This week, The Female Quotient, in collaboration with Facebook, launched the Speaker Equity Assessor, a first-of-its-kind tool to increase diverse representation at conferences globally. Through data inputs, the tool analyzes a conference's speaker participants and provides high-level insights to help organizations select a more diverse slate of panelists who will better represent those watching and listening.
When panels lack diversity, perspectives on the issues being discussed risk being too narrow and audiences miss potential outcomes or actions that might arise from broader representation. #SpeakerReady is the tool's call to action.
To find out the impetus for the creation of this tool and to hear why it's so important to have diverse representation on stage in our industry, I reached out to Julie Hogan, Global Marketing Director at Facebook and Ashley McGowan, Global Business Equality Lead at Facebook for their insight.
Rainbow Kirby: Julie, in your role overseeing Global Experiences & Industry Marketing for Facebook and throughout your career at other organizations, what were some of the challenges you had when securing diverse speakers for events?
Julie Hogan: Some organizations think that speakers with senior titles are the obvious choice. However, in reality, these speakers may not provide the diverse experiences, backgrounds or perspectives that other speakers might bring to the discussion.
Organizations shouldn't miss the opportunity to reflect the people who actually use their product(s) on industry stages.
Kirby: What feedback did you receive when the panels you programmed were more representative, varied and unique?
Hogan: When audiences see themselves reflected in panels, they are more dialed into what the speakers have to say, the content resonates and has meaning, and they feel inspired to take a speaker's words beyond the stage and implement them into their own lives and businesses.
Kirby: Why do so many event programmers resort to titles when looking for speakers instead of looking to skills, experience and presence?
Hogan: Some believe titles reflect knowledge and experience. However, there is no way a job title can sum up an entire person's career and experience. There are so many well-qualified speakers who might not hold a specific title, but bring a different and oftentimes, expert viewpoint that others find beneficial. It also allows for a more personal experience when the right person (regardless of title) is sharing the right content with the right audience.
The breadth and depth of experience can be far greater than the perception of a title.
Kirby: Ashley, what does the Business of Equality mean to you?
Ashley McGowan: Integrating equality into the way you do business is not only the right thing to do, it's a critical driver of growth. It's proven that when you integrate diversity, equity and inclusion into the foundation of your business strategy, you are more likely to unlock innovation, which benefits both your business and your customers. It's simply good business.
Kirby: In your role at Facebook, how do you help lead the company to a more diverse and inclusive future?
McGowan: As a Global Business Equality Lead, I focus on enabling the business actions that will accelerate a more diverse, inclusive and equitable business environment. Given the disproportionate impact we've witnessed in diverse communities around the world, my team has focused on accelerating inclusive representation in media, diversified spending with diverse vendors as well as the elevation of diverse voices and stories.
Kirby: Please share how you became involved with ADCOLOR and the mission of the organization.
McGowan: ADCOLOR is the premier organization that celebrates and advocates diversity in the creative and technology industries. Their mission is to "Rise Up and Reach Back'.
I was introduced to ADCOLOR nine years ago as a FUTURE, a young professional seeking inspiration, guidance and mentorship from industry pioneers. During this experience, I quickly recognized the importance of representation in the industry, the impact of hearing stories in which I could personally resonate and an understanding that I was not alone in my experiences. My involvement in ADCOLOR has had a direct influence on my desire to aspire and grow within the industry.
Kirby: How do we signal to conference programmers that women of color should not be slotted into only DEI panels, that they can speak to a myriad of topics, like any other spokesperson or executive?
McGowan: It's important that conference programmers consider the role they play in representing a diverse society. This means advocating for and supporting the aspirations, ambitions and goals of diverse communities. Women from across a wide diaspora of backgrounds have driven significant advancements in business, politics and sports when we consider just the last six months. These contributions are a crucial part of representation.
Kirby: Is Facebook Reels a potential way to promote oneself and to share one's "speaking presence" and personality, if you've never spoken on stage before?
McGowan: Absolutely! Reels are a perfect way to get started in owning your voice and amplifying your message. They enable you to share short yet engaging information with your followers in an easy-to-use format that includes creative tools like music, filters and remixes. Reels really enable you to showcase your personality and test your message with your following. They are the perfect way to get started in speakership.
Kirby: What feature of the Speaker Equity Assessor Tool is the most appealing to you?
McGowan: The Speaker Equity Assessor Tool has the ability to analyze and calculate an event's raw data. More specifically, it produces a quarterly insights tool based on data anonymization. This feature enables conference organizers to set benchmarks and easily identify gaps that might have previously been blindspots. This is essential in driving accountability and tracking progress in the commitments made to elevating diverse voices.
The Speaker Equity Assessor is a secure tool that will provide private data intended for internal use only. Companies and organizations can use the tool for free for the first year by creating an account online.
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The opinions expressed here are the author's views and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.com/MyersBizNet.