giving half of humanity a voice
Published May 15, 2023
"there are more people named paul than women on this panel". a comment raised by a colleague at main on one of our slack channels last February.
Since then, there have been countless examples of events, panels and media announcements where women are clearly under-represented, absent altogether, or added as " photo op " in extremis. " and when you see it, you can't unsee it ". and it itches.
however, the need for more women to take center stage is nothing new to us. mainI've often seen our DG louis-félix turn down an invitation to interact at an event, so as not to be "the umpteenth man on the scene."
the situation is appalling: there is still an appalling lack of women expressing themselves in the public arena.
we're not talking about promoting the women who work in your company. as a friend of mine says, "we make up 50% of the population; the mere fact that we occupy half the space in the workplace is the bare minimum".
we're talking here about hearing women's voices, putting women forward, those who naturally won't put themselves forward. interesting fact: when I was putting together the programming for sommet des accélérateurs last year, I called on everyone to contact me to propose speakers. of the brilliant people who proposed themselves, 0% were women.
When I check social networks, I often see a promotion for an event with lots of women as headliners, and think "well, it's refreshing to see so many women on a panel". only to realize that it's content about "women in tech" or "women in science".
We need solutions designed by and for half the population. But please, give the same importance to representativeness to all your events, not just to a peripheral segment outside prime time.
THE DATA IS THERE
putting women first, on a panel, in programming, at the head of companies, is not just about being fair. as caroline criado perez writes in invisible women: data bias in a world designed for menas caroline criado perez writes in invisible women: data bias in a world designed for men, "when we exclude half of humanity from knowledge production, we lose potentially transformative ideas".
she cites the example of google's headquarters in california, which had never thought of providing parking for pregnant women until one of its managers became pregnant and realized that it's much harder to walk for long distances when you're 8 months pregnant. it cost google nothing to add dedicated parking for pregnant people. all it needed was someone with a uterus in a management position to think about it.
IT'S NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM
Fortunately, we are surrounded by organizations, supported by exemplary individuals, who are committed to representativeness. to name but a few:
- the startupfest team, with whom we're working to set up acceleratorfest, is an unshakeable guardian of diversity.
- the women experts initiative enables us to propose and seek out women experts to interact in various fields.
- A few years ago, the Women in Tech Manifesto superbly proposed a manifesto for "parity at tech events, to combat the under-representation of women in the industry".
- the quebec businesswomen's network supports and promotes quebec women;
- the government of canada offers a guide to planning inclusive events;
- and, of course, the urelles organization, launched by chloé freslon, supports companies in the areas of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI).
OUR PIECE OF (CHE)MAIN
As an organization, we still have a long way to go, and we're always ready to listen to proposals.
in its day-to-day operations, main applies the principles of gender parity in appointments to its senior management and Board of Directors. In addition to having more female members, the main Board of Directors is made up of competent individuals from a wide range of backgrounds, many of whom identify themselves as racialized.
main has also included in its internal processes a salary watch carried out by an external firm to ensure gender equity and avoid any form of discrimination in the hiring process.
it's not easy to publicly lance an abscess.
If I have the motivation and the platform to write these lines, it's also largely because I'm surrounded by exceptional men who are as, if not more, sensitive to the issue of women's representation than I am. Among them are my "boss", louis-félix, my colleague, guillaume, and my lover, adrien.
i also understand what this means for my role in creating meeting points for the Quebec startup ecosystem. i'm personally guilty of holding events that were frankly lacking in diversity. i know what it's like to want to wrap up one's programming and communicate it as soon as possible to those who will travel, who will pay with their money or their time, and who will choose to come and hear our event proposal, rather than do something else important. we want to deliver and we want to check items off our to-do list.
eventually, i know that i'll find myself at one minute to midnight before an event, and that cancellations will mean that i'll have to deal with the possibility of having a gender-neutral event. i'll have to take shortcuts. but that's precisely when you have to redouble your efforts, be creative and not fall into the trap.
i pledge to do everything in my power to ensure that we don't have to deprive ourselves, as caroline criado perez says, of the production of knowledge by half of humanity.
- joyce mclean, manager - summit and community relations @ main