-male panel is some inexplicable, naturally occurring phenomenon, but we’ve seen time and again that it isn’t. All-male panels happen when there is complete lack of effort or care to put together a gender-balanced event. We showed you what successful gender balance can look like, and what it takes to get there, just last week.

But okay, let’s assume that men really do hate all-male panels as much as we do. What can they do about it? GenderAvenger has three steps you can take to really make a difference on the saturation of all-male panels in the world of conferences and symposiums.

3 Ways to Combat the All-Male Panel

1. Sign the GenderAvenger Pledge.

This is a simple commitment to not serve as a panelist at a public event when there are no women on the panel. Easy, right? Often, when approached to serve on a panel, even just mentioning that you’ve taken the pledge can be an impactful reminder to the panel organizers. We’ve heard from our GA community that organizers sometimes make additions or modifications to speaker line-ups in order to rectify their embarrassing omissions. Join Senator Bob Casey, Representative Don Beyer, Amalgamated Bank President Keith Mestrich and many, many more. Wear your pledge with pride and make a difference on any conference or panel you are a part of.

2. Give up your seat.

It will still happen sometimes that you find yourself onstage only to realize at that moment that there are no women present on your panel. It isn’t too late to make a change. All you have to do is give up your seat! Ask someone in the audience, which at any conference is usually made up of more than qualified professionals in the field, if any woman would like to take your place and add their voice to the mix. Even if no one takes you up on the offer, it still highlights the imbalance on the stage. Which brings us to our next point:

3. Call it out.

Unfortunately, throughout our work at GenderAvenger we’ve found that nothing works quite as well as a little shame to motivate an organization to take action and be accountable. An old GenderAvenger friend, Ron Fournier, has a policy that when he finds himself on an all-male panel for work he will then immediately call the organization out publicly on social media. This draws attention to the problem, rallies people to support, and more often than not makes conference organizers think a little harder about their all-male panels for the next event. We even have a handy app for sharing gender imbalance when you see it.

We know all-male panels are a disservice to their fields, and we hope that The Washington Post’s research is right: everyone should be skeptical of and bothered by all-male groups making decisions for women. We also hope, though, that this discomfort goes beyond just when the topic at hand is specifically about women. It’s not just upsetting to have groups of men make decisions that especially affect women. It is upsetting to have groups of men making any kind of decision that will affect an entire country without women equally represented and given room to speak.

Women’s voices count and deserve to be heard. Always. Make sure we all take steps to ensure that this conviction is reflected in our daily lives by signing the pledge and asking others to do the same.