A new initiative called WomenPresent wants to get more women on stage at media and communications conferences and events around the UK.
The technology platform, which will be launching later this month, aims to connect event managers and content leaders with women who are willing to share their knowledge and expertise as keynote speakers, subject presenters, panel members and moderators.
Cadi Jones, co-founder, WomenPresent, explained that despite there being many women with significant experience and expertise within the journalism industry, there is still a lack of women on stage, limiting the diversity of events all around the country.
"Event organisers will often say 'it's too hard – we asked 10 women and they all said no'," she said.
"But when we dug into it I can see why, because, for example, you can't search by gender on LinkedIn or filter people online – it's very difficult to find women and surface their talent.
"It's an unfortunate circle that because fewer women are speaking, fewer women are getting asked – the same people tend to get invited to speak at multiple events."
Women will be able to create a profile on the website, listing their expertise, the areas they're comfortable to speak about, the size of the event they'd want to attend, and the locations they will travel to.
Jones explained that the initiative is not about reducing men's presence on stage, just about achieving gender diversity to ensure a variety of different voices are heard.
"Ultimately, it is about interesting and quality content and having a range of opinions, expertise and experiences – hearing from the most expert people in any particular field, whatever gender they are," she said.
"We are doing this to fix a problem. I firmly believe that the best people are a mix of men and women, so when you go to events and you only see men, it sends out a message that women's voices aren't as valuable. But I know from my male peers that they really appreciate hearing from women as much as they do from men."
Her team, which is comprised of an equal number of men and women, was put together after Tom Jenen, one of the co-founders of WomenPresent, sat through an all-male panel of industry leaders within the advertising space, while knowing several women who were better-qualified to be speaking.
Jones reached out to him after he posted on LinkedIn that he would help anyone looking for female speakers.
"I feel very strongly that you have to see it to be it," Jones said, explaining that more women on stage will help to inspire fresh talent to go for the top jobs in their profession.
"If you don't see women in those positions, young people starting out might not realise that is achievable."
The team at WomenPresent has been running a crowdsourcing effort since December last year, raising £2,875 so far to fund the building of the platform, which will begin with a focus on the advertising, marketing and communications space, and will expand out to other professions over time.
"We'd love to do more work on supporting women and their confidence, putting themselves forward, and around the importance of doing this for not only their personal brand or organisation, but for the future generation starting out in their profession."
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