Last Thursday evening at the local Movember headquarters (a room in Spadina Avenue’s Balfour Building), a group of volunteer programmers for TEDxToronto gathered to fill out the remaining slots for this October’s event, the Toronto edition of the global speakers’ series on “ideas worth spreading.”
Fittingly for a discussion held in a room full of moustache paraphernalia, talk was over the trouble with women—that is, recruiting enough to make TEDx less of a sausage fest.
Every year, the TEDx programming team selects a handful of speakers based on the year’s chosen theme (2012 is the year of “alchemy”). An additional four slots are given to speakers who are self-nominated. But, as the programmers griped, three-quarters of the self-nominees tend to be male.
“Women are less likely to come forward and say, ‘Absolutely yes, I’m an expert on this,’” said Emma Brooks, one of the volunteers involved in programming. “They’re less likely to talk about themselves, for sure.”
A recent summit held in Doha, Qatar, with some 800 TEDx organizers from around the world, revealed that the challenge of finding community-nominated women speakers is one that exists worldwide. The lesson that Toronto’s programmers gleaned is that more outreach to women’s groups—such as the Toronto Regional Champion Campaign, which connects young women with mentors in city council—is essential.
“We have to say to them, ‘You’re really wonderful,’” explained Jen Polyzotis, another programmer, following a long brainstorming discussion about business and community groups to approach. “‘We’re really interested in what you do. Are you interested in working with us?’”
For more information on the TEDx nominations process, see tedxtoronto/nominate.