Diversity in the Music Industry and the 30 Under 30 List

Author: Andy Edwards poses some questions to consider in the wake of the 30 Under 30 diversity discussionIf it’s not the Oscars it’s the BRITS, if it’s not the Billboard Power 100 it’s Music Week’s 30 Under 30, the question of diversity within the music industry has boiled to the surface this year. In 2016 this is deeply troubling.Music Week’s front cover featuring 30 people under 30, initially nominated by readers, and then finally selected by MW, was the latest lightning rod for this topic. If the next generation of executives cannot be truly diverse, what hope is there?

One criticism leveled at Music Week is that editorial judgment should have been exercised and a broader list of names proactively sought. Instead, Music Week reported on the candidates whose names had been put forward. Judging by the list of 108 names that did not make the final 30, the total list put forward was overwhelmingly white.

Perhaps any attempt to disproportionately select candidates of colour would have masked the real story and a much broader underlying problem? Music Week did report the facts whether we like those facts or not.

The counter list put forth by DJ Semtex is incredibly powerful. One person came up with 30 alternative names in a matter of hours, a list that was overwhelming colourful and brimming with talent. A further list from Complex made a similar point.

What interests me most of all right now is to understand what is going on and why. In very broad terms, it strikes me the Music Week list is made up largely of what we would consider to be the “traditional” music business, whether that is corporates or established PR and management companies.

In contrast, Semtex’s list – while containing quite a few major label people – skewed much more heavily to the self-starters, the entrepreneurs, those with portfolio careers and the emerging music businesses – the blogs, the YouTube channels, the club nights, and so on. The same was broadly true of the Complex list.

Compilers of such lists have to consider a much broader range of job roles than ever before and a much broader range of organizations and career paths. What constitutes the “music industry” itself can be debated at length.

If the music industry is to reflect the wider world, what is that wider world? The last UK census in 2011 revealed that 13% of the UK population is non-white, but in London that percentage rises to 40%. Undeniably the industry is still overwhelmingly London-centric, but should we be looking at percentages at all? What should our reference points be?

And what of the challenges of a London-centric industry? Moving to London was part of the attraction of being in the music industry, but with rents and property prices at an all-time high, does that also stifle diversity of a different kind? Factor in ever increasing levels of student debt and the problem multiplies. Some have said only the posh Home Counties middle class need apply – probably a blog post in itself!

So we as an industry need to ask ourselves some questions.

The Who and What Questions:

  • Who does the industry employ? What are the numbers by ethnicity?
  • What is the break down across sectors of the industry?
  • What are the emerging sectors that should form part of the music industry?
  • What are the ethnicity numbers by job role? Creative vs Business roles?
  • Does music genre play a role in determining the spread of diversity?
  • What are the conventions and processes that are restraining diversity?

The Why Questions:

  • Why do some jobs attract a more diverse range of applicants than others?
  • Why do people from certain backgrounds want to work in music?
  • Why do people from certain backgrounds not want to work in music?
  • Is the music industry attracting the right mix of people? What is the right mix?
  • Why do employers recruit in the way that they do?

There is a lot of soul searching to be done. Perhaps we all have to ask questions about our own journeys, experiences and motivations in order to make those connections with others. We should constantly question and challenge ourselves.

I grew up in a small town in the north of England. I remember a kid in the playground calling me “Jew Boy” because I had curly hair, a big nose and my Dad worked for a bank. I didn’t know any Jewish people at the time, but I did know what it felt like to be different and I have always been appreciative and inquisitive of people’s differences.

Working in the music business was an opportunity to do something different. I like being around crazy people, but really I’m the commercially focused sensible one. At Sony Music in the ‘90s, I was a Marketing Analyst. No one knew what I did and I always had to explain. So a part of me jumped for joy that the first name on the Music Week 30 under 30 list was an Analyst from Sony Music.

As an indie kid from up north, Sony was also an opportunity to expand my knowledge of black music. With colleagues such as Semtex, Matthew Ross, Adam Sieff and others I filled up on hip hop, soul and jazz. I was clueless but I learned.

Moving around the industry, one learns about the differing professions and tribes. You listen, learn and absorb. As the industry grows more complex a broader range of skills are required. It also means opening one’s eyes and ears to those with different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives.

But this runs counter to the way in which the industry has traditionally organized itself. The “its who you know” mantra is self-selecting. A female colleague describing an iconic label she worked at recalled, “there was a certain type of person and you either fitted in or you didn’t”. Like attracts like.

