A 50/50 gender pledge of our own

My team and I organise high-profile speakers to address our audience of Global Leadership Program (GLP) university students at a biannual event we call the Innovative Leaders Series (ILS). In April 2016, our inaugural ILS was kicked-off by motivation strategist and design expert Dr Jason Fox, who did a stellar job of endearing himself to a very diverse student audience, and providing them with practical tips and pithy commentary on the Future of Work, i.e. the nebulous, ever-transforming and at once intimidating and compelling future of career building.

Shortly after the event (and post having our socks blown-off by Dr Fox) we were all further impressed to see that he, along with another five of the highest booked male conference speakers in Australia, had pledged to boycott speaking engagements on panels with no female representation; No thanks, mate. Could our fandom be any greater?

Planning for the next ILS event featuring the indomitable Audette Exel, I was pleased that we had secured an incredibly successful woman as our Innovative Leader for the following semester. And it got me thinking that we should make a pledge of our own.

This week we let all our students know that we are making a 50/50 gender pledge; Each year the GLP pledges to engage at least one male and one female Innovative Leader to speak at our two annual ILS events.

Our Program is made up of approximately 60% female to 40% male students. It’s not just a nod to an ideal, or a tokenistic gesture to make sure we are representing the diversity of our audience, it’s these small choices that buoy our mission, that show others that we are prepared to walk the talk (and remind ourselves, too).

So far no students have been in touch to let us know they are impressed or emboldened by the pledge, (although it’s still technically mid-year break), but it is one more crucial brick in the wall, another piece of the puzzle that helps keep us relevant, innovative, agile and responsive, connected to the needs of our students and most importantly — holds us accountable.