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Why The Huddle for Global Change Doesn't Have Enough Women Speakers

By Jaclyn Schiff
After about six weeks of almost devoted planning (meaning I focused pretty much all my attention on putting together this event), registration for the second-ever Huddle for Global Change is now open. 
My worst fear is that it would open to... crickets. Nothing. No registrations, no buzz. Luckily, that hasn't been the case. But less than 24 hours after full registration opened, I have received some push back.
And it's totally legitimate. Let me explain. 
Earlier today, one of The Huddle partners emailed their list. They received the following response from a member of their community and passed it along to me:

I was about to send your event info round my networks, but having seen that you’ve managed just one female speaker to six male speakers, I’m feeling less inclined.

Can you explain how in a sector that’s extremely gender balanced (in fact, is more often skewed towards women professionals), you’re unable to find more experienced women to speak?
This was an issue I was conscious of before releasing the program publicly. To correct the gender imbalance, I reached out to a few contacts to ask them to recommend female speakers, but for one reason or another (scheduling or not being quite the right fit), it wasn't working out.
Time was working against me and I decided to release the lineup as is. I want to include my email response to this question below for additional context. I felt compelled to address the question almost immediately from my phone, so here's my email -- typos and all:
very fair question. I'm very committed to fair gender representation and I  frustrated I wasn't able to pull it together for this lineup. Two women who were approached to speak declined because their schedules did not allow for it - including one for the Sustainable Development Goal panel. 
We will also be announcing "featured" networkers in the virtual networking event that you'll have the opportunity to have 1-on-1 chats with. There will be a good number of women for that. 
Also this is the second Huddle we are doing this year -- it's intended to be a biannual event. In the previous one in May, we had a lot of excellent women featured as speakers. Since this is not a once off event, I am very concerned with being fair about representation over time - but as participants in the event, I know that isn't the perspective from which you view it. 
I thank you for emailing about this. I think your criticism is very fair and my hope is that if you decide to participate in The Huddle, you will be vocal about this. It's an important part of the discussion.
Over to you. As the conference organizer, what do you think is my responsibility to ensuring each program has fair gender representation? How could I have handled this better or what should I do differently going forward?
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