So what's the problem? Heather Sidorowicz, owner of residential AV contractor Southtown AV, pointed it out:
Yes, five out of the five speakers are men. I seconded my discomfort with this (coupled by honest embarrassment that I'd not noticed it myself), and was immediately greeted with fairly tense skepticism about the idea of seeking diversity for its own sake. The concern was that seeking to include women on a panel would potentially pass over more qualified candidates if all of the best choices were men. I'll agree that he idea that one should select the most qualified candidates for any position - be that on a discussion panel, as new hires, or as bullpen arms for a major league baseball team - is an appealing one. It's also one with which I fundamentally disagree.
We should want to hear those voices. While we don't have any women in a technical capacity at SMW's office here in New York, my cubicle-neighbor is an African-American millenial. Sharing a workplace with someone much younger than I am with a different background gives me different ways of looking at not only projects and various corporate cultures, but the the world at large. I'd argue that his presence makes me not only a better AV designer by giving me different ways to look at corporate cultures, but also a better person by pulling me out of my comfort zone.
The Infocomm keynote panel looks terrific, but like so many other all-male panels it runs the risk of keeping us too far within our comfort zones and of NOT reaching out to those who aren't already part of the tribe. We can do better. And, I hope, we will.
Expect more on this topic in posts to come. I will close with one note of caution: while we need to listen to the thoughts of our sisters in the industry on this, we need to approach respectfully. It's tempting to ask a woman in the field what she thinks of representation, how it feels to be a woman in the field, etc. Doing so runs the risk of making her the Ambassador of Femininity at best, and the Travelling Female Museum Show at worst. Remember that all of us - men and women alike - are first and foremost humans. That doesn't mean that representation isn't important, but it does mean that we all need to remember that no group marches in lockstep, and to ask that one speak for all is another form of unfairness.