Why White Men Should Boycott All White Male Panels

This fantastic post on Good Media addresses a huge elephant in the room regarding event organising. How frequently do you go to a business event only to find “key experts” on the speaking list are only pale, male and stale?

At a recent “Women in European Business” event sponsored by Deutsche Bank, the two primary speakers were white men, who talked on their views about the Middle East – but not much about the target audience, Women in Europe. You’d be forgiven for wondering if you were in the right conference! The successful female speakers were relegated to a shared panellist slot, when they were actually the most interesting part of the evening!

As Cord Jefferson explains in his blog: “ It seems to happen almost monthly: Organizers of a prominent event announce a panel featuring so-called tastemakers that includes nary a woman or minority. A Twitter uproar ensues, and bloggers weigh in on this latest travesty in diversity. After that, the white, male panelists – genuinely surprised to be called out – apologize, saying they had no idea things would skew so white and male.

The event organizer also apologizes and tacks on an excuse! “I reached out to women and minorities, but… ‘There’s mocking and maybe some genuine outrage, but nothing really changes.  When the lineup for I Want Media’s’ “The Future of Media” panel was announced….this year there wasn’t a single woman or person of color represented. “The future of media: all white, all male, apparently,” tweeted Irin Carmon, a writer at Jezebel.

Cord continues: “After watching this happen again and again, something occurred to me: Why don’t the white men who are asked to engage in this nonsense simply stop doing it? The boycott is a protest with a long history of success. If white, male elites started saying, ‘I will not participate in your panel, event, or article if it is all about white men,’ chances are these panels and articles would quickly dry up—or become more diverse.

“I think it’s ridiculous that this kind of thing goes on in 2011,” says Wired magazine’s Spencer Ackerman, a white guy who’s often written about and asked to be on panels thanks to his vaunted national security reporting. “It’s especially bad when it happens in progressive media, which makes an effort—or at least pays lip service—to promote the idea that media diversity isn’t just an optional thing but a necessity.”

Asked what he thinks about a white-dude panel boycott, Ackerman said it makes sense. “It’s within our power and it’s up to us to say, ‘Why don’t you include my colleague who works on something similar, who has possibly more to say because they’re not listened to as frequently,’” he says. “And if we don’t do it, there’s no incentive for people organizing these things to think more critically about why it is they’re not including these diverse voices.” Cord, I couldn’t agree with you more.

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