Why all male conference line-ups matter

An open letter

Dear organisers of the Equipped to Succeed conference,

I have never written a letter of complaint before, and I’m not sure that is what this is. But I feel compelled to write because I want you to know, from one particular woman (me), why your selection of 8 men matters. Thank you, by the way, for the late addition of Claudine Reid.

As you know, the issue of the unequal balance of the genders on the stages of Christian conferences in the UK has begun to be addressed. Explanations for the lopsided figures include:

-the organisers have no theological rationale for their choice of speakers; there just happens to be a massive pool of high profile, qualified and experienced males and a small puddle of females.

-the organisers were male. They didn’t even notice everyone they invited was male.

-the females invited were all busy (doing what one wonders? Cooking, cleaning and childcare?)

-the organisers believe women shouldn’t be speaking from the front, unless their husband is up there too

Since you have added in Claudine, I’m assuming you were not acting on a principle, or staying true to what you believe to be the biblical position. And in any case, my intention isn’t to argue. I just want you to hear why, when I received your flier about the E2S conference, I had a such a visceral response.  I felt angry and hurt.

I felt angry and hurt because:

*the clear message that came across was networking, business and success are manly things. I am in a new job where this event could have been useful/ relevant, but I felt excluded.

*for a shamefully long time, my gender was invisible in the public realm. It maddens me to see how far we still have to go, and that my Christian family are lagging behind in efforts to redress the balance

*I am a speaker. I don’t speak on the themes of your conference and I wouldn’t have been an appropriate person to invite. But I feel the frustration of those women who are in this arena but lack experience. I lack experience on big stages (I have been on a handful only), but how are we to gain experience if we are not invited? God Loves Women (@God-loves-women) is compiling a data base of women speakers. Perhaps some of us on the list could do with more experience. My plea: give us the platform and watch us grow to fill it.

*we are half (or slightly over) of the world’s humans. It is painful to me to see a row of male faces, selected presumably because they are deemed to have the most authority, the greatest influence, the charisma and the reputation to draw people (other men?) to the event.

It is not okay. Things need to change.

Thank you for listening,

 

Jo

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