The Manel

Too often, when attending conferences, the seminar panels consist entirely of men, and should be renamed “manels.” While there certainly are exceptions, it is a disturbing trend that is manifested at most conferences and in most industries. Former regulator Richard Schuetz (l.) explains why we should all be concerned.

The Manel

A picture is worth a thousand words.”attributed to Frederick R. Barnard

“Teach your children well”—Graham Nash

I am looking at an entry on Twitter of a reasonably common sight from a conference and it is a Tweet with a picture of a group of people on a panel talking about this or that terribly important thing. Moreover, this panel of five people is comprised of all men, and this type of thing is so common that our vocabulary now has a word to describe an all male panel, and it is referred to as a manel.

A manel is certainly a common thing in our modern times. I would guess that the person who posted the picture I am looking at was proud of it and wanted to share it. What I am coming to understand, however, is that a man will view such a picture and see something fundamentally different than what a woman sees looking at the very same picture. Without going into extensive detail, what a woman often sees when looking at such a picture of yet another manel is something less than cool. She is not impressed.

It was recently the case that the United States and China met to discuss a trade agreement and there were over 20 people at the table, with only two being women. Moreover, these two women were the interpreters. These talks were between the two largest economies in the world and the two most significant world powers. I would hope that each of the men at that table would take that picture and give it to their daughters so that they would clearly understand that there is not a place at the table for them. These men need to ensure that their daughters do not operate under the mistaken belief that they will be treated fairly in the world and have the same chances that are offered to men.

Moreover, the men in this country owe it to their daughters to tell them that they will be discriminated against, they do not have the same chances as a man, and that is just the way it goes. Look, they deserve the truth from all of you fathers, so spread all of these pictures around that continually state the truth that their chance of being photographed on a panel or at significant economic talks or participating in really any other matters of importance is fundamentally less because they are female.

At some level I suspect that conference panels are designed to be educational offerings and one of the things that they clearly indicate is that when it comes to knowledge, it apparently is best disseminated by men. At least that is the impression of anyone who looks at the pictures of most panels would gain. Moreover, it seems to be a hard trend to offset.

I was recently visiting with a conference promoter and she indicated some of the challenges of securing women on panels. One element is obvious for many of our conferences are pay to participate events, meaning the folks financially sponsoring the event are the ones invited to speak, and since the folks who are making the sponsorship decision, that is, those who control the budget are men, this model leads to a strong male bias in the speakers selected.

Another rather interesting challenge was encountered when the conference organizer invited a woman to speak, and the organization with which that woman worked requested that a man within the organization was better suited for the role and requested that the man be allowed to take her place. Apparently this happens fairly often.

There are people who can look at old pictures of people in blackface or in a KKK outfit and see humor. There are others who can find only disgust in such depictions. What I am suggesting to those of you who are so anxious to tweet out your pictures of your latest manel is that you remember that there are many viewing that picture and see oppression and discrimination – in other words, it is very uncool thing for you to do.

There is a way that much of this could be eliminated, and that would involve men making a commitment not to participate in manels. It is a simple start, and if there is not a woman on the panel then you do not participate. That would, however, take courage and strength of character.

We will see how that works out.

Articles by Author: Richard Schuetz

Richard Schuetz started dealing blackjack for Bill Harrah 47 years ago, and has traveled the world as a casino executive, educator and regulator. He is sincerely appreciative of the help he received from his friends and colleagues throughout the gaming world in developing this article, understanding that any and all errors are his own.