The Technology Diet Update I
A Moment of Silence for a Loved One

Keynote Speakers Come in Both Genders

I belong to NAWBO - the National Association of Women Business Owners. A very good friend of mine is our local Chapter President. The organization is a powerful support system for women business owners. I heartily recommend it to all women, whether you have your own business, or are an employee in someone else's business. The group offers a LOT of perks, not the least of which is the value of networking with peers and colleagues once a month, over lunch or brunch, or whatever.

Yesterday I received my newsletter, the NAWBOtime for August and September. The cover story is all about this year's Women's Business Conference, which was in San Francisco, in June. In the newsletter, the conference is being described as, "electrifying" and energetic. Of course it was the "biggest" and "best" - they all are, but that's not why I'm devoting this post to this event.Nawbo

Here's the rub - turning the page, I noticed mention of Keynote speaker, Stan Slap (that's his name, I'm not making this up), the former exectuve Vice President of Mrs. Fields. I was momentarily dumbfounded. Stan Slap. Yup - a man. Keynoting for the largest women's business organization in the country. Stan Slap - giving hundreds of women business owners advice - on "how to work in the culture."

Excuse me? Is it possible that the committee putting this event together do not understand the women's culture? That they scoured the earth for a suitable WOMAN keynote speaker and didn't find one? Having Suze Orman at another event does not make up for it. Their Make a $Million program does not make up for it. The fact that Talbots closed its doors to the public and allowed attendees a private shopping spree, with reception, does not make up for it.

This group, at this event, should have had a woman keynote speaker. NAWBO members should insist on having a woman keynote speaker at national events.

Oh, please!  Don't write and tell me it doesn't matter. Don't write and tell me I'm being too sensitive. Don't write and tell me I sound like a man-hater.

It does matter - because women are still struggling to get known, to build and grow their businesses in a climate that purports to be supportive, but isn't. A climate that too often denies bank funding unfairly (trust me, I know that!). And, it matters because women today want advice from other women - more than advice from a men. We like working with our own - we just trust other women more, these days.

I'm not being too sensitive, either. NAWBO is a woman's organization, created to help women business owners. We welcome men into the group, sure. We appreciate a strong, intelligent, experienced man's opinion. We even enjoy a man's advice and help, occasionally. But, not as the keynote at our national conference.

Having my back up over the introduction of a male keynote speaker at the National NAWBO conference does not make me a man-hater. There were plenty of other programs at that event that a man could have contributed to. To put a man in the key spot - up front and center - was just wrong! Not because he lacks credentials, or because being a man can't relate to women's issues (though, some women I know really feel that way), far from it. I bet Stan Slap was fabulous! I bet he has a CV that stretches to the moon. Here's the rub: he was standing on the spot that could have been, and should have been, filled by a woman.

I say this because - women are too often overlooked or ignored when it comes to being chosen as keynote speakers. Why? I don't know. I do know that NAWBO has a committment to its members and those members join to network with other women, to learn how to be successful - at the advice and mentoring of other women - and to mingle with women all over the country. They should at least have the advantage of hearing from a woman keynote speaker, at their national conference.



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Mary Schmidt

As a NAWBO member, I certainly appreciate the effort that goes into programs and speakers - it's always a challenge even at the local chapter level.

However, I agree with Yvonne. Perception is reality when it comes to PR, marketing and - yes - power positioning. Thus, the top keynote speaker should have been a woman.

Account Deleted

Yvonne -- I agree with you 100%. Having women elsewhere on the program does not excuse an organization. Nor does the fact that everyone enjoyed the speech. We have the walk the talk.

I noted the same thing about the PRSA conference this fall -- pretty much 50/50 men/women in the sessions, but ALL the keynotes are to be delivered by men. In a profession that has more women than men by far.

Yvonne DiVita

Erin, I appreciate your comments and the reply to my post. NAWBO is truly a phenomenal organization - and I wholeheartedly recommend it. I think your points that Stan Slap was so successful and highly rated do not negate the issue of a strong women's organization not having a strong woman keynote speaker. There are dozens you might have chosen from. Of course, I was not privvy to the planning, so... I make my points on the basis of what I know and read. I hope the conversation and dialogue can continue, with input from Stan or other men, as well.

Keep up the great work at NAWBO - I was not able to attend the national conference this year, but it's high on my hopes for next year.

Erin Fuller

Thanks for your kind words about NAWBO, a phenomenal organization that works to connect women entrepreneurs from around the country and expose them to cutting edge thinking regarding business development. I appreciate your feedback about one of our keynote speakers at the 2006 conference. It is important to note that less than 5% of NAWBO’s speakers in any given year are male – but that we do allow men as members, and we certainly welcome those that have important information to share regarding business development to present at national events. We were pleased to welcome Suze Orman, Dany Levy and Maria Sobrino as other keynote speakers, as well as an additional 20 presenters (of which one was male) for our breakout sessions. Interestingly, Stan Slap was the most highly rated event by our attendees for the entire conference – which demonstrates that his presentation held value for our members. In any case, I recognize that this issue will always cause spirited debate – and our members’ passion for NAWBO and their businesses is one of the many reasons I believe I have a fabulous and rewarding job, as NAWBO's executive director.

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