Would You Ever Willingly Ignore Insight Into Half Your Customers?

Our good friend Helen Keegan, as you may have guessed, is a woman. She also works in the mobile industry — and is an authority on mobile marketing, and a frequent speaker at industry events. But she wants to know why there aren’t more women up there with her, and singles out three upcoming events for the lack of women on their speaking agendas:

Why so few women speakers, panellists or moderators?

And don’t tell me this is representative of the industry because I know it isn’t – we have good female representation at Mobile Mondays, more women come to Swedish Beers now (and growing) and the women in the Women in Mobile Data Association are plentiful! I even hear along the grapevine that the MMA has a strong female contingent.

And yes, this is a particular bugbear of mine. But with good reason. So bear with me.

I’m fed up to the back teeth of conference organisers and their sponsors ignoring women in the mobile industry (Informa being a recent obvious culprit, but they are certainly not alone) and coming up with lame excuses as to why women aren’t involved. And many of these events are actually organised by women which makes it even worse. Do women still defer to men? Do women need a license to speak up?

Underrepresentation of women is a big issue across all of business. I was surprised to find six women out of 21 students in my MBA cohort, given their underrepresentation in business schools nation (and I presume world-) wide. Here’s the thing, though, you don’t have to be a woman, or a “bra-burning feminist,” as Helen says, to take issue with this. The lack of diversity at these events, across the mobile industry, and across business in general isn’t a feminist issue, it’s a business one. Given that roughly half of the market is women, doesn’t it behoove us to, you know, have them around? Same with other subsets of the overall population/market. How can we expect to answer their needs if we don’t seek out and welcome their input. Is that smart?

Helen hit the nail on the head for me in an email she sent:

I’m bored of seeing a sea of men in grey suits and hearing the sound of my own voice at events. We desperately need some diversity in order to attend to the needs of the whole industry and the whole of our customer base. I’m looking for ways forward, some things to try, some benchmarks to set. Maybe we can *actually* do something about it? And in doing so, make better business decisions, provide products and services that appeal to all members of the community and become a more vibrant, healthy industry as a result. Well, I hope so at least.

I think we can all identify with going to events and seeing the same people, or same groups of people, speaking and rehashing the same points of view. If they’re representative of the industry as a whole, perhaps it helps explain why things take so long to progress — and why we keep facing the same problems over and over.

This isn’t an issue of appeasing women to make them happy; it’s an issue of embracing diversity and differing viewpoints to improve our industry and our businesses. We can all agree that if a lack of opportunities is borne out of sexism, it’s stupid. But if it’s borne out of anything else, is it any less ignorant?

Helen’s looking for feedback and suggestions on ways to improve the situation, so head over to her blog and weigh in on this issue.

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