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130 Women Speaking at BlogWorld? Those Are Pretty Good Odds


A few days ago we started a conversation regarding finding women to speak at BlogWorld. I won’t rehash it all for you now but if you want to go ahead and read it, we’ll wait.

Done? Ok, moving on…

The blog post and ensuing comments weighed heavily on my mind. While most people do agree with me in that it’s more important to have GOOD speakers over a particular ratio of (insert your race, gender or creed here) or type of speaker, it does have me wondering if women have a strong enough presence at BlogWorld this year. I thought we worked hard to bring in women, but what if we really didn’t?

When Rick Calvert and I read proposals and selected speakers this year, we made sure to choose both men and women, and to have some balance in our panels. When track leaders and committees invited speakers to present at BlogWorld, we also encouraged them to find strong, well-respected women to speak and they didn’t disappoint. So after all the blog posts and conversations on Twitter or Skype regarding women at BlogWorld (and conferences in general), I decided to take a look at the schedule.

Last night, Rick and I went over the entire BlogWorld schedule with a fine tooth comb to ensure there would be no discrepancies come October 14th. As we discussed each and every session and speaker, it hit me…we have plenty of women presenting at BlogWorld this year. Probably more than any other year. We have quite a few woman-only panels and moderators too. There is no big, glaring discrepancy in the amount of women speaking this year.

So I decided to count noses.

We’ll have about 280 speakers at BlogWorld this year (our roster shows a few more but I know there have been a bunch of cancellations.) Of those speakers, about 130 of them are women. Of those 130 women four are keynotes and many are speaking more than once. So, other than the discrepancy in the ratio of female/male keynoters, I’m not sure why some people are viewing BlogWorld as an event that isn’t “woman friendly.”  It looks to me that we’re the friendliest conference in social media (except those geared specifically towards moms or women.)

Yes, I would like to see more women keynoters, but you know what? I’m not worrying about the male to female ratio at BlogWorld this year anymore. We worked hard to bring in the best women to speak and it shows. We will continue to invite women in social media to participate at BlogWorld, while still realizing our mission is to provide our attendees with the best content possible.

I’m satisfied we reached our goal.

BlogWorld 2010 is going to rock.


  • Lara

    Oh, Deb – I’m so glad someone decided to “count noses” because I was trying to do that myself and since I don’t have the list the way you do (for obvious reasons), I found it overwhelming. But I’m SO glad you did it!

    Hopefully the complainers will finally see that you and the BWE team have kicked so much ass (even beyond their so-called concerns) that they’ll just be quiet. I’m very proud of you and everyone involved and I know that this year’s event will really top them all. 🙂

  • Sheila Scarborough

    Thanks for the headcount, Deb. I’m glad you also broke out keynotes. Experienced speakers know that keynotes are a real measure of power and representation. The bar is much higher for them than for panels (as is the pay, for those events that pay speakers.)

  • Rick Calvert

    For the record. We do not pay speakers. I am actually surprised by Deb’s count myself. So despite the fact that the blogosphere overall trends about 60% men to 40% women, our total attendance is 65% men to 35% women our roster is closer to 50/50. As I have said several times. We are very proud of our content and our record.

  • Aliza Sherman

    Glad you counted!

    And as you know, I definitely haven’t ever said or felt that Blogworld Expo was not “women-friendly.” Has anyone else? I only pointed to the one discrepancy regarding the ratio of male to female keynoters – the toughest nut for female speakers to crack at these events. And also the first impression anyone gets because you announce keynoters side by side and put them out more prominently than the myriad of diverse session leaders and panelists.

    From experience, I actually consider Blogworld Expo to be female-friendly in terms of attitudes from “the top” and in dealing with the conference as both an attendee and speaker. I don’t think the ratio “imbalance” is a fault of Rick or Deb or the Blogworld speaker committees although as with any situation, we all play some part in the way things transpire.

    As I’ve communicated to Rick and Deb, I think that the appearance of fewer women keynoters at top business, tech and venture conferences stems from a myriad of issues – and BTW, it is an overall trend in the speaking industry and has been for years. I’m only looking at the industries I know.

    in some cases, organizers are biased (not a case here); in some cases, supply/demand issues (somewhat a case here); in some cases there are clear shortcomings on the part of women speakers (lower profiles, weak self-promotion, lack of self-esteem issues); in some cases, there are user-unfriendly submission processes. Case in point: I recently opted out of submitting to CrowdConf after a frustrating attempt even though I’m coming out with a book on crowdsourcing next Spring because I couldn’t figure out how to craft a submission – the academic language was entirely foreign to me, and I checked out.

    I’m hoping the Chain of Daisies Project will help fill in some gaps and provide resources to both conference organizers and speakers to continue to strengthen connections and provide training and support systems where they are needed. http://chaindaisies.wordpress.com

  • Deb Ng

    Hi Aliza – Actually there were a couple of people who commented on posts both at your blog and this one that we werent very woman friendly. You, however, weren’t one of them.

    I’m looking forward to seeing good things from your Chain of Daisies project and hope to help any way I can.

  • Whitney Johnson

    Deb —

    First off — kudos for establishing a solid mix of men and women!

    Second, I agree with you that women don’t step up or show up as you detailed in your post “On Getting Women to Speak at BlogWorld” largely due to lack of confidence. A lack that is born of society frowning on women “tooting our own horn”. As young girls we refrain from touting our accomplishments, while remaining confident, but by our teenage years, we start to drink the “we aren’t as capable as men” kool-aid. At least I did. Here’s something I wrote on the topic.


    Thanks for facilitating a lively conversation — and best wishes for a successful Blogworld!

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