GenderAvenger co-founder Gina Glantz, a former Planned Parenthood Action Fund chair, talks to Moneyish about naming and shaming and the importance of male allies
This woman is bringing the wrath of the masses to all-male panels.
Gina Glantz has had a long career in liberal politics, serving variously as chair of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and managing the quixotic campaign of retired Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey for the 2000 Democratic presidential nomination. But her latest act is decidedly non-partisan: naming and shaming so-called “manels,” all-male panels, for excluding women from public discourse.
In 2014, Glantz co-founded GenderAvenger, a loose grouping of activists nationwide whose goal is to ensure women are heard, with a former Republican staffer. “When you look at the stage of a conference and it doesn’t include women, it sends a message about the value the organization places on women’s voices,” Glantz, 74, tells Moneyish.
There’s also social value to this. “There’s a perception of power than comes with being on panels. Women being seen as powerful is a deterrent to some of the behavior today,” she adds, citing the swift passage of legislation mandating sexual harassment training in Congress after pressure from female Senators on both sides of the aisle. “If not for women in the Senate, I cannot imagine we’d have the same response going on.”
GenderAvenger functions primarily via an app which lets the public key in representation data for panels they come across. It then automatically generates images like a pie chart, which are easy to share on social media. The organization has made waves recently after it called out the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas for only having male keynote speakers. The message was amplified on social media after the likes of Twitter chief marketing officer Leslie Berland and Brad Jakeman, a former president at PepsiCo’s global beverage group, echoed the call.
— BradJakeman (@BradJakeman) November 30, 2017
For its part, the conference’s organizers say that they champion “diversity of all types” and lists ten prominent woman, including GM’s Mary Barra and IBM’s Ginni Rometty, as having previously participated in the conference. They also say that 10 women turned down keynote positions. But Glantz scoffs at this, noting that females buy the vast majority of consumer electronics. “I don’t care how many women you’ve had in the past,” she says. “We’re in 2017 and your event is in 2018 and there’s not one female keynoter? They like to talk about having women in leadership, well, put your values into the arena.”
While Glantz admits that shaming is a helpful tool— past successes include convincing Esquire to reevaluate its 2015 list of “80 Books Every Man Should Read” after naming 79 books written by men— she’s also keen to make male allies. (The magazine’s sole female-authored recommendation was Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.”) GenderAvenger hosts a list of people who’ve pledged not to speak on men-only panels; an group that now includes Sen. Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania; Container Store founder Garrett Boone; and Keith Mestrich, the CEO of Amalgamated Bank. They also recently began handing out stamps of approval to certain conference organizers.
“The total lack of female voices at [all-male panels] felt distinctly paternalistic and non-inclusive,” wrote Mestrich in a 2016 blog post announcing his pledge, adding that he wants his daughters to “always know that they can become leaders in their fields and be inspired by the women they see and hear at the podium. All-male panels are the past. I’m ready for the future.”
“People feel ashamed and will try to make changes, but men are an important part of things changing,” Glantz says. “They’re in a position to dictate who’s on stage and have responsibility for that.”
Despite a pile of research indicating that having gender diversity on panels and boardrooms improves corporate performance and the quality of ideas, why do “manels” still exist? “Stupidity” on the part of companies, Glantz says. “The sense of ‘I belong here’ comes from seeing people like ourselves.”
She adds that oftentimes, people turn to their five closest friends whenever they need help for an event and for the older generation, those five people are often of the same gender. “We still live in a male-dominated decision maker world but I’m encouraged by the younger generation, social relationships are different and more diverse,” Glantz says.
“I’m 74, it’s 2017 and there hasn’t been enough change,” she says. “It is disappointing and astounding to be in this decade and see [sexism] continuing.”
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