Gender Avenger’s new app is keeping track of all-male panels at SXSW (and elsewhere)

The tech/music/film/everything conference South by Southwest (or as we have to abbreviate it by law, SXSW) is taking place in Austin, Texas at the moment and unlike the BBC’s comedy shows, all-male panels are still allowed. In fact, if past years are anything to go by, they’re common. But pro-equality community Gender Avenger wants to change that.

So, as The Daily Dot reports, they’ve built an online app to tally gender imbalance at conferences, events, and in publications, and they’re encouraging SXSW attendees to fill it in whenever they spot panels featuring few or no women. They hope that by making organisations aware of the scope of the issue, they’ll be motivated to change (or shamed into it by the public – whatever works).

If they’re interested in gender diversity at all, too many organisers seem to think that adding a token female here or there is enough to balance the scales, but especially at tech conferences, given the sexism endemic to the industry, we need a lot more women to be given a voice.

Gender Avenger was set up by Gina Glantz, a Harvard Kennedy School Fellow and former campaign manager for Al Gore, to challenge the gender representation in public life. She and her colleagues have successfully challenged the organisers of high-profile male-dominated speaking events, and encourage anyone who supports equality to do the same. The site recently drew attention to the fact that not one female cartoonist was hired to contribute to the New Yorker’s 90th anniversary edition – hopefully teaching the mag a lesson it’ll remember in ten years’ time.

There’s no doubt they’re doing good work, and it’ll be interesting to hear what they learn about this year’s SXSW. But it would be even better if they kept track of the racial balance of panels and events, and how often LGBTQ and disabled people get to take part, too.

Diane Shipley