Where Are All the People Leaders?

We recently did an analysis on the background of speakers across ten of the biggest of global tech conferences over the last 18 months. Fascinating stuff.

Some of what we found was interesting but not surprising. For instance, of the 3,000+ speakers we looked at, a third of them were CEOs. Other findings surprised us a bit, like the fact that the majority of the speakers come from the U.S., even when the conferences were happening in Europe.

But the thing that shocked me the most was that out of three thousand speakers, there were only six People leaders.

That’s 0.2%.

This is in comparison to over a hundred technical leaders. And close to a hundred speakers from other functional areas.

Here’s the breakdown:

*Collision, Dreamforce, NOAH, SaaStr, Slush, Startup Grind, SXSW, Techcrunch Disrupt, Vivatech, Web Summit. People leaders are Chief People Officer, CHRO, VP People, and heads of recruiting and HR.

I look at this and wonder where are all the People leaders?

What I also wonder is what is this symptomatic of? Is it that the conference organizers don’t believe their audience is interested in hearing from People leaders? Does this stem from the negative perception of the People function? Or are People leaders just not interested in speaking at these conferences?

One thing that is clear is that People leaders are starkly underrepresented at major tech conferences, where founders and investors make up the majority of the audience. And this lack of visibility contributes to general lack of understanding of the role and impact of this function. Out of sight, out of mind.

On my quest to change this, I met a few amazing People leaders recently. They had illuminating stories to share from the companies they have helped scale. I hope to hear them speak from the big stage soon.

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