The Hero Founder Fallacy
Want gender balance at conferences? Then expand who you think is worth hearing from.
Some time ago, I was asked to keynote an overseas conference about cooperatives, the solidarity economy, and a “building a post-capitalist future”. That’s right up my ally, but I get way more speaking invitations than I can accept. So I suggested the co-founder of my main project at the time instead, who was a man.
They rejected him, saying:
“We were really hoping you could come yourself, because we already have a lot of men speaking and we’re proactive about gender balance. The other keynote is from an organization who only have one executive director, and he’s a man, so we can’t ask them to send a woman.”
Hmm. Something told me that lone executive director doesn’t work alone in a vacuum without female colleagues. But I’m a big supporter of gender balance at conferences, so I rolled with it and recommended another of my close collaborators, who was a woman.