On chairing Ming, Shami and John – and how I failed to find questions from women

by Stephen Tall on September 28, 2012

I enjoyed chairing Liberal Reform’s fringe meeting on civil liberties at the Brighton conference this week, featuring Shami Chakrabati, John Kampfner and Ming Campbell…

… though (as usual) the request to speakers to speak for 5 minutes to allow plenty of time for audience questions was blown out of the water, mostly by Ming and then in retaliation by Shami! (They were on opposite sides in the debate on secret courts.) I’ve never yet found a way of keeping speakers to time in a way that doesn’t end up detracting from the event overall.

One innovation we did try was to invite questions in writing from the audience in advance. I requested this for two reasons:

1) To enable me to pick a good range of questions given the broadness of the topic. The danger of taking three from the floor – the usual thing – is you end up with an assortment of people making speeches / mounting their pet hobby horse / rambling on / going off-topic / asking basically the same thing. As it was, though we only got through six questions, they were each short, to-the-point and allowed us to cover a lot of policy ground in short order.

2) I’d also hoped it would encourage more questions from women. Attendance at conference is skewed towards men as it is, and questions from the floor generally even more so (though it can depend on the topic). Unfortunately on this I failed entirely. Of the 10 questions I received, just one was from a woman — not, I don’t think, representative of the ratio in the room. So my question is this: how do you try and ensure better representation of female questioners at public meetings?

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7 comments

New from me > On chairing Ming, Shami and John – and how I failed to find questions from women http://t.co/WVbxwv8h

by Stephen Tall on September 28, 2012 at 11:27 am. Reply #

On chairing Ming, Shami and John and how I failed to find questions from women http://t.co/gimn4MMl

by BexhillBattleLibDems on September 28, 2012 at 12:33 pm. Reply #

1. Put more women on the panels / all women panels

2. Tell women if they put their hands up / put cards in you’ll take equal amounts of questions from both – some women can be shy of being rejected and that includes being rejected for a question.

3. Offer a prize for best male & best female question, and best question overall.

4. Have a female chair 50% of the time

Just four ideas off the top of my head.

by Louise Shaw on September 28, 2012 at 12:39 pm. Reply #

New from me > On chairing Ming, Shami and John – and how I failed to find questions from women http://t.co/XngCZMH3

by Stephen Tall on September 28, 2012 at 2:27 pm. Reply #

New from me > On chairing Ming, Shami and John – and how I failed to find questions from women http://t.co/wMhw3rHk

by Stephen Tall on September 28, 2012 at 5:27 pm. Reply #

. @stephentall asks why only one in ten questions submitted at our @liberal_reform fringe was from women http://t.co/uE0Juq7x

by Nick Thornsby on September 28, 2012 at 5:43 pm. Reply #

Don't have their boyfriend collecting in the questions… And inviting questions from the audience, I'm less likely to submit a question at the beginning but usually think of one half way through

by Emma Revell on September 28, 2012 at 5:45 pm. Reply #

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