Conference, event, incubator, and accelerator speakers provide their services largely for free. The idea is that the speaker gets ‘public exposure’ in exchange for donating their prep time, effort, travel expenses, and expertise at the event.
Meanwhile, major industrial and tech companies are still lacking women of any background and men of any background other than Caucasian in the C-suites. The numbers are not improving. The senior level leaders of these companies, organizations, and government departments continue to hide behind the trite complaint that “the Pipeline doesn’t provide us with ‘ready to work’ team members to hire and promote. We are as diverse as we can be under the circumstances.”
Talk is cheap.
It’s time to do something. So, in 2017, I am challenging every speaker, mentor, advisor, event organizer, company and organization leader, and department head to do something about the dearth of gender and diversity in society and business in the U.S. today. I am asking everyone to set aside One Seat at the Table.
Speakers, mentors, advisors – every time you agree to speak, present, mentor, or advise at any event inside or outside your company, demand that ONE SEAT be set aside, and filled by the people who are asking you to speak, with a person who would not otherwise have had access to this event.
I sit on a number of boards and am a member of groups focused on diversity, inclusion, and intersectionality. I get to hang out with good friends and colleagues who feel passionate about improving the numbers around inclusiveness in STEM and entrepreneurship. Sometimes, a free lunch is involved. There’s a lot of talk about the problem. There are studies being developed about how the problem is developed and reinforced and possibly how we might mitigate or eliminate the issues that lead to the problem – too few people who are not white males in STEM and too few non-white males founding and getting their companies funded.
If you mentor at incubators and accelerators, challenge the owners to set aside that seat and fill it themselves. Ask the cohort company founders to find a person who would not ordinarily be able to attend, but would benefit from exposure to the knowledge, the connections, and the process and the experience.
Yes, that’s the challenge: if you speak, whether you are paid to speak or not, demand that one complimentary seat be set aside and filled with one person from an underserved community. Someone who does not otherwise get access. And that seat is always free.
If – when you succeed, let us know on our CEO Coach Facebook page. Let’s start a movement and solve that ‘pipeline problem’ once and for all!