The recent debate over the professional lives of women that has been sparked by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book and Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s telecommuting ban takes a turn toward the meetings industry in a recent post on Slate‘s The XX Factor blog. William P. Bohlen, the director of communications for the German Marshall Fund of the United States, uses his organization’s upcoming Brussels Forum to ask, “Why Is It So Hard to Get Women to Come to International Conferences?” He writes:
[A] look at the international policy conference circuit shows just how far we have to go for gender parity at the highest levels. The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, instituted a 20 percent quota for women in 2011, but has yet to reach it in practice (17 percent this year). This year’s Munich Security Conference drew 15 percent women attendees. Excuses for the low numbers abound, ranging from a lack of women in senior positions in the foreign policy, security, and economic fields to the difficult balance professional women face between work and family. And it perpetuates a vicious circle. Without taking advantage of these networking and learning opportunities, women can have a harder time advancing in a field dominated by men.
What do you think? Especially if you organize meetings for a traditionally male-dominated industry, do you go out of your way to attract more female attendees? Should you?