At the Asian Development Bank’s annual Digital Strategies for Development Forum, a male moderator called participants’ attention to the gender imbalance in one panel, which consisted of five men and two women.
“This was not intentional,” said the moderator Sreenivas Narayanan, managing director for the nongovernmental organization Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST).
In recent years, there have been increasing calls in development conferences and other important gatherings to diversify the composition of their panel of speakers and decision makers. The International Gender Champions, a network composed of leaders in the development sector that pledged to break down gender barriers, had asked its members to sign a pledge on panel parity, which allows them to actively advocate for equal gender representation in panels they are invited to join.
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While there is progress in some conferences, males still make up the majority of panel composition. A brainstorming session between the World Health Organization and the World Bank recently got negative attention on Twitter for the seeming absence of women in the gathering. Women leaders called on WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim to change this practice and “balance the scale”.