I’ve been on a mission lately. It’s a mission I took on reluctantly even though I believe strongly that it’s a very important mission: Help improve the presence of women speakers at fitness conferences. I first wrote about this problem a couple of years ago in a recap of the Perform Better Summit I had just attended. 30 presenters and 30 men. In 2012. Really?
Since then I started including openness to female speakers in my criteria for selecting what conferences I attend. My criteria is that they need to either have reasonable representation by women on the speaker panel, which I define as at least as much as the US Congress (about 20 percent), or they must have some sort of accessible process such as a call for presenters.
Recently I was interviewed for the strengthcoach podcast to talk about a couple of training topics, as well as my perspective on women speakers at seminars (You can listen to it here). On that podcast, I mentioned that I’m not looking for forced gender equity via quotas, but rather a simple request for an accessible selection process. It’s a simple solution, in my opinion. Yes, it might yield extra emails, but the upside is that it might actually introduce the seminar organizer to new and exciting presenters that they haven’t heard of (men and women). If you let anyone apply, it also makes it hard for the likes of me to suggest you’re running an old boys club.
In addition to the suggestion above, I have also been compiling a list of women in the fitness industry who are writers, speakers, and influencers. Currently there are
39 62 women on this list, which I have included below along with links to their bios. In some cases they are already speakers at events, while in others they aren’t but should be, in my opinion. Hopefully this list will help to connect these great women with some seminar organizers.
Note that this list is far from exhaustive. That became apparent in September of this year when I had the privilege of speaking at the first Women’s Fitness Summit. The quality of women who both spoke and attended this event was incredible, and it makes me excited for next year’s event. Bottom line: there are a lot of smart women in the fitness industry who are great speakers. If you are running an event with only male speakers, please consider the following comment from social entrepreneur Scott Gilmore, from Maclean’s Magazine:
“There is no topic that cannot be discussed by women. There is no circumstance that would prevent one from inviting women. There is simply no rational excuse for excluding women.
Here is my list of women in the fitness industry that would be great additions to any speakers panel:
Dr. Anjali Forber-Pratt
Dr. Brooke Kalanik
Dr. Cassandra Forsythe
Dr. Emily splichal
Jen Comas Keck
Dr. Joan Vernikos
Karen McDowell Smith
Dr. Kathy Dooley
Kellie Hart Davis
Nancy Sokol Green
Dr. Shirley Sahrmann
Stacey Lei Krauss
Dr. Susan Kleiner
1. Some of these women may be surprised to find themselves on this list. I am thinking of Jamie Guined who may be less known but she’s an exercise scientist at NASA. How cool is that? It is possible that some of these people would not actually want to speak at an event. If you are on this list and wish to not be, please contact me and I’ll edit.
2. My intention was to include a note about what I thought each person would be most likely to talk about, but as the list grew, that that prospect became quite daunting. But I’m keen to help if I can, so if you are a seminar organizer and would like help narrowing down the list by topic, please contact me and I’ll do what I can to help.
3. This list is not exhaustive, but rather represents my
first second effort. If you know of someone you think should be on this list, or if you think you should be on the list, please contact me with details.
4. Yes I did include myself in the list. Some might view that as arrogant, but I think my self-inclusion is important. Let’s face it ladies, we tend to shy away from saying “pick me, pick me!”. But if we want to attend seminars with more than zero female presenters, we have to step up and say “you should pick me for this event”.
Elsbeth Vaino, B.Sc., CSCS, is a personal trainer in Ottawa Canada who has an opinion or two.