The Mary Beth Effect
I opened up the email because the conference was announcing its new board of advisers. Often board members are influential in suggesting and choosing speakers so I’m always interested in who is taking on these roles.
Oh, look at all the guys on this advisory board. Every. Single. One.
“These seven thought leaders are known and respected in the industry for leading their organizations in innovation, as well as heading and facilitating new collaborations and partnerships. With their valued knowledge and input, we’ve put together an amazing program this year.”
Once I got to the website, I saw HER there. Mary Beth X. Mary Beth is a super star in this industry. She’s a Ph.d and an MBA. She’s a VP and well-known and respected. She also stood out on the speaker page for another reason – she was one of only three female speakers. Mary Beth wasn’t promoted in the email blast because, undoubtedly, someone decided the all-male board contained more recognizable names. And the all-male board undoubtedly didn’t prioritize a diverse slate of speakers.
The whole experience reminded me of the Matilda Effect – where women scientists aren’t acknowledged because their male counterparts get all the credit. Named for suffragist and abolitionist Matilda Joslyn Gage, the Matilda effect has led to many female scientists not receiving the credit they deserve.
When it comes to boards of advisers, you reap what you sow. A non-diverse board gets you a non-diverse speaking slate. People’s networks tend to look like them. Choose your board carefully.
The next time you see an email blast or an event promotion touting just the guys, go looking for Mary Beth. Here’s hoping she’s there.
The Mary Beth Effect – Where conference organizers promote the men in their email blasts, at the top of page on the website and in their social media promotion, hiding incredible women who also happen to be part of the program.