Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Biggest Ideas * The Smartest Men

Keep forgetting to blog this: about a month ago, ideaCity announced its first 21 speakers. Four are women.

You might ask yourself why I keep writing about gender imbalance in relation to idea and essay based journalism. The short answer is that a few years ago, I was an associate producer for CBC's Go. Every week, once we were close to finalizing the line-up, there would be a conference call. Brent Bambury would ask a simple question: how many women do we have on the show this week?

Invariably there would be few or none. The two main producers were male, I was (still am) male. Only Elizabeth, the other associate producer, was female. And without trying, each week we managed to reproduce invisible gender bias. It really stuck with me.

So when the Walrus relaunched with almost no female bylines, I thought back to my Go experience. Fixing the problem can be as simple as saying "how many women do we have in the magazine this month?" This is not a quota system, or some other form of affirmative action that enrages the right. It's a simple act of reminder and repetition, but it produces results.