What would you make of a femel?
A femel is a manel - different.. but the same..
What would your reaction be if confronted with a femel?
If you saw a femel on every conference programme, would you accept it or question it? Would you want to know the reasons behind it? Let's try imagining a different kind of scenario. One that rarely happens. Imagine being invited to a conference where all the key stakeholders are women, including a femel. The Female Master of Ceremonies, the keynote speakers and all the panel members. I'm not talking about women's networks or female focused specialist knowledge such as period pain, expressing breast milk or how to survive a C-section. You get that, because what would women know about prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction or the IT mysteries of the modern washing machine?
No. The focus is mainstream professional. Topics suitable for a femel could be: "The reality of Computer Human Interaction," "The Future of Internal Audit and Do We Care?" or "Diversity and Inclusion. Moving Forward. If only."
You might find all of this a bit odd and frankly frustrating. Why wouldn't you? Men make up 50% of the workforce. They are 40% of graduates in developed economies, many with stellar professional experience.
You make some email inquiries and even a telephone call. I mean really... WTF. It's annoying. You also feel devalued, excluded and unwelcome. You thought diversity and inclusion was the latest trend.
Reasons for a Femel
This is what you are told:
- The organizers are super sorry. There are almost NO male speakers in this area of specialty. They really tried. Hard. They are men themselves, so you believe that they did their very best. You know they would give the guys a shot if they possibly could.
- Any male speakers in the sector are speaking at, or attending, other conferences. It's a busy time. You know that. This particular conference group is committed to gender balance and into the whole men on stage thing, but it's not easy to find men of the right calibre. You don't want them to play a numbers, box-ticking game and sacrifice quality for quantity. Right?
- All the women on the femel are experts in their own domains. They all know each other, went to school together and have the same hairdresser, except Paula who now lives in Paris. She comes back to get her highlights done. They are really clever and also know what they are talking about. Most of the time. Except in the cocktail hour if they have been hitting the Chardonnay or gin. It can go a bit pear shaped then.
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- The conference organizers are 100% committed to diversity, so all the women are different dress sizes, hair color and body shapes. One is dyslexic. Another is gay. They have one speaker who is sort of flat white-ish, with a dash of espresso or maybe moccochino. Rocking the Halle Berry look. It's all just not a guy thing.
- A couple of the women are super glamorous and that goes down well on Instagram and Twitter, especially the shoes. It's great for the publicity. We don't want to be politically incorrect here, but it's hard for some of the men to keep up with this, especially in the video and photo ops if they are "follicaly challenged" and have missed a few gym sessions. You know what I'm talking about. We're not biased, but audiences seem to like women better.
- Maybe next year? We are right behind you all the way. Totally committed.
Getting a diverse panel is never easy. But not impossible and probably not even that hard. If this sounds like a parody and unimaginable it's something that women hear all the time. Welcome to our world where manels are a regular occurrence.
Will you help to make sure we don't hear it again? Share if it's happened to you!
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