World News

Male-dominated panels still rule conferences, study finds

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Male-dominated panels - or “manels” - remain prevalent at policy events in the European Union, with women averaging only one in four conference speakers, a report has found.

Despite women’s campaigns globally for proportionate representation in policy-making across society, the report found that little progress had been made at congresses over the five years it reviewed.

Only one out of almost two dozen annual high-profile policy meetings studied by the Open Society Foundations had invited as many women as men to speak at the conference.

“The policies being debated affect women and men equally - it’s perplexing that in 2018 women still don’t have an equal opportunity to shape them,” the report’s author Christal Morehouse said.

The study entitled “An End to Manels: Closing the Gender Gap at Europe’s Top Policy Events,” whose publication on Thursday was timed to coincide with International Women’s Day, reviewed data on 12,600 speaking roles from 2012 to mid-2017.

Women were most sparsely represented at the annual Globesec Bratislava Forum on security, where they made up 12 percent of speakers over the five-year period.

International policymakers attending the yearly Munich Security Conference hear three female speakers for every 17 men, the study found, while the Davos World Economic Forum featured one woman for every four men.

Only two of the annual forums showed a marked improvement in gender balance during the period studied: the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Forum and the Chatham House London Conference.

The prevalence of male speakers over women on panels is often the result of organizers prizing seniority over gender equality, said Sarah Charlotte Henkel, program officer at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

“The inequality on panels is often also a mirror of gender-inequality within institutions,” said Henkel. She added that women must start supporting one another to achieve greater representation in their institutions.

One new initiative in Brussels strives to do just that. Launched this year, the Brussels Binder is a new online database of female policy experts.

The gender equality campaign group says the database should make it easier to find women speakers for conferences, putting pressure on organizers to do away with all-male panels.

Reporting by Samantha Koester; Editing by Alissa de Carbonnel and David Stamp