On another occasion, when interviewing for an assistant role for a colleague, one candidate spoke enthusiastically about some work they had done for their local church. Afterwards, my colleague remarked “hummm, bible basher”, completely misunderstanding the background and culture of the candidate. Clue: 48% of London’s church-goers are black.

Some organisations deploy more sophisticated recruitment techniques such as competency based interviews or algorithms yet many tech companies have diversity challenges also. These techniques can also be self-selecting and if candidates are not attracted to certain industry sectors or roles, one has to ask “why?

This is not an easy process, whether that is on a macro level or a mirco level. Relaying back to personal experience, the best and most productive working relationships have always been those where I have worked with someone who is the polar opposite to myself. That might not necessarily make for an easy experience but it is always exciting, challenging and most of all delivers exceptional results.

The music industry has to grapple with a much bigger picture on a macro level. It is not just music; other creative sectors such as film, TV and publishing are facing similar issues. It seems no one is handling this well.

This is a topic that is already being hotly debated at UK Music board level for some time. The senior figures within our industry are already deeply concerned and are seeking to understand the issues and challenges, including some of the questions I have raised above.

There will be outreach, through UK Music and its members: the BPI, AIM, MPA, PRS, MMF and so on are all intending on surveying their memberships. Ged Doherty and Keith Harris are looking at this issue specifically. I would ask anyone reading this article to engage and retweet and spread the word. There will be more announcements to come. Watch this space and get involved.

 

This article first appeared in the Record of the Day weekly magazine. Subscribers can access the archive here.

Diversity vs Patriarchy – Let’s catch the next Wave!

Author: Karsten Jahn (coach & consultant) 

Recently I attended a conference, dealing with organizational change. One of the sessions there was about human resources (HR). This is the department of an organization that is supposed to support individuals within the organization. Here people were talking about how to evaluate the skills of employees, how to train them and the role of leadership in all this. At one point during this session a young woman from the audience got up and confronted a high-ranked HR manager from a large German energy provider, also female, with an interesting subject.

The young woman said that she was at the very beginning of her career. She recently read that a study, which shows that the careers of women are often hindered by other women, not so much by men. This sounded counter intuitive to her, as she thought women would support each other.

The HR lady responded that she has never been hindered by other women or experienced a lack of support for that matter. She continued pointing out this would not happen in her company. All that in a tone, close to scolding. Which in my opinion shows a major lack of sympathy and basically already proves the point of the study. But she continued talking, and not without pride in her voice (paraphrased):

“At our company we do not have a lot of female managers, especially in HR, even though a majority of the people in this division are women. But it’s not that they wouldn’t be able to, they do not want to go for a management career. Many young, skilled, intelligent women tell me that they rather not aim for higher management, the personal investment is way too high. So it’s a matter of choice, not of sexism.”

Instead of thinking critically about what the young woman said and discussing the very serious matter, she basically responds with disrespect and rejects the topic. That made me really mad. And I’m a white male, much further in my career. I can only imagine how the women that asked the question must have felt. Probably not encouraged, inspired or taken seriously, which is a shame, because exactly that is what HR should do. Encourage people, inspire them and take them seriously.

The question behind all this is, why do women not want to go for higher management and why do we want them to do that though. The answer is simple. Because we lack diversity. That’s also the reason why this question is not obvious to all of us. And sadly enough not even to the female HR manager…

Diversity is Valuable

We all want to learn, we all want to develop, it’s in our nature. And nothing supports this more than embracing the huge potential in the differences between and around us. People with different backgrounds add different perspectives, which help us reflect on what we do and what we think we know. That’s how we learn. Your sense of taste won’t develop if you always eat the same things, no successful musician only listens to the same type of music, no athlete just keeps repeating the same exercise. Variety is important.

When it comes to people, diversity relates to everything we can be different in: Gender, culture, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disabilities, etc. Even mixing cat and dog people is valuable.

comfortzoneBut instead of mixing we often group with those that are similar. Psychologists explain this by the way our brain is set up. We feel more secure with those that are similar to ourselves, trust them easier. That’s why expats always stick to one another. And within each expat community you’ll find subgroups sorted by nationality. Or maybe by religion or language. And of course all of which are gossiping against each the other groups and all together against the host nation. It’s easier, it’s our comfort zone.

We say that birds of a feather flock together. And it’s true, it’s deeply rooted in our brains. That’s probably how we ended up with racism and sexism to begin with. But humans became very smart. And we found out that those who dare to leave their comfort zone, can achieve higher results. Our history books are full of examples for this. Embrace differences is leaving the personal comfort zone. Which is never easy. For no one. But it might be worth it.

