Manels continue to be the norm in Europe’s top policy events
A report released on 8 March by the Open Society Foundations reveals that Europe’s top 23 policy events feature an average of three male speakers to every woman.
The organisation warned that the EU could not achieve gender equality without more female role models taking the stage at key policy debates.
Christal Morehouse, the report’s author and senior program officer for the Open Society Foundations said
These events reinforce the glass ceiling by presenting men as more important decision makers and limiting networking opportunities for wome.
The policies being debated affect women and men equally – it’s perplexing that in 2018 women still don’t have an equal opportunity to shape them.
The report, An End to Manels: Closing the Gender Gap at Europe’s Top Policy Events, uses a five-year statistical analysis of 12,600 speakers at leading European policy conferences to quantify, for the first time, the exact extent to which men dominate the stage.
Among the worst events for gender balance were the Munich Security Conference, which hosts just three female speakers for every 17 male ones, and the Davos World Economic Forum, which averaged one female speaker for every four men. Both conferences provide an arena at which heads of state, business and think-tank leaders learn from each other’s experience and research. The international press report what speakers say from these podiums to the world.
Heather Grabbe, Director of the Open Society European Policy Institute said,
Policies need to work in diverse societies across Europe – if they’re shaped predominantly by one gender, they are unlikely to work for everybody.
Diverse views and experiences bring greater wisdom and a better connection with the needs and aspirations of citizens. If women are stuck on the margins, policy misses out on many great ideas and insights.
Women made up half the speakers at only one conference, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Human Dimension Implementation Meeting.
While most conferences have shown little improvement in attracting more female speakers over the five years assessed, two events have shown that a concerted effort to balance panel gender can prove effective.
The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Forum increased its share of female speakers from 25 percent in 2014 to more than 43 percent in 2015 after issuing its conference organisers with a 50 percent target.
The Chatham House London Conference drastically improved gender balance from 28 percent female speakers in 2015 to 44 percent in 2016 by creating an internal gender awareness action plan.
Alla Volkova, the report’s co-author and progam specialist at the Open Society Foundations said:
Inviting speakers based only on the seniority of their positions just perpetuates centuries of inequality.
Conferences that have looked instead to rising stars and talented female researchers have not only increased the diversity of their panels, but made their debates much more interesting.
The Open Society Foundations’ report is the first in a series of briefs looking at the way policy discussions are dominated by white older men.
How Europe’s major conferences rank in terms of gender balance over five years, from worst to best (rounded to the nearest percentage)
Rank Conferences Average share of women speakers over five years, 2012-2016
1 Globsec Bratislava Forum 12%
2 Tatra Summit 14%
3 Munich Security Conference 15%
4 Lennart Meri Conference 15%
5 Bruegel Annual Meetings 17%
6 Wroclaw Global Forum 18%
7 The Riga Conference 19%
8 Prague European Summit 20%
9 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 20%
10 Forum 2000 Conference 20%
11 Bled Strategic Forum 21%
12 Center for European Policy Studies Ideas Lab 22%
13 Freedom Games 24%
14 Berlin Foreign Policy Forum 25%
15 German Marshall Fund’s Brussels Forum 26%
16 European Council on Foreign Relations’ Annual Council Meeting 27%
17 Vision Europe Summit 29%
18 Belgrade Security Forum 32%
19 Chatham House London Conference 32%
20 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Forum 34%
21 European Strategy and Policy Analysis System Annual Conference 34%
22 World Forum for Democracy 37%
23 Human Dimension Implementation Meeting 51%
Average share at all events 25%
Testimony from female experts on the policy circuit
The views expressed below are made in a private capacity, and do not necessarily represent those of the institutions that employ these experts.
We realized as women in the policy world, we were at times disadvantaged, we wouldn’t get an opportunity to speak, we were told you don’t have the right titles, you have not written enough yet. Some of the women regularly contributed to research and writing drafts, but were not being mentioned as authors. You have the male heads of think-tanks being put on panels, but asking their younger female colleagues to provide speaking notes.
Corinna Horst, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director, Brussels Office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Co-founder of the Brussels Binder, a directory of female policy experts.
The conference network sees me as someone who administrates or coordinates things, people are sometimes surprised to hear that I am a Mandarin speaker, and that I have lived in China and written policy briefs. There was a time when a male colleague agreed to talk on issues beyond his expertise, instead of referring the matter to the in-house female expert. I doubt he would have done that with a male colleague.
Virginia Marantidou, Co-founder of the Brussels Binder and former Asia program coordinator at the German Marshall Fund.
Ironically, many conference organisers are female. Yet for many conferences, the seniority of speakers is seen as more important than gender-equality, so the inequality on panels is often also a mirror of gender-inequality within institutions. We need a change in awareness; women have to start consciously working together, recommending each other, backing each other up in their different institutions.
Sarah Charlotte Henkel, Programme Officer, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (German Institute for International and Security Affairs).