Government Digital Service says it has pulled out of a "small number" of external conferences in the last 12 months on the grounds that they lacked female panellists.
It's been a year since GDS - a unit of the Cabinet Office tasked with leading digital transformation across the government - issued its ‘Parity Pledge'. This included a commitment that it would not take part in any panel discussion lacking a female panellist.
In a blog post last week, GDS' Zara Farrar gave an update on how GDS is performing against that pledge.
Since the pledge was made on International Women's Day on 8 March 2016, GDS has sent 151 people to speak at 143 events, 88 of which were men and 63 of which were women, Farrar said.
This means that 42 per cent of GDS' external speakers have been female over the past 12 months, not far from its goal of achieving gender parity in this regard. The figure in the previous year stood at about 25 per cent.
The Parity Pledge also set out that no-one from GDS will speak at an event "unless the event's organisers are clearly working hard to address gender diversity on stage".
"In a small number of cases, we've had to pull out of conferences where the organisers did not demonstrate a commitment to the same values," Farrar explained.
Farrar then cited two reasons organisers have given for failing to secure female representation.
The first is that they "invite only the best people to speak at events, it just happens that they are male".
But others have said that "women are not suited to a career in business, we will not invite them to speak simply to suit your agenda when we do not see that there is a problem", Farrar said.
The majority of GDS' conversations with event organisers have been "extremely positive", however, Farrar stressed, adding that many are eager to learn how they can improve on diversity at their events.
"Our pledge has made a difference," she said. "Better representation on stage helps to encourage women to apply for roles they didn't think were for them, or to attend conferences where they didn't think they were welcome. It encourages women to be part of the discussion and it welcomes different points of view on stage."
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