What’s next for #allmalepanel?

I have written about all male panels before and I am regularly following the #allmalepanel hashtag for updates on that topic.
I also noticed that three new academic articles (paywalled) were published in the International Feminist Journal of Politics (scroll down to
Recently, I noticed three developments that add more nuances to the debate on gender and panel diversity-and more broadly on how ‘we’ meet and conference.

Why so many men/people on a single panel?

Even though this requires a bit more research, it really seems that 7 has become some kind of magic number.

Maybe people only share panels with a particularly large number of men, but in general I have a gut feeling that panels seem to grow in different surroundings such as academia, policy and other public events. So even if we assume that these panels could be more diverse, that does not answer the more strategic question: What do you expect from a 6, 7 or 8 people panel? Even if everybody only speaks for 5 minutes and you add a little time for transitions or Q&A that automatically turns a 7-person panel into an hour-long affair. So you may have invited 7 people to get 5-10 minutes out of them (travel cost, accommodation, per diems etc.). And even if they do other things at the conference or speak on a second panel it still looks like showing off and dropping names for the sake of it.

Looking beyond #allmalepanel – ‘ethnographic’ representations of power and policy-making
In addition to actual panels, a lot of round-tables are also shared under #allmalepanel. Often in connection with EU policy-making these images come with a context-of how policy-making ‘takes place’ in poorly lit conference rooms, or traditional, masculine rooms with flags and wood-paneling.

Chair next to chair, men sit around big tables, no breathing space in their suits, nothing that provides inspiration in the room-it is hard to imagine how this provides a space for ‘thinking outside the box’ or finding innovative solutions to the complex problems of the world.

Defending #allmalepanel
The German sustainability award spent quite a lot of time on Twitter to convince critics that a picture with 17 men was not all that bad ‘it’s not the men who were awarded prices-they are just representatives for 17 amazing projects’. Be it as it may, 17 older men representing projects from the private and public sector are still quite telling-as long as the bosses, supervisors or project leaders are all male we need to discuss structural issues-not just responding with the ‘maybe more women can apply next year’ line.

And even though this hardly warrants a reply anymore, there is the ‘I’d rather see qualified people on the panel even if it makes them less diverse’ line. I do not doubt that many of the men on the panels are qualified, but as I point out regularly, the question is not about some artificial quota, but about diversity of opinions-and the visible gender binaries are only one aspect of many others.

So what’s next for 2017 (and beyond)?
In most cases, the organizations, forums, organizers that are pointed out via the #allmalepanel hashtag does not respond, let alone engage in a discussion on how to avoid #allmalepanel in the future. Some conference organizers make promises (includes a handy reminder about
female conference Bingo’), but the mega-conferencing industry is already such a flawed enterprise that simply ‘adding more women’ will hardly change produce ‘better’ annual meetings of some association or other.

How can we create more diverse and creative spaces for exchanges that can break at least some of the rituals of how ‘we’ get together?

As with most behavior change initiatives it starts with us. Owen Barder’s pledge is important, but maybe we need to go further and pledge to attend fewer panels in general, fewer conferences in global chain hotels, fewer meetings in traditional spaces and more meetings that are family- or pet-friendly and that generally are organized in a more thoughtful way other than giving business to the conference facility and schedule three coffee breaks…


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