What to do when you find yourself on a manel

It’s the 21st century and I think, by now, good women have earned their right to a place on the stage alongside their good male counterparts. But there are still some prestigious events fielding all male panels; commonly called manels (although there are less polite words for them).

Some men, like Xero Founder and UK MD Gary Turner, have joined the fight and already explicitly refuse to appear on all male panels. These are real heroes who understand the importance of true diversity. The annual Xerocon event, at the intersection of the two male worlds of accounting and technology, manages to showcase equal numbers of men and women on the stage.

But not all male panelists feel confident enough to turn down opportunities for exposure. So what can you do?

Here are some suggestions if you find yourself on an all male panel.

Before the event:

-volunteer to step down and try to recommend a suitable female replacement. I actually did this earlier this year when I found myself on an all female panel so it works both ways.

-if you are early in your career and need the exposure or you have specific expertise then try to enlarge the panel by adding a good female member. If you don’t know any female experts in your field then it may be because women and girls don’t yet have enough female role models to step up. This really is your opportunity to make a difference.

-if you can’t find a female expert who is free then try to introduce a female host or MC so that female guests feel more comfortable.

At the event:

-if you discover that you’re on a manel at the last minute, with no time for any of the actions above, then you can probably still find a female member of the audience to join you on stage. They can perhaps ask some of the questions which brought them to listen to your talk anyway. They may even have a different viewpoint to add if they have a more practical role than the male experts.

-learn from this experience and check out the diversity of your next panel at an earlier stage.

-if you find that you have no women in the audience then you’re already noticing the impact of having no women in the stage.

Guys, I hope that gives you some ideas of how you can introduce more diversity into your profession or industry. As for the why:

-more diverse boards and organisations produce better results. This is sound business sense.

-If you have kids you may feel it more personally. I want to remove any barriers that might inhibit my clever daughter from having the same opportunities as my clever son. I’ve made it in a male profession and, quite frankly, I’m weary of fighting men who don’t recognise the privilege which comes with their gender, but I carry on because I don’t want my daughter to have to fight the same battles as I did like some sort of Groundhog Day.

The Pledge,” has a growing commitment and I would encourage you to sign up if you feel able. “At a public conference I won’t serve on a panel of two people or more unless there is at least one woman on the panel, not including the Chair“


If you’re not sure what to do then why not ask yourself “What would Gary do?”