We cannot create movements of equality and justice if our own movement is not equal and just.
This thought kept running in my head while I was sitting in the many MANELs (all male-panels) at the 17th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Panama.
This was my first IACC but I had already been warned by others that this might happen. That I might find myself in long, sometimes interesting panels all headed by old white men and that I should try to meet people outside of the panels as the audience is full of experts.
Both tips were correct. I met some fascinating people. People who are on the run because of the reporting they do on corruption. Academics who have studied the effects of corruption on democracy, welfare, gender equality and corporate compliance. Politicians and political advisors who are trying to shake things up from inside.
This is all the more reason why the fact that most of the conference was lecture-style sessions and male-only panels was disturbing. I tried to have this conversation with men at the conference and while most were sympathetic to my point, almost none of them had even noticed the lack of diversity.
See, that’s scary.
If we’re holding governments to account, setting new standards for corporate responsibility and creating a thriving watchdog element in society — we need to notice these things. It’s only human that we might not notice things that don’t affect us directly which is why many people are oblivious to the gender wage gap, discrimination against minorities and everyday instances of sexism.
At OpenHeroines, we’ve often come across the following arguments when we’ve raised the point about the representation of women on panels.
… But what about the substance?
… But we couldn’t find any woman who knew about this subject?
… But we were trying to get the best people?
… But some of the other panels have lots of women on them?
… But we had a female panel host?
… But we had one female speaker?
Our movement is vibrant and full of inspiring women that are fighting corruption on the front lines, from within government, through media and in the business sector. Let’s give them the platform they deserve.