gender rage, the Public Speaking edition

amy buckland and I were just trying to brainstorm a suggestion for a keynote speaker — someone engaging, high-profile, and willing to travel to Montreal — and I gave her a list of five men, followed by “WHY IS MY LIST ALL MEN?”

So I brainstormed a list of women I know who I think would do a good job. They all had caveats like, “Already done this conference. Too niche in her experiences. Old hat in Canada. Not active enough anymore. Not high-profile, but really interesting.”

Last night I watched Killing Us Softly 4 on YouTube, and then woke up this morning and the first words out of my mouth were gender growl because of this NPR story about girlie Legos.

So amy asks me, is this why we have so few high-profile female speakers in libraryland? Is it because men are trained to speak up and be noticed, and women aren’t?

My genderrage says yes. Yes, that is it. And when women do stand up and get noticed, they run the risk of having to endure harassment and assault.

And because building a reputation by being a speaker is how you get to be high-profile, we have a closed loop cycle building where men speak so men get noticed so men are predominant. The whole thing just makes me angry.

But it has to change.

Those of us with the will and influence to lift people up can and should do so, but we need your help. So: Tell me. Who are your favorite engaging female speakers in libraryland? Who should be high-profile but isn’t yet?


  1. This in no way addresses your very valid question, but I have to chime in about girly Legos.

    And the Game of Life. Think about it. You choose whether or not to go to college, buy a house, all manner of things. But on the second square of the game, you must get married… in a station wagon.


  2. Here is my list:

    Jenica Rogers
    Sara Houghton
    Nicole Engard
    Rudy Leon
    Polly Allida-Farington
    Ellyssa Kroski
    Laura Solomon
    Rachel Singer Gordon
    Meredith Farkas
    Amanda Etches-Johnson


  3. Seems to me Bill’s list is a good starting point. There are others I think would be excellent, but as with some of these, I actually haven’t heard them. (Examples: Iris Jastram, Dorothea Salo, Laura Crossett, Jenny Levine.)

    Interesting: Looking at Bill’s list, I see one or two I personally wouldn’t be interested in listening to–but NONE that I’d actively avoid as I would several of the always-speaking/always-visible Big Men in Librarianship. That may say something.


  4. Hmmm. Don’t know the topic, but what about Lisa Hinchliffe, Karen Schneider, Tiffani Travis, Sarah Shreeves, Barbara Fister, Lisa Carlucci, Bobbi Newman, Iris Jastram?

    (and Bill, thank you for including me on that list! I’m still blushing!)


  5. I didn’t see some of my favorite people on these lists:

    Christa Burns
    Robin Hastings
    Louise Alcorn
    Jill Hurst-Wahl
    Julie Strange
    Stacy Aldrich
    Marianne Lenox
    Lori Reed
    Colleen Harris
    Mary Carmen Chimato

    And those are the ones off the top of my head. Google them all. You won’t be sorry.


  6. @Marianne: … ( <– this is me being, uncharacteristically, speechless)

    Thank you so much. Especially given the company I've got in the rest of the comment thread — the ones I know set a high bar, and the ones I don't I'm going to google straightaway.

    @Jenica: Legos for girls? So those would be…the legos my daughter owns? I mean, right?


  7. First, in the game of life dude’s gotta get married too.

    However, here’s another possible reason (other than the women aren’t tought to speak up cop-out). The profession is DOMINATED by women. Perhaps then, to look outside the status quo and find someone who wants to do something differently, it’s much easier to find men. This is because it is automatically seen that men are inherently different to the staus quo.

    SO, females in a female centric profession could be seeing that ideas from females are already being implimented, leaving ideas from males left as those that are different and warranting discussion.

    Of course, i don’t think any of this is true, but it’s possible.

    Also, Jessamyn West.


  8. Some great speakers I recall from LIANZA conferences include:

    Loriene Roy
    Jessica Dorr (from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation)
    Joann Ransom, re Kete and/or Koha (her 2007 presentation on Kete Horowhenua srsly got me all teary-eyed with inspiration)

    A colleague also just suggested something along the lines of: why not get together a panel of women who are less high-profile, or ex-high-profile, to talk about some of the issues of that – the collision of politics and values, that sort of thing. <vague handwavey>


  9. Spencer, if the reason male library speakers predominate at conferences was that female librarians predominate in the profession, then we would expect to see female speakers predominate at conferences about fields in which males predominate.

    …So, no, I don’t think it’s true and I don’t think it’s much possible either.


  10. As an introverted, overweight, video-game/TV-addicted ultra-nerd, I certainly wasn’t trained (or encouraged) to speak up and be noticed. But I decided to do it anyway. (And then I decided to stop doing it and be a better husband/dad, but you know that already.)

    I don’t think I could come up with a list of male librarian keynote candidates nearly as long or compelling as the list that is being assembled here.

    And I’ll add two. Gotta shout out to my homegirl Sarah Cohen up at Champlain College. And I’m pretty sure you could count on Kathryn Greenhill as well.


  11. Trying not to repeat the already-mentioned, though I agree with all the mentions whose mentionees I know:

    Diane Hillmann
    Gail Steinhart
    Patricia Hswe
    Kristin Antelman
    Wendy Pratt Lougee
    Karen Williams (AUL at Minnesota; there’s probably more than one Karen Williams in libraryland!)
    Emily Lynema
    Constance Malpas
    Jodi Schneider
    Robin Rice
    Liz Lyons

    If LIS professors are also in the pool:

    Carole Palmer
    Kristin Eschenfelder
    Catherine Arnott Smith


  12. Some others occurred to me:

    Naomi Dushay
    Deborah Kaplan (at Tufts)
    Vika Zafrin
    Leslie Johnston
    Christine Borgman

    That I didn’t think of them in the first place is evidence only of the inadequacy of my brain.


  13. I could have listed most all of these fine women, but I came to this post late. Names not listed so far: Nina McHale, Cindi Trainor, Xan Arch, Holly Tomren.

    You become high-profile by speaking. So let’s break the cycle by asking talented women to speak, and thereby become the high-profile talent we know they can be/are.


  14. Yikes. Lots of good speakers on that list, but as someone who once set the librarian-dais-circuit on fire, I’m feeling a little bleak right now. I do turn down the “chowder” these days–very busy with what I’m trying to do at MPOW. Glad I still get the occasional high-profile engagement. Pondering Toastmasters. Or a facelift. Or just loads of chocolate.


  15. Lizanne Payne. But then, I love me some massive redundant regional repositories discussed by BIG thinkers like Lizanne. And Alison Head from Project Info Lit, a cerebral and funny speaker.


  16. Bit confused at this. Can think of more excellent female than male speakers. Restricting to just Americans, and giving the thumbs up to many ace suggestions in the comments so far, add:

    Alice Daer
    Bobbi Newman
    Constance Steinkuehler (now works in the White House)
    Liz Lawley


  17. A couple more that come to mind – given that I don’t go to many conferences & so don’t hear that many speakers:
    Margaret Heller & Nell Taylor (from the Read/Write Library in Chicago)
    Erin White
    Barbara McGlamery (works as an ontologist for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia – possibly a niche speaker but her talk at LITA this year was pretty great)


  18. Lisa Carlucci Thomas
    Kate Sheehan
    Megan Oakleaf
    Erