Where are the women?

Speaker list from Bettakultcha HuddersfieldGetting speakers for Bettakultcha is always tough. I’m pretty sure everyone has a story/passion/interest/quirk/rant etc the tough bit for me is convincing them to talk about it. Once I get over that objection the next hurdle is when they realise that putting together 20 slides and a 5 minute talk is actually harder than they think – it takes work!

Thing is, once people get the bug they have an endless stream of ideas they want to share. The buzz of sharing your ideas is pretty infectious.

What I’m conscious of, and I’m sure Ivor is too (sure he’ll say if not), is that I don’t want to see the same presenters each time. And though I’m sure the audience have their favourites too, they enjoy the variety of speakers and subjects.

But where are the female speakers?

People have quite rightly pointed out that we don’t have many female presenters at Bettakultcha. Well that’s not strictly true. We have on a few occasions had a 50/50 split of genders. Everyone who’s aware of Bettakultcha, I hope, is aware that we encourage anyone to speak. There are no barriers at all other than the few rules we have: 20 slides, 15 seconds each slide, NO PITCHES.

So at an event the presenters are the ones who have put themselves forward, regardless of gender or subject. I think what I’m saying is that if women want to speak they need to volunteer like the men have.

But I’m sure it’s not that simple, can’t be. It’s been suggested that we should give a selection of subjects to talk about? But for me that will end up with an evening which is engineered by us and that’s not really the point of it.

I don’t think it’s the audience either, who are always supportive and encouraging and about a 50/50 split too. If there are other ideas on why women are reluctant I’d love to know them.

It’s something I’ve witnessed elsewhere. I went to TedX Sheffield the other week and again saw a predominantly male speaker list. The once female presenter was one of the best on the day by the way.

Volunteer to speak (go on)

If reading this has spurred you on to talk, I hope it has, please email bettakultcha@gmail.com and I’ll add you to the list of speakers for the next Secret Bettakultcha on October 31st.


  1. There is something inevitable about confident personalities regularly volunteering to speak at BK. I don’t have a problem with that so long as they are interesting and entertaining. But one of the things that people enjoy about the BK experience (so they have told me) is the democratic nature of the speaker selection process—absolutely anyone can volunteer. So if we don’t continue to have first time presenters, we could slowly lose this perception of easy access.

    Sure, more female presenters would be a bonus but I would urge anyone who has a story to tell, regardless of their demographic, to consider putting it into a BK format and enlightening the rest of us.

  2. Hi Richard,

    I’m so pleased that you’re taking this issue seriously. I count as a missed opportunity any event where most of the speakers look and sound like me. As David Ogilvy said, “diversity is the mother of invention.”

    Your post is also very timely because Friday 7 October is Ada Lovelace Day, which aims to raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and maths by encouraging people around the world to talk about the women whose work they admire. It’s not too late to join in over on the website: http://findingada.com/

    Obviously ALD’s focus is a little different from Bettakultcha’s but you might find inspiration in their directory of women speakers and subject matter experts.


  3. It’s an odd one as I look at tech conferences etc and think ‘where are the women speakers there because of merit & interest’ and also wonder why women speakers generally seem to comprise of the same people doing the circuit.

    At Bettakultcha you’ve had some ace women speakers, and I’m a little surprised you are struggling this time around.

    As a former presenter at Bettakultcha I did not fear the public speaking bit, but found preparing 20 slides and getting myself organised a pain in the arse, when work, kids etc seemed to take up all my ‘spare’ time.

    I’m often opinionated with little to back up my opinions, so tend to disqualify myself from speaking at events where I know I’d need to be really ‘professional’ Bettakultcha is enjoyable because it’s all about the passion and energy which seems to overcome the need to be worthy and or impressive.

    Ultimately time is short and there has to be a benefit to putting yourself out in any form of public speaking. I understand that if you had something worth listening to, and an engaging manner there could be some money in it! But that might mean taking the view that you were taking the whole thing seriously, and by extension yourself.

    Finally I love to be asked, even if I then say no, because it is flattering. Maybe that’s the thing, females wait to be asked and recognised in the main? I could be wrong but I rarely nominate myself to speak at panels etc even when I think I could contribute well.

    1. I think you are spot on Emma, I was thinking about the request for volunteers and realised I never volunteer to do stuff like this. Is it a woman thing? I don’t know for sure but I know that much as I enjoy training and presenting I do it because people commission me to do it and therefore I believe that I have something to share that they want to hear.
      It may be its a pattern we need to break out if these types of events are going to be as diverse as our great city is!

Comments are closed.