Calling more men to take a stand against ‘sausagefests’ - Women's Agenda

Calling more men to take a stand against ‘sausagefests’

Did you hear about the ‘Next Big Thing’? It’s about all the great new things that technology can do – as heard by a line-up of (mostly) men. 

In April 2015, the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre will host The Next Big Thing Summit.

This summit brings together “the world’s foremost thinkers, innovators and business strategists” to discuss, presumably, the next big thing.

It just so happens that 93% of those “foremost thinkers” are male. Just one woman, Digivzer CEO and co-founder Emma Lo Russo, is listed next to the 14 men. There are two four-person panels on the program, neither of which feature any women.

Seemingly, only men are privy to “the next big thing” – despite the fact women make up half the population and are using technology and social media at the same rate as men.

It’s men like technology innovator Mark Pesce who can help the ‘next big thing’ in conferences, summits and events get their gender balance right in the future.

Over the weekend, Pesce wrote at The Register that he’s taking a stand against ‘sausagefests’. “I won’t be speaking or even attending events where women have been forgotten, excluded, or ignored,” he said. 

As he later told Women’s Agenda sister publication StartUpSmart, the turning point came during #gamergate, and he’s publicly taking a stand because otherwise he will merely be part of the problem. 

Pesce joins a growing list of men who are speaking out about male-dominated events. Late last year, Sex Discrimination Commission got 21 senior executives and public servants to sign her ‘panel pledge’, including Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, Macquarie chair Kevin McCann, Chief of Army Lt Gen David Morrison, ANZ CEO Mike Smith and Telstra CEO David Thodey. 

The pledge does not require the signatories to boycott the events, but to at least ask a question about how they’re attempting to source female talent.

No matter how male-dominated your industry, there are always women available to share their expertise on a panel. They may not necessarily be the most senior, or the most quoted in the press, but their input is just as valuable regardless.

As I’ve written previously, when women are speaking at events, I’m more likely to attend. While of course this is relevant to the fact I work on a site called Women’s Agenda, I know I’m not alone in wanting to hear the perspectives from leading women – especially when it comes to conferences and events which claim to offer a glimpse into what the future might look like.

A glimpse of the future that doesn’t include women is one that’s making some seriously outdated predictions.

‘The next big thing’ urges potential audience members to ‘Disrupt, or be disrupted’. We can only hope more men like Pesce can disrupt the continued dominance of men at industry conferences. And women too can put their names forward, and say ‘yes’ when offered an opportunity.

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