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Diversity on panels gone wrong


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.


1 comment

Tough topic. I hold the same belief as you @Jodi LeBlanc. And this I'd apply not just to panels but to any environment where inclusiveness and diversity are sought. A strong example is the one I live on a daily basis, where we actively look for a higher female representation in the software world, both as individual contributors and as leaders. I've been put in situations where the gender parity has been forcefully pushed, to a degree disregarding experience and abilities.

It is a topic that my wife and I often touch on and generally always come to the same conclusion: speak up, seek equality and represent the values.

Like Jodi LeBlanc likes this

Thanks for sharing @Fernando Bordallo that's a great example that you shared, and the conclusion "speak up, seek equality and represent the values".

Like Fernando Bordallo likes this


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