Over the coming weeks STA will be developing the program for its 85th Annual Market Structure Conference in Washington DC. More than 50 industry professionals will participate as speakers, moderators or panelists.
If past performance is any indication of future outcomes then conversations like this will be taking place:
“Hello Joe, would you like to be a panelist at our conference?”
“Would you like to know what the panel is on first?”
“Oh yeah, what’s it on?”
“Cool. By the way, is Blockchain one word or two?”
While this mock conversation is an exaggeration it describes what we’ve experienced in the past; that is, getting men to participate as panelists is fairly simple and when you’re trying to round out a panel last minute, they are usually the path of least resistance.
There are many talented women in our industry. Many have served on STA panels as subject matter experts covering a broad range of financial services topics. Having said that, it has been our experience that we need to invite three women before two accept. Part of the “2 for every 3” statistic is partially attributed to STA being in a situation that calls for a path of least resistance. Generally we find that women tend to be very thoughtful in their response. In other words, they ask detailed questions on what the panel will cover; what perspective are they expected to bring; who else is on the panel, etc. However there have been instances where the candidate with the right skillset has been invited far in advance and they have declined. The range of reasons varies from they’re uncomfortable with public speaking, they don’t want the attention or they are not receiving internal support to do so. This is unfortunate not just for the candidate, but for the quality of content for the event.
Find your voice. This is an idiom often used by motivational speakers and applies to both women and men. Whether or not you consider yourself a leader, finding your voice, according to author Tabby Biddle, is about unearthing your purpose and fully stepping into your potential. While STA is proud of what we’ve done in achieving diversity on our panels there is still room for improvement. This year STA is making a more conscious effort to extend speaking invitations sooner in the process. We hope that our efforts coupled with a greater awareness on what “find your voice” means to you, that our success rate with attracting women subject matter experts improves.