Research shows that teams of knowledge workers, who have to operate creatively, are better equipped when they are staffed heterogeneously. Diverse teams achieve more. Designers collaborating with engineers, technicians with business people, senior with junior. Major synergies spark, when the mix works. But everyone has an experience, where it did not. It was probably build to fail and then served as a reasoning for people to not try again. So now we usually have homogeneous teams, everyone is similar.

Adding new perspectives would be hugely beneficial, though. But we have to want it ourselves, else it will just fail again. So we need to support minorities (i.e. underrepresented genders, age groups, cultures, whatever). And it’s not the minority as such, but it’s about looking at every person’s individual skills and needs, which emerge from their culture, their gender and so on.

If we just give them a desk and tell them our schedules, it will fail again. If we don’t adapt our styles so it comforts others, we will only get those that “convert” to our style. That is not really what we want. No one should have to change who they are in order to be successful. Only if we’re free to be ourselves, we can be truly creative. It’s time to fire the next stage…

Waves of Feminism

Feminism, as in the fight for women’s rights, is being classified in different waves. The first one was about acknowledgment and ended around 100 years ago in the western world (whatever that is). In focus were basic legal issues and to understand that women are people, too, who deserve the right to vote, to drive a car and such.

The second wave of feminism was then about extending the legal equality and had its peak in the 1960s and 1970s in large parts of the western world. Women are able do the same things as men and they have to be allowed to do that, too. Families, education, jobs… we had to adjust our laws so that women had the same options as men and that domestic violence became illegal. It was forbidden for women in Germany to play football until 1970, by the German football association.

Both waves of feminist activity were a revolution mostly dedicated to white middleclass women. According to the norms of the white male. The result, our current reality in large parts of the western world, is that we actually get to meet women in higher management positions. Very few ones, though. And most of those are “masculinized”. They appear in a business look, which is a merely female version of the men’s suit. They have to follow the lifestyle of business men. They have to play according to the rules of patriarchy. Again, not exactly what we have in mind, when we’re thinking about equality. Patriarchy is still up and running.

The third wave of feminism is addressing exactly that, taking care of the individual and their needs. It’s not just about women anymore, it’s about individuals. No privileges due to gender, sexual orientation, culture, ethnicity, etc. We don’t really know how true equality would look like, but let’s go for it, because more people will be able to live and work the way they want. And happy people are more efficient workers, resulting in products and organizations of higher quality.

What we need to do…

This brings us back to the HR lady from the conference, who said that many women at her company don’t want to go for higher management career, as the demand does not fit their lifestyle. Those are intelligent women that deny being squeezed into a structure that was created for someone else. And so they should!

We have to understand that it’s not their loss, if they don’t want to aim for a career like this, but ours. We need diversity in our societies and organizations. But we are not prepared for that. Expecting others to adopt to our system, which does not work for and barely accepts minorities, is obviously ridiculous. Yet, that is what we keep doing. We’re still stuck in wave 2.

I would expect that HR managers are aware of this. And I would expect that women in management are aware of this. A higher ranked female HR manager that is proud that their management level lacks women, because they use their freedom of choice, is mind-boggling and makes me really mad.

Our business world has been created by white men, to suit their own lives. That is a fact. We might not necessarily see it straight away, but that’s the problem with privileges. They are invisible to those, who have them (Michael Kimmel). We have to find solutions so that people can have a management career and a family at the same time. We have to find solutions so that people of different cultures can collaborate without having to abandon their own background.

Diversity is not necessarily comfortable. But it’s worth it. Let’s get out of our comfort zones. Let’s get rid of patriarchy. Let’s get rid of privileges for majorities, so that we can get rid of majorities. All that hinders diversity, which we need to be better, smarter, more creative and flexible. As a society as well as an organization.

Let’s empower minorities and listen to their needs.

Hi, my name is Karsten and I’m a feminist.

 

(This blogpost has originally been published here.)

Leadership and Living Your Life

Author: Wolfgang Lünenbürger (feminist, theologist, agency CEO)

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There is an ongoing discussion in Germany about the question whether leadership and the role of a manager are possible if you are working part time. The last round was sparked by an editor-in-chief that wanted to stay in her role after she gave birth and come back in part time for a year or so.

And as I learned just one week ago that there is a well-known agency in my city that explicitly refuses a career in part time (what is in my not so humble opinion the dumbest thing I heard for a long time), I feel the urge to share my experience and beliefs.

Everything is Possible to Do in Part Time

Back in the 90s, when I was elected member of my church’s Parliament, I was part of a groups of feminists that tried to implement a leadership tandem. We tried to find two women to share this job and indeed found a hole in the laws we had in our church. Since this day, and it was even before I started my own career, I’m convinced every task can be done by job sharing. Or in part time.

