Speaking to Ourselves

Last night I was on a panel called "Women in Tech & Politics: Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling" with four incredible women who are leaders in their respective fields.

IGNITE co-hosted the event with Brigade, a civic tech startup founded by tech luminaries, Sean Parker, Ron Conway, and Marc Benioff. Brigade has been doing these free civic/political oriented events since their inception and they usually get a good crowd of Bay Area people - some techies, some politicos, and lots of men and women. 

Not so tonight. The event was ticketed beyond capacity - the largest group they've had yet. The registrants: 99% women. And so, this excellent panel made up of a county Supervisor, a MacArthur genius turned candidate for local office, a tech CEO, and the only Latina lobbyist in California, spoke to a crowd that already understood everything we would say. 

And so I am left wondering, do these events help advance women's equality? Does speaking to ourselves serve any purpose at all? 

This isn't a rhetorical question. I could fill every hour of my work week attending women's 'summits': Women in the World, Makers, It's Time, Forbes Most Powerful Women, not to mention the myriad state and city-based events that happen in every community. The list is virtually endless. 

Who attends these events? You already know the answer to that question. 

And so we panelists share our pearls of wisdom and our stories, and they are good and insightful, and young women snap and middle aged women clap, but their applause is because they have already experienced firsthand all the facts and stories we describe. They are happy to be in a room with people who share their experience and their frustrations. And who can blame them? So am I.

But if we really want to change the world, to break through the glass ceiling in tech and politics (and every other field), we have to bring these conversations and panels to folks who have no idea what we're talking about, who might just be surprised by our pearls of wisdom and our stories. The guy who makes hiring decisions at big tech companies but can't find the right women or hold on to them once hired. The man who is already in office, who might choose to groom his female successor because we reminded him why it's important. 

We can keep talking to ourselves, but if we want to engage men in the solution (which is a quicker way to get to parity everywhere) we have to figure out how to make these conversations important to men too.

I need your ideas! Please send them along. And feel free to send this to men you know who care and will help us make progress. 

Anne Moses, Ph.D.
IGNITE President & Founder