silver platterIts in the news more and more often these days, that the men who organize events (particularly hackathons) are not sensitive to hosting women and even worse have treated women like perks.

But as my experience at a ‘womens unconference’ confirms, it’s not just men that have that problem. Towards the end of the Keynote speakers Q&A section a woman stood up and asked “I organize events about the…differences between how men & women communicate…but have a very tough time getting men to show up, it always ends up being a room full of women…”

The male keynote speaker dismissed her quickly (even though evangelism is his specialty!) and so one of the other female audience members offered to share her idea.

“My sons are in college and when they have a tough time getting guys to show up at their club they advertise that women will be there. Maybe if you told the men that it’s a good way to meet women!” and the room laughed. But she wasn’t saying it as a joke. She was making a very earnestly intentioned attempt at helping.

However I was horrified.

I had already decided to stay quiet and simply listen at the start of the event, so I did my best to keep my mouth shut (which is no small feat for me!) even as most of the women in the room applauded.

No one spoke up.

After a few minutes they closed the Q&A and everyone started chatting.

Later, as I was speaking with the woman who had asked the question I commented that though I thought her intentions were good, what that woman was suggesting is using women as sexual bait. To offer up a “bait and switch” of sorts by making it sound like a match-making type event and then once the men are there “whoops!” guess you’ll have to talk about this important issue.

Why is this problematic? Let me count the ways…

  1. It positions women as sexual bait.
  2. It “tricks” men into showing up for the event.
  3. It positions the topic as something that NEEDS to trick men into participating.

This, and it was suggested by a female, who has been in the workforce for more than 30 years (according to her bio) and we’re worried about the men treating us this way?