Since I reached a position that allows me to have some influence on the way we organize work and leadership, I try to show that this is true. And to be honest, I learned two things so far: (1) Yes, it’s true principally. (2) It’s hard anyway and we all are blown hot and cold between ambition, reality and all the responsibilities we have and take in our lives.

Plans and Chances

But it’s not by accident that on one of my jobs the only leader in that firm that came back into her exact position after maternity leave was one of the leaders of my team. We not only planned it carefullly, but asked as well the important questions my friend Robert Franken put up in his (german) blog post:

How do you, employer, make sure I’m able to do my job while I have a baby in a way that my needs are as important as your needs?

Back then we designed here tasks to fit into the ten hours work week she choose to have during maternity leave. And we put more and more hours back on her job, following the possibilities of her family situation. The only thing that did not change at all: she remained boss of her team, even when she was not exactly in office for many hours. It worked. And it worked nearly perfectly by the way.

Taking Leadership in Part Time

Now I’m running Cohn & Wolfe’s Germany operations as Managing Director. And my leadership team is built out of five directors and myself. Two of them work full time; one has different tasks in several firms of our group, so we as Cohn & Wolfe Germany have her part time; and two work part time, with different hours to be in the office. Both of them have made their career working part time. And for their last promotion (that includes responsibilities for clients, budgets, profits and people) they stayed with their part time.

It wouldn’t be true to say all is optimal. And it wouldn’t be true to say they are working only the hours they get payed for (what is, as everyone knows who works in an agency, true for all of us that take leadership in any agency). But what works, is, that we are able to help finding a good balance between the different roles that leaders (and not only leaders) have in their lives.

Organizing Success

I’m fully convinced that the recent success and momentum of my agency in Germany — we did triple both fees and headcount and have a very scary pitch-win-ratio — that this success has its roots in the fact that we do just this. That we put great talent exactly in the positions where they are best, regardless of their working hours. That we learned to organize ourselves and put responsibilities where they belong to be able to make quick decisions. That we strengthen the self-organizational skills of our teams by implementing scrum methods.

And that we ask ourselves

How do we as employers make sure you are able to do our job while having kids in a way that your needs are as important as our needs?

Nämlich.

(This post has originally been published on Medium.com.)

Can Men Be Feminists?  A Male Point of View

Author: “Herrmann Mann” (meaning no harm)

As a man, which I most definitely am, feminism is a tricky topic. Of course in the overall societal sense my opinion is valued statistically higher than the opinion of women (which truly is a shame, because I know many smart women). By being male (which happens to be my gender), I benefit from various mechanisms that make it easier for me to speak out; mechanisms that also create an atmosphere in which women feel like they have to find other outlets and platforms for themselves to do their own thing. A lot of women have made the experience of being widely discouraged from joining certain groups, clubs or even take certain jobs – and they really don’t like it. It makes them angry.

That’s why feminism a tricky topic: I know my opinion has a higher “market value” in society but very often I am told that it is not welcome. How can I, as a well-meaning man, deal with this conundrum (for those who do not know what this is, google provides a good explanation)?

There may be some feminists who would argue that providing a platform that specifically excludes women, as well-meaning as it is, is a step in the wrong direction because what we need is more dialogue, more openness, more exchange to ultimately normalize the fact that women have voices and opinions. But to those feminists I say: What about all the men who are afraid of them? Men can be shy and some feel intimidated by women who think they might know a little more about the struggles that they face in everyday life.

Men, however, face struggles, too. This has nothing to do with mansplaining, because I do not believe that it does. This is a real problem: As the man that I am, I want to take a stand but when I speak about the issues that women face, it always comes out like I am explaining it to them (even though I’m trying to explain it to other men). And when I try to explain that it is hard for me, as a man, to speak about issues of gender equality, it sounds like I am making it about myself, but saying that I don’t intend to make it about me makes it all about me again. It’s a bummer. Some may argue that the issue lies in the fact that I am not talking to them, but about them, but I don’t believe that’s it.

I’m a man. Really. I have a penis and everything.

#men4equality – Warum wir nicht mehr auf reinen Männer-Events sprechen wollen

Veranstaltungen und Podien, auf denen lediglich Männer mit Männern sprechen, sind einseitig, unvollständig und nicht repräsentativ – und daher langweilig und irrelevant. Es ist für Zuhörer*innen, Teilnehmer*innen und Veranstalter*innen stets besser, dass solch einseitig besetzte Events gar nicht erst stattfinden, als dass auf qualitativ niedrigem Niveau gesprochen wird. Deshalb haben die Unterzeichner sich entschieden künftig nicht mehr an reinen Männerpodien (all-male panels) teilzunehmen.

Mit der Aktion #men4equality wollen wir Bewusstsein für die Tatsache schaffen, dass die Besetzung von Podien entscheidenden Einfluss auf die Qualität der Debatte hat, die dort geführt wird. Wir verstehen #men4equality als Einladung an Veranstalter*innen schon in der Programmplanung auf diesen Aspekt einzugehen. Wenn sie ein all-male panel planen, müssen wir unsere Teilnahme leider absagen. Solche Veranstaltungen genügen unseren qualitativen Ansprüchen einfach nicht.

Liste der Erstunterzeichner:

  • Rowan Barnett, Senior Director Market Development & Media, Twitter 
  • Torsten Bittlingmeier, Founder TalentManagers
  • Leonhard Dobusch, Professor Universität Innsbruck
  • Thomas Feinen, Geschäftsführer Hoffmann und Campe Verlag
  • Robert Franken, Digitaler Potenzialentfalter
  • Stephan Grabmeier, Chief Innovation Evangelist Haufe-umantis AG
  • Joachim Graf, Zukunftsforscher & Publizist
  • Hendrik Haase aka wurstsack, Aktivist
  • Ralf Heimann, Journalist & Autor 
  • Vincent-Immanuel Herr, Autor & Aktivist HERR & SPEER
  • Tom Hillenbrand, Journalist & Autor       
  • Mark Hoffmann, Co-Founder & CEO Vertical Media GmbH
  • Simon Hurtz, Journalist      
  • Christoph Kappes, Geschäftsführer Fructus & Sobooks.de
  • Friedemann Karig, Journalist & Autor     
  • Dr. Ralf Kleindiek, Staatssekretär im BMFSFJ   
  • Johannes Kleske, Co-Founder Third Wave
  • Wolfgang Lünenbürger-Reidenbach, Geschäftsführer Cohn & Wolfe PR
  • Stephan Noller, Founder ubirch
  • Christian Schiffer, Journalist
  • Igor Schwartzmann, Co-Founder Third Wave
  • Michael Seemann, Autor    
  • Martin Speer, Autor & Aktivist HERR & SPEER
  • Hakan Tanriverdi, Journalist
  • Tarik Tesfu, Netzkolumnist, YouTuber und Macher von “Tariks Genderkrise”
  • Dirk von Gehlen, Journalist & Autor 
  • Leander Wattig, Veranstalter & Publisher          
  • Felix Wegener, Veranstalter & Blogger    

Hier sind drei kurze Impulse für Veranstalter*innen, wie ein Event aus unserer Sicht relevant wird:

  • Wenn Sie Veranstalter*in sind, dann sorgen Sie für ausgewogene Podien. Es gibt genügend Organisationen, die ihnen dabei helfen exzellente Speakerinnen zu jedem Thema zu finden, wie z.B. speakerinnen.org oder die Women Speaker Foundation.
  • Wenn Sie eine Veranstaltung konzipieren, dann machen Sie ausgeglichene Podien zu einem unverrückbaren Projektziel. Nur wenn eine solche Balance integraler Bestandteil Ihrer Planung ist, kann Ausgeglichenheit gelingen.
  • Beziehen Sie bereits in der Planungsphase Frauen mit ein. So stellen Sie sicher, dass die männliche Perspektive ein Gegengewicht erhält.

Und hier noch vier Tipps, wie man als Mann zu einem Teil der Lösung wird, statt Teil des Problems zu bleiben:

  • Wenn man Sie einlädt auf einer Veranstaltung zu sprechen oder an einer Podiumsdiskussion teilzunehmen, stellen Sie sicher, dass die Balance bzw. Vielfalt gegeben ist.
  • Bevor Sie Ihre Teilnahme zusagen: Fragen Sie, ob die Teilnehmenden nur Männer oder Männer* und Frauen* sind – die Moderation nicht mit eingerechnet. In einigen, wenigen Industrien (uns fällt gerade maximal Bergbau ein) ist ein starker Männerüberschuss vielleicht akzeptabel, viel mehr als 70% deutet hingegen auf mangelnden Willen auf Veranstalter*innen-Seite hin.
  • Sprechen Sie darüber, aus welchen Gründen Sie Ihre Teilnahme abgesagt haben. Sie können nur Aufmerksamkeit für das Thema schaffen indem Sie sich zu Wort melden.
  • Machen Sie Ihr Umfeld auf die Problematik aufmerksam. Fragen Sie ggf. nach, warum jemand kein Problem darin sieht an rein männlich besetzten Diskussionsrunden teilzunehmen. Helfen Sie mit, dass sich mehr Männer ihrer Verantwortung bewusst werden.

