As many other industries are finally owning up to problems surrounding gender equality, one recruiting techie in London showed us not only how easy it could be, but how quickly we are ready to make changes.
Hung Lee is an industry professional with over 15 years’ experience in the London Tech Startup scene. Now CEO of an award-winning online recruiting platform WorkShape.io and curator of weekly newsletter Recruiting Brainfood, Hung has been at the forefront of how companies connect with talent, but at a recent conference, he noticed something wasn’t quite right: none of the speakers were women.
What he did next wasn’t complicated – it’s a google spreadsheet for godsakes – but the idea of crowdsourcing a list of qualified, talented female speakers located around the world caught on. To showcase how easy it is to find qualified and talented female speakers? Yes. But also, with over 500 names and counting, to never give any one manel a chance to say “but there weren’t any female panelists available” ever again.
What was the moment you realized you wanted to make this list, where were you, what was happening around you?
I had just given a talk at a recruiting event, my first of the year, where I couldn’t help but notice the speaker lineup was all guys. The usual thing to do these days would be to throw the organizers under the bus on Twitter, but I thought it might be better to actually try and help event organizers by providing a resource they could use. I know it’s hard to put on an event and I’m sure that the vast majority of people who do this for a living are well-meaning folks who care, but sometimes results fall short of expectations. My first and only reaction was, ‘How can I help?’. That’s when the idea of the list came up – more or less immediately after the last talk I saw at the event.
Why a Google spreadsheet?
I actually did one recently, ‘Recruiting Brainfood Big List of Recruiting & HR Events To Attend in 2018, which seemed to be a great success through a simple crowdsource. So it was kind of obvious that I’d use the same channel for this initiative.
Which speakers first came to your mind to include? Was it a matter of sharing with a few people and it just went crazy?
My approach to these things is always to just start a public conversation and see who wants to talk. I’ve got decent reach on LinkedIn, so I kicked things off there with a brief description of my experience, naming three folks who would be a great example of the type of people I was thinking about, then inviting other people to nominate women speakers who should also be on the list. That post went viral and before I knew it, hundreds of names had been nominated. That was the early seed data for the spreadsheet.
What factors do you think exist in the industry that made compiling this list necessary? Do you feel this is part of the larger issue of redressing gender equality that’s going on right now?
I’ve talked to a lot of event organizers since we first started this conversation. All of them (including many of whom who are female) reported the similar findings – it’s tougher to get women to commit to public speaking than seemed to be the case with men. We can all speculate as to why this may be. The uncharitable might say sexism, but I suspect it’s more complicated and less nefarious than that. The reasons are less important to me than doing something practical that might actually help. There’s plenty of talk out there. Sometimes we need more action.
What are some of the things you hope will change in the short and longer term?
I hope that we’ll get to a point where we can all have access to a diversity of voices and opinions. In the short term, this means greater gender diversity in speaker lineups across the board. Over the long term, that diversity no longer becomes a subject that needs initiatives of this sort!
What’s been some of the more notable feedback you’ve received?
The feedback has been amazing. Of the thousands of interactions I’ve seen – comments, social signals, shares – 100% has been positive, from men and women. And some of the messages I’ve personally received from the people who feature on the list have been so encouraging and enthusiastic they’ve been humbling for me to read. Most importantly though, some women are already getting booked to speak as a direct result of this document! It’s already circulating without us having to do anything in terms of outreach or promotion, which is great.
Who do you most want to put this list to use?
That’s easy – anyone who is putting on an event and who cares about gender diversity. Recruiting Brainfood Big List of Women Speakers for Recruiting / HR events is a freely available resource for anyone in the business of putting on a show. If we can go to this as the first thing we do when we think about holding an event, then that’s as much as anyone can ask for.