I recently, and a little surprisingly, learned a new strategy to address the lack of diversity on conference panels.
In a nutshell, an all white panel of technologists was asked by an audience member – with the stated intention of encouraging more diverse conference panels – to name one individual of color who could speak equally well on a panel of the same topic. Each panelists then, with varying levels of ease, did so, providing the full room with a new list of potential speakers for future panels, if not a complete panel itself.
Later, I shared the following email with a colleague when she asked for my thoughts on what we saw:
“In an all too familiar setting where the panelists already have been chosen, options to address the lack of diversity are limited. Typically, the options are either to let it go and not call it out, and in doing so losing the opportunity to make visible/ educate/ organize around the lack of diversity, or to call it out, face the range of personal consequences of doing so, which are myriad and complex, and leaving people generally not feeling good all around.
The live ‘one4one’ exercise offered what felt like was a clever and effective third way – it called out and made visible the problem, distributed responsibility for the problem, but also offered both immediate individual and collective action to address the problem in ways that for many could’ve been a positive, if not empowering experience in engaging issues of race, gender, and diversity in general.”
It turns out the exercise comes out of something called, the #One4One Game. Browsing through the website is fascinating, and, left me with mixed feelings. Perhaps I’ll share those in follow-up blog post, but first, would love to hear other people’s thoughts ….