Use the quality of discussion as your metric for whom to invite, not just the participant’s job title. With fewer women in high-ranking positions, invitations awarded only to those in conventionally prominent positions are more likely to lead to a lack of diversity. Look to journalists with on-the-ground expertise and professors conducting innovative research. Diversity of opinion, experience, and perspective will enhance the conversation. Creativity in invitations leads to creativity on stage.
Engage women early. Include women in the planning process. Invite women to participate first. Ask women who have participated in previous panels to suggest future panelists. While it may take time and energy, be thoughtful about your recruiting process: Are there reasons women have turned down your invitation? Does the framing of the event make it easy for a potential panelist to see themselves involved? Do the marketing materials show diversity and avoid superlative language that might dissuade women’s participation? Do event timings create childcare challenges for panelists?
Having a female moderator of a panel isn’t enough to bring nuance and diversity to the discussion. A moderator’s job is to prompt debate and pose thoughtful questions, but if the only woman on the panel is the one asking the questions, there will be no women to answer them. Invite women to participate in both moderator and event participant roles.