Blogging Is Passe. Blogging Is Too New For Me.
An Open Letter to Rhonda Shasteen: CMO of Mary Kay

Somebody's Lying.

by Guest Blogger, Lena West, Chief of Social Media Strategy at xynoMedia

Pinocchio You might know that I'm a big fan of Judge Judy. We share a "tell it like it is" style. One thing that Judge Judy says that I think is so true is, "Don't make it up as you go along. If it doesn't sound true, it's probably not." And, I have to say that somebody's lying.

On this blog, we've talked a lot about getting more women speakers at technology (particularly social media) events. And, recently, I was invited to attend an event where the entire panel was male. The conference coordinators mentioned in the invite that there were other speakers that we yet to be announced. I hit the reply button and said, "Here's hoping that at least one of the other speakers 'to be announced' is a woman."

To which the conference organizer replied:

"In terms of this particular session, the goal was to have senior, decision makers at browser and related companies, and in standards bodies. We did have one woman from a browser team lined up, who sadly cancelled [sic] But the truth is, in these roles, women are few and far between."

I don't know about you, but if I had a nickle for every time I heard, "We had a woman on the program, but she canceled." I would be writing this from my very own Airbus A380.

Could ALL these women speakers be canceling? I know cancellations happen. I myself had to cancel one of the first speaking invites I received from that popular blog post (extended to me by Jeremiah Owyang). Due to an inner ear infection, I could not fly.

These conference coordinators usually then go on to cite statistics about how the numbers of women who are entering the tech industry have declined. Ummm, let me just blow that excuse out of the water right now. Chances are, if you're speaking at a conference, you're not just graduating from school. You've got some time and experience under your belt.

And, anyway, the whole "women are few and far between" is a load of crappola. So, I replied to said conference organizer, "The coffers over at O'Reilly Publishing are replete with high-tech women. As is the membership at the Grace Hopper Conference/Anita Borg Institute. And, the membership of NCWIT (full disclosure: I'm on the Entrepreneurial Alliance @ NCWIT).

The truth, as I see it, is that people simply don't try hard enough to find women speakers. And, if they had more than ONE woman on the speaker line up, they wouldn't have to worry if one woman canceled!


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Lena L. West


Yes, and it's not even always about picking an expert really - sometimes it's better to NOT have experts and have "case study" type presentations. Whatever it is, my vote is for more women. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Lena L. West


I agree. That's why I look up to women like Jill Konrath who created the Sales Shebang for women in sales and the BlogHer ladies. I just find it hard to believe that all these women are canceling. That story is getting old. Thanks for commenting!

Yvonne DiVita

Lena, you and I have been at this game long enough to be considered experts along with any of the men out there. We've proven ourselves over and over, and we still get bypassed for ... that part of the population with one extra body part.

As more and more women take to the net to build relationships and value, I expect to see this change. But, it takes all of us speaking up, as you have, to get noticed and get invited. Unfortunate, but true.

In the end, when we ladies create our own conferences and gatherings and don't include men - wow! what a hullabaloo that causes! Turnaround is fair play, I say.

Amelia Sauter

So true, Lena. I know so many women who are experts in social marketing and but when it comes time to pick a handful of experts to represent the rest of us, that handful is frequently all male. -Amelia Sauter


I'm an entreprenuerial slacker but I am really wondering-is this a strategy or a tactic? What is the benefit of keeping women out of that thought process? We aren't perceived as thought leaders? We still have nothing to bring to the table? Have they not read anything you've ever said, Lena?

To the guys that missed the whole boat (it's looking more like a cruise ship!!!), Blogher, Brazen Careerist, or Pink Magazine would have been an easy start to search for women of all levels, backgrounds, incomes, etc. to speak at this conference.

Barriers for non-inclusion are baseless at this point. There are too many qualified women in the world for men to have any excuses.

Lena L. West

@Josiane: Wow, pale AND stale? That just stinks. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Josiane Feigon

Excellent post and thanks for capturing this reality so well.
I'm in the same predicament being a thought leader, blogger, entreprenuer and author in the male-dominated sales world. Mine is worst because we don't really have any technically progressive sales guys, they are mostly the pale, stale, american male types.


Lena L. West

@Cinnamon: Agreed. It's not enough for the people who are on the "outside" to make noise. If the people on the "inside" make noise about what they know is not right, then progress can be made. Thanks for reading and commenting.


Excellent post and reply. I have a great deal of respect for the white men in tech who have asked conference organizer where the women and people of color are. And instead of just complaining that there weren't more women, I'm glad that you offered suggestions of places to look for more.

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