Act on your values

– a 4 step method to achieve equal representation in whatever context you’re in power of

At the end of the last decade I realized the hard way how my values differed from how I acted. Along with two friends I’d started a website to promote creative souls in Malmö. After five posts we got publicly, and rightfully, criticized for only writing about men.

This was the result of us just enthusiastically executing our idea without really reflecting on how it would be perceived.

The criticism hit me hard. At first I was kind of defensive, only to realize I was learning something fundamental about how one’s values become visible to the others:

You will not be judged on your values, but how you act upon them

The curse of top-of-mind

Since we come from a history of patriarchy, the pattern of male domination will go on and on if we don’t decide to actively do something about it. Part of the reason is that when we’re asked to suggest speakers, board members, DJs etc we unconsciously think of people we’ve seen in similar contexts before.

= the uneven balance is reproduced over and over again

Recently I’ve experienced two occasions where this became evident to me again. A couple of weeks ago we asked our followers to suggest topics and speakers for The Conference 2015. We got 87 speaker suggestions of which 32% were women. Better balance than at most conferences, but still far from our goal of having a gender equal conference. When we looked at the details we saw that almost half of the suggestions were made by women, and that women were twice (!) as likely to suggest female speakers than men.

“It’s time to get uncomfortable, because out of discomfort comes greatness”, Cindy Gallop speaking about the importance of women on company boards at The Conference 2013.

A few days later we gathered ten people in a workshop to dig deeper into one of the sub-topics of The Conference. The goal was to come up with angles for the topic and speakers to invite. During this super awesome discussion the participants randomly started to suggest speakers. After three hours there were 20 names in my notebook. To my horror, 19 of them were men.

I realized how important it is address your values to get help with achieving your goals. I’m the one to blame for allowing our followers and workshop participants to just do, think out loud and suggest speakers without giving them directions to think in.

At The Conference we’ve had 50% female speakers the past two years. Here’s the method we use to make it happen:

4 steps to equal representation

1. Write your values down
To practice what you preach you need to start by articulating what values matter that to you (gender equality, diverse ethnical background etc). Write them down, communicate them and try to turn them into quantifiable goals. By expressing your goals, you will be accountable for keeping them.

2. Start with topics
Before you start inviting speakers to your stages, executives to your board or DJs to your club, start off by figuring out what your needs are in terms of topics to address, skills to represent and music to dance to. By doing that you’re able to use the values you’ve set to filter your research.

3. Communicate your values every time you ask for help
I can’t exaggerate the importance of communicating your values when you ask for help to find people to speak or be on your board. I don’t blame our followers or workshop participants for suggesting more men than women.

4. Be stubborn
Prepare to waste ideas and keep looking for the people you need, to meet your goals. Time is your best friend.

To sum it up. Make sure you filter your output through the value based goals you want to achieve. Always. Without exclusion.

The only way to break status quo’s in our world is to act on values and to lead by example. You’re in power, do something about inequalities when you can.