Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Is there something lesser about the moderator's role?

The New York Times recently quoted me on women political speakers in the article Hillary Clinton Raises Her Voice, and a Debate Over Speech and Sexism Rages. The article identified me as author of The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

That led one observer, in It seems we need to talk about Hillary, too, to write:
which, well, good for denise graveline fulfilling a need, but that this should be a need is heart-breaking. 
as is the fact that it is about “moderating” panels rather than featuring on them. to moderate a panel is admin. to be on a panel is to be identified as an expert, and to be the star. that there, my friends, is inequality.
I hear a few assumptions here, and good questions to consider: Is moderating a lesser role? Are only the panelists considered experts? Are women wise to avoid moderating panels as a way of avoiding being put in the background?

I do advise women to turn down a request to moderate a panel when all the moderators are women and all or most of the panelists at a conference are men. That situation indeed makes the women figureheads for diversity, without letting them have a more substantial speaking role. But that doesn't mean women should avoid moderation roles, which are, in fact, more complex and demanding--and highly valued in the world of conferences. I don't think panel moderation is at all a lesser role, compared to being a panelist. It all depends on the context. Are women evenly distributed in all kinds of speaking roles?

Finally, a point of clarification: The book takes the name of my blog The Eloquent Woman, which offers tips for all as well as perspective about inequalities women face as public speakers. It doesn't, by any means, suggest that I think women should be limited to moderating roles as speakers, and a thorough read of the blog would demonstrate that.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by UN Women)

Need more coaching on how to be a better panel moderator? Order the new ebook The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 and available in many formats, it's a great back-pocket coach to take on stage with you in your smartphone or tablet. Find more tips on public speaking on The Eloquent Woman blog.