Panel beating


Spot the speaker from a developing country. Oh wait, you can’t.


In response to the under-representation of women on speaking panels in the tech industry, Rebecca Rosen suggested that speakers pledge to only participate when there will be at least one female speaker. This spurred a fair amount of self-reflection from the development crowd on Twitter, neatly summed up and subsequently critiqued by Duncan Green:

They may not be as extreme as geeky tech events, but lots of development gabfests do indeed feature men on the panel talking to women (and men) in the audience. That violates basic fairness, inhibits the profile and (possibly) career development of half of the potential talent pool, and is likely to distort the agenda and resulting discussion (less focus on care economy, women’s rights etc).

I won’t dwell on the mechanism design here – although whether or not pledges would work and what the resulting equilibrium would be is certainly worth further thought. However, I will point out a more glaring inequity in the typical composition of development panels. Let’s see if you can spot it: above is a photo of a recent IIES panel on using aid to reduce world poverty. Can you spot the missing party?  Perhaps our pledges need to begin with geography before gender.