Und denken Sie immer daran:

Veranstaltungen, auf denen ausschließlich Männer sprechen, sind uninteressant.

Ausgeglichene Podien müssen unser aller Ziel sein.

Helfen Sie mit dies zu erreichen. Erzählen Sie es weiter! #men4equality

#men4equality – Why we won’t speak at all-male panels any longer

Events and panels, where only men are talking to men, are unrepresentative, one-dimensional and incomplete – and therefore boring and irrelevant. It is better, for audiences, participants and organizers, to call off such one-dimensional events rather than allowing a conversation on a low-quality level. This is why the signatories to this declaration have decided not to take part in all-male panels any more.

With #men4equality we are creating awareness for the fact that the very casting of panel lineups has a massive influence on the quality of the debate itself. We understand men#4equality as an invitation to event organizers to take this important matter into account when preparing their programs. If you’re still planning to have an all-male event, we will have to cancel our participation. Events of such kind simply do not live up to our expectations concerning quality.

List of initial signatories:

  • Rowan Barnett, Senior Director Market Development & Media, Twitter 
  • Torsten Bittlingmeier, Founder TalentManagers
  • Leonhard Dobusch, Professor Universität Innsbruck
  • Thomas Feinen, Geschäftsführer Hoffmann und Campe Verlag
  • Robert Franken, Digitaler Potenzialentfalter
  • Stephan Grabmeier, Chief Innovation Evangelist Haufe-umantis AG
  • Joachim Graf, Zukunftsforscher & Publizist
  • Hendrik Haase aka wurstsack, Aktivist
  • Ralf Heimann, Journalist & Autor 
  • Vincent-Immanuel Herr, Autor & Aktivist HERR & SPEER
  • Tom Hillenbrand, Journalist & Autor       
  • Mark Hoffmann, Co-Founder & CEO Vertical Media GmbH
  • Simon Hurtz, Journalist      
  • Christoph Kappes, Geschäftsführer Fructus & Sobooks.de
  • Friedemann Karig, Journalist & Autor 
  • Dr. Ralf Kleindiek, State Secretary Federal Ministry for Family Affairs BMFSFJ 
  • Johannes Kleske, Co-Founder Third Wave
  • Wolfgang Lünenbürger-Reidenbach, Geschäftsführer Cohn & Wolfe PR
  • Stephan Noller, Founder ubirch
  • Christian Schiffer, Journalist
  • Igor Schwartzmann, Co-Founder Third Wave
  • Michael Seemann, Autor    
  • Martin Speer, Autor & Aktivist HERR & SPEER
  • Hakan Tanriverdi, Journalist
  • Tarik Tesfu, YouTuber und mastermind behind “Tariks Genderkrise”
  • Dirk von Gehlen, Journalist & Autor     
  • Leander Wattig, Veranstalter & Publisher          
  • Felix Wegener, Veranstalter & Blogger    

Here’s a short list of things you as an event organizer should take into account when trying to make your panel relevant and successful:

  • If you are an event host, get the balance right. Reach out to organizations like e.g. the Women Speaker Foundation or speakerinnen.org in Germany, they can help you find excellent female speakers on virtually any topic.
  • When you are preparing for an event, make sure that you make gender balance your objective and not just some goal. It needs to be an integral part of your conference or panel setup.
  • Think about involving women in your planning process.

And here are just three ideas how you as a man can be(come) part of the solution rather than remain part of the problem:

  • If you’re invited to speak at a conference: Make sure that there’s a balance in diversity among the speakers.
  • Before you take part in a panel discussion: Ask the question whether there are just men on stage or men* and women* in a balanced diversity setup – hostess not included. 70% men may be o.k. in some industries, but more would only mean a lack of effort.
  • Speak out about the reasons for not attending male-only events. If you remain silent, you miss the chance of creating awareness for this problem.
  • Create awareness among your peers. Ask them why they wouldn’t bother reflecting on this issue. Help them make up their minds, too.

Always Remember:

All-male setups are simply boring.

Balanced lineups must become the norm.

Help us change the ratio. Spread the word: #men4equality

On #noah16 and #EscortGate – time for new conference setups

Author: Robert Franken (blogger and digital consultant)

Ever since Watergate, people are adding the syllable „-gate“ to whatever incident they would like to sound more scandalously. And this is exactly what happened with the hashtag #EscortGate. Only that it is a true scandal. What had happened?

