My colleague was asked to be on a lot of panels over the years, she's brilliant and has experience in so many areas, and is very well spoken. One conference she was asked to speak and she did what she always did and asked why she was asked to be part of it so she could fully prepare in advance the subject matter. The response of the individual was because she was a woman and because she is black. My colleague was speechless. She declined on the spot.
She said she felt like a token, that she was satisfying a diversity requirement, that they wanted her for the colour of her skin and gender, rather than what she had to say.
It is so important that when aiming to have diversity that it is not done superficially, that we target our panelists because of their abilities first.
The same goes for the "no all men panels", we wouldn't just ask someone to come on the panel to satisfy a diversity requirement because they are a woman. It would be for their abilities first.
It's a fine line, as you want diversity of panelists, but you want to ensure they have the experiences and abilities for a rich discussion, and not targeting them for their diversity only which can really make the panelist feel like my colleague did.
Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
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