White privilege at conferences was evident within the Sustainatopia Conference at the Plug & Play Tech Center that convened in Sunnyvale last week. Companies and socially responsible investors at the forefront of sustainable business practices gathered to speak. White privilege among participants was palpable at the conferences.
Mostly white, mostly men and the speakers and panelists were almost all white except for two of the four panelists on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion panel, of which I was part.
There should be a primer for conference organizers who want to make their space more inclusive.
Here are some basic ideas to break white privilege at conferences in 2020:
- Pay attention to the people you invite to speak. If you have an application process, encourage diverse speakers to apply and prioritize them. If you “don’t know any diverse speakers,” ask your network. We’re out there, trust me. Make an effort.
- Have tiered pricing to encourage a more diverse audience: not because people of color can’t afford it (that would be racist thinking) but because social enterprises and small nonprofits are often run by diverse people, including some diversity that isn’t obvious at first glance.
- Amplify the voices of marginalized. For example, I was asked by the organizer of this conference to moderate the panel on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, but I turned it over to the two people of color because that was more appropriate.
- I was stunned by how often an older man with white privilege at conferences discussion would interrupt a speaker or panel to insert his own opinion or ask a question. A Code of Conduct would ensure that it didn’t happen. It could include the following: allow others to speak before you speak a second time; do not interject during speaker’s or panelists’ time until they open for questions; if you are someone who normally speaks a lot, be quiet; if you are someone who’s normally quiet, speak up. Elevate the voices of marginalized people. This isn’t a comprehensive list, but it’s a start.
We have a long way to go if we want conferences to be inclusive. Whether your conference has 50 people or 5000, it’s worth it to pay attention to inclusion.
Johanna Lyman is the Founder and CEO of NextGen Orgs. She is a Leadership Consultant and Executive Coach with fifteen years of experience in implementing organization wide change strategies for both Fortune 500 companies and Small Business Owners.
At NextGen Orgs, they use a combination of unique delivery methods and processes that crack the code on establishing lasting organizational behavior changes in a relatively short period of time. Their proprietary and the evolutionary system can eliminate months of frustration often associated with developing strong leadership and building a cohesive, collaborative team.
From strategic business design to culture development and leadership training, their methods can help your company become a truly great place to work. Johanna is a professional speaker, available to speak on a variety of topics related to culture, communication, innovation, and leadership skills. She is the Board President for the Bay Area Chapter of Conscious Capitalism and is deeply versed in how to help businesses be a force for good in the world. Learn more Contact Johanna at firstname.lastname@example.org