I had the true pleasure of speaking at the Women’s Entrepreneur Festival last week in NY. It was a great conference organized by Joanne Wilson aka GothamGal and Nancy Hechinger of NYU’s ITP program. I always find gatherings like this refreshing and energizing. Here are a couple of pictures from Wednesday morning.
The attendees (almost all women) representing all ages and ethnicities, were bright, ambitious and fun to talk to. The vibe was great – lots of exchange of ideas as well as mutual support. A significant observation I made, however, was regarding the speakers. There were 26 speakers – all women. Mostly entrepreneurs but also several venture capitalists. The entrepreneurs were from a range of industries, stages and sizes of company, several of them quite substantial. The investors were primarily early stage but covered a range as well. A large percentage of the women (many of whom have young children) traveled cross country to participate in the conference.
These conference organizers didn’t seem to have any problem filling their program with quality, qualified women speakers. The women are there. They are willing to speak. They will do a phenomenal job. This idea that there is a choice between quality and diversity is simply another false dichotomy.
My message to those who say they cannot have a gender-balanced conference agenda, you are simply not trying hard enough. Perhaps you are suffering from an unconscious bias. Perhaps you are unlucky to have interacted in your career only with a narrow group that is not diverse. Whatever the reason it doesn’t matter – the good news is this problem is proven to be solvable, no excuses please.