The famous NOAH Conference had come to Berlin, hosted by German Media powerhouse Axel Springer and supported by illustrious sponsors such as Credit Suisse, Hellman & Friedman and Deutsche Börse Cash Market. Prior to the event, there had been significant criticism concerning the overwhelming abundance of male protagonists at #noah16. In the end, according to fortune.com, 108 speakers were part of the conference, only eleven of those were women.

I cannot give account of the conference itself, for I haven’t been present. The organizers, however, had offered me a ten minute slot on stage „to do a fire side chat with a female Internet entrepreneur at NOAH“. I refused that, and I had my reasons, which you can read here.

What I can do and what I will do, is talk about the above-mentioned #EscortGate. Apparently, someone had brought about 100 escort ladies to the conference party. Pia Poppenreiter, founder of ohlala.com, has taken the blame for doing so. But it is common knowledge among insiders that this has a tradition at NOAH – and that Axel Springer also wanted a better ratio at the party, there had been at least one e-mail to female employees to attend the party „dressed-up“ accordingly.

Pia Poppenreiter is a professional entrepreneur, so you can assume that she knew what she was doing. Her apology for this „PR stunt“ therefore sounds like shedding crocodile tears, especially on the background of the organizers’ intentions. But does the end justify the means? Not at all.

The incidents around #noah16 are a culmination of boys’ club rituals, deeply rooted misogyny, Valley capitalism and probably some sort of simplemindedness – as in „It’s been a great party, though.“ Otherwise, it’s very hard to explain the reaction of NOAH founder Marco Rodcynek on Venture TV. He considers NOAH to be the victim of PR gone wrong and he thinks it’s been a great party. This is not what I would call leadership and responsibility.

And unfortunately, a lot of participants (not just male ones) are keeping quiet – who would want to blame them, they are all dependent on the current VC ecosystem and they want to be invited to NOAH again.

I consider events like NOAH (which in itself is a great achievement and success) to be at the forefront of change. They are powerful players. But with power, there comes a lot of responsibility. NOAH et al. need to accept that they are part of the disease and not only a depiction of the symptoms of an industry. They should be engaging in changing the male paradigm by using their various channels and their strong voice among startups and investors alike.

NOAH could show that they care:

  • by changing their parameters in order to attract female speakers to the stages and panels.
  • by promoting women rather than making them just a requisite for successful male entrepreneurs.
  • by organizing their events along inclusiveness and diversity.
  • by collaborating with people and organizations which stand for gender parity and diversity.
  • by living up to a standard of mutual respect.
  • by looking into their values and bringing their responsibility to the game.

The next NOAH will be in London (in November). And I would love to see what has changed when NOAH hits Berlin again. Looking forward to #noah17 and to starting the debate towards change.

Why I don’t want to be a threat to women

Author: Robert Franken (blogger and digital consultant)

I live in Cologne, Germany. After the incidents around the central station on New Year’s Eve, which have been widely commented on under the hashtag #koelnhbf, I’m still trying to come to terms with what has happened and how the debate has unfolded. The newly elected mayor’s concept of #armlaenge („at arm’s length“) can’t be the solution to a problem that had long been ignored and that has s got nothing to to with refugees and migrants in the first place: I’m talking about every-day sexism and sexual violence against women. My perspective is a male one and I would like to describe what’s making me so uneasy.

railway-station-1029215_1920I’m heading home from, let’s say, from a night out with friends, strolling through a quiet part of town, and I’m walking behind a woman. She’s a bit slower than I am and I’m slowly catching up. And all of a sudden, I realize how uncomfortable she might be feeling. So I’m beginning to walk a bit slower, adding some distance between me and her. But yet again, since this is a deliberate decision, I’m getting the feeling of being somehow manipulative. It’s a dilemma.

Respecting inter-human boundaries has always been very important to me. A flirt turned into something more intimate only if I could be absolutely sure that I hadn’t misinterpreted anything. Thus, I definitely missed a few opportunities for having been a bit… slow. But it was because I didn’t want to take chances.

It’s a quote by Margaret Atwood that, in my opinion, sums up the whole problem:

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

It was only recently that I fully realized what it could mean for a girl or a woman to go home with a guy. It had never occurred to me that it would be a problem the other way round. Of course it didn’t, for I wasn’t exposed to any risk of being forced into something against my will. That’s a male privilege. And it’s utter discrimination against women.

Is there any rule of thumb? Probably not. But there has to be something men could use as orientation. „No means no“ (#neinheisstnein) is the slogan behind a movement for a stricter law against sexual violence. It should definitely be supported. But to me, it’s not strict enough for a respectful interaction of human beings for it is too abstract for every-day human encounter.

Being a heterosexual man, as a matter-of-fact, I just don’t expect any woman to wish for me getting any closer to her. It’s a precondition, a rule. If she does, however, I’d need pretty damn obvious signals from her. And in order to interpret them correctly, I’m gonna need a whole lot of sensitivity and empathy. Even more so, if these signals are non-verbal.

Respect while flirting also means that you just don’t seize every single opportunity for an erotic adventure. What’s wrong about a decent flirtation? It’s not about finishing a task all the time.

Back to my nightly way home. I was often close to speaking out to the women in order to signal them that I wasn’t being a threat. But that could have turned out as an all-too obvious attempt to chat up, so I kept quiet.

Meanwhile, in situations like the one mentioned above, I’m trying to keep a distance. If necessary, I’m switching to the other side of the street. Why? Because it’s not a big deal for me, but it might make a difference for the other person involved. I’ve even started whistling or humming a song once – and I can’t really sing. I just don’t want to scare anybody by any means.

Am I being paranoid? Maybe a little. But do you get what I’m trying to say?

The fact that there are services like a telephone hotline where they literally walk you home at night is proof that there is a constant potential threat (to women) out there. And no: I don’t think I’m not victimizing women when I say this.

It means that my uneasiness of being recognized as a potential threat, is by far the least important problem here. It’s the women who face the threat; who permanently have to feel their freedom and their physical and psychological integrity being at stake.

I hate that. And I want to help changing this. I’d like to be part of the solution rather than being part of the problem by being a man. This may sound a bit over-sensitive, but we can’t take a chance here. In times of every-day sexism and massive violence against women, it is strictly necessary to become an asset in this particular issue. Will you help making that change?

I am a supporter of #HeForShe, and so is Male Feminists Europe. We need to join forces and make sure that every man is carrying this kind of sensitivity into his personal and professional life. Is more necessary than ever.

Women in tech: launch event of ABI.local in Amsterdam

On Tuesday night, April 26th, I attended the launch event of #ABIdotlocal in Amsterdam. It was hosted by Google Netherlands and Rose Robinson, Senior Manager from the Anita Borg Institute, was guest of honour, having come all the way from Atlanta, GA.

Rose gave a very motivating keynote on the role of local communities in empowering women in tech. She stated that „being the only woman all the time“ can be a massive problem, which is why events like the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, the world’s largest gathering of women technologists with more than 12,000 women attending, are so important.

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Rose Robinson and Iffat Gill

The evening had been opened by Iffat Gill. She’s the CEO and founder of ChunriChoupaal/The Code To Change. Her talk was called “Digital inclusion: the importance of e-skills training for economic empowerment”. Iffat will be heading ABI.Amsterdam together with Diana Eggleston and Mine Ogura.

After another Keynote by Maya Tudor, Tech Scholarships Program Manager, EMEA, Google on “The role of the tech industry to address inclusion and retention of women”, the „Empoweress“ Mine Ogura, Head of Delivery of Marktplaats (eBay Classifieds Group NL), gave a very energetic workshop on „Cracking the Code“.

The official programme was closed by Coach, Trainer and Speaker Amber Rahim. Her workshop “Overcoming Imposter Syndrome” was full of insights and provided a lot of great takeaways for the audience.

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Workshops and networking

It’s been a fantastic event with a very diverse network. All of the attendants were utterly devoted to their professions as well as to the cause of women in tech. It has been an enormously supportive atmosphere and I’m very proud to be an ambassador for those projects.

If you are a woman and you are interested in coding and the technological side of the digital transformation, get in contact with organizations and initiatives like The Code To Change or ABI.local. It is more than worth it. I am looking forward to seeing those networks flourish and I’ll be doing my best to support this development.

The feminist debate is still relevant – and a law against internet hatred and harassment has become a necessity

Author: Henrik Marstal (author and musician) 

In the often heated debate about feminism, it has become customary for debaters to promote their great difficulties with the very word. Some have even argued that this is the movement’s greatest challenge.

Others argue that we should talk about “equality” instead of feminism, for this is what feminism is actually about. Or that feminism simply means “reverse discrimination of women”. These are relevant objections because feminism may appear a bit restricted at the very definition of the word.

Let’s begin with the latter: No. There are very few feminists who want women to dominate the world by establishing a matriarchal system – i.e. the equivalent of the current patriarchy which seems to be the actual cause of the problems of equality which all people might be subjected to. Continue reading “The feminist debate is still relevant – and a law against internet hatred and harassment has become a necessity”