Monday, August 01, 2005

BlogHer: He-conferences and She-conferences

A mostly-female conference audience with an all-women speakers feels radically different from a mostly male-dominated conference. A lot of people may not want to hear it, but I've got to say it.

Feel free to disagree, as long as you attended BlogHer and can attest to the facts I state. If you haven't attended a conference recently with an 80% female audience and 100% female speaker roster, save your comments until you attend one -- like the next BlogHer, okay? Seems only fair. It's like writing a movie review of a movie you haven't seen -- go see the movie first.

The weirdest and most obvious thing is that everyone in the room is trying to treat everyone else with respect and actually as an equal -- not playing "I'm more powerful than you, I'm smarter than you, I work at a cooler place than you" or other forms of grand-standing I see at conferences dominated by men.

During Q&A -- and this will shock you too -- the people asking questions aren't standing up to hog the mike and show off for the most part. The people at Blogher who asked questions actually wanted answers, wanted to be educated and were happy to be educated by anyone in the room who could educate them. The speakers deferred to others in the audience who could answer questions better than they could.

The session where I was a keynote speaker gave many more women in the room the floor, and Charlene Li and I didn't have a big issue with NOT dominating the discussion. When there were some brilliant folks in the room with brilliant insight into the subject, why should we not allow them to speak?

It was completely surreal as conferences go. There was no one-upsMAN-ship, there were no egomaniacal rants, there were no pissing-contests, no penis-metrics, no Q&A hogs.

The people in the room seemed to have two completely outlandish assumptions ... that everyone should have an equal voice and that we were actually there to LEARN SOMETHING, not to compete against one another.