Innovation Women calls on event organisers & venues to commit to making events no “Manel Zones”


The new campaign urges conferences, event organisers and venues to support gender-balance, diversity and inclusion on stage.

Innovation Women, an online visibility bureau for entrepreneurial, technical and professional women, has announced the launch of a new campaign calling on event organisers and venues to declare their events “No-Manel Zones.”

“Manel” is industry jargon for a panel of featured speakers at a conference or event consisting of all men. The No Manel Zone campaign urges conferences, event organisers and venues to create policies, procedures, guidelines and/or recommendations that support inclusion, diversity and gender-balance for their speakers and presenters.

The No Manel Zone campaign also asks other speakers, panellists and presenters to “speak up” when diversity and gender-balance is lacking.

“By working with speakers, presenters and by using tools like Innovation Women, event organisers can usually fix a ‘manel’,” said Innovation Women founder, Bobbie Carlton. “They might have to expand their search or change the limiting parameters of the panel, but they can find additional options. We’ve made it easier than ever to connect with female speakers through our self-service platform.

“Public speaking is an important path to thought leadership, expert status, credibility and career growth as well as better pay, more promotions, board seats, and equal access to funding. But these are the factors event managers weigh before they invite a speaker – we need to get more women on stage at conferences and events so they can be seen as the leaders they are.”

Speaking exclusively to Event Industry News, Carlton added: “This is a global problem. No geography is doing a good job although some are doing better than others.”

“Aside from the fairness of it, speaking engagements (and the inherent visibility and credibility that come with them) drive business and career success. When we speak, we are perceived as thought leaders and experts. The more women are held back from the stage, the longer we will keep being perceived as “less than” and likely paid less.

“Public speaking is a huge career booster. People who are seen on stage have better potential to be contacted by reporters and quoted or seen by recruiters who can offer them jobs.

“From the point of view of the event manager – more diverse panels and speaking slates drive better events. Not only are diverse experiences and points of view key to an interesting conversation but bringing in speakers from different groups helps expand an event’s community, potentially driving better ticket sales.  And, let’s not forget the PR issues and social media outrage that comes along with All Male Panels!”

Innovation Women has claimed conferences also need to consider:

  • The diversity among their keynotes, featured speakers and MCs
  • How they promote their speakers
  • The diversity of participation during roundtables, pitches, hack-a-thons and other event segments.

Event organisers can sign up to receive a free No Manel Zone kit, including a No Manel Zone badge, diverse and inclusive events guidelines, sample codes of conduct and more.

“We hope the No Manel Zone campaign inspires event organisers everywhere to take action by creating policies, procedures, and guidelines that support inclusion, diversity and gender balance,” added Carlton.

Charter members of the No Manel Zone campaign include Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Hubspot, Mass TLC, Forge, and Capital Network.

“In my experience, historically dominant all-male panels are the accidental result of network effect – men in leadership tapping their relationships which happen to be largely men in leadership – that can be solved for with an intentional, systematic approach to reaching out to and recruiting a more diverse speaker group,” said Laura Teicher, executive director of Forge. “At FORGE, where we support dozens of hardware start-ups and technical founders each year, we take the importance of this seriously, and are committed to our pledge.” 

Molly Hookings
Author: Molly Hookings

Molly joined the editorial team in March 2019. She has several years’ experience working in broadcast and journalism, as well as marketing and PR. Past experience includes working for the BBC and independent publishing houses. If you have a story you think Molly might be interested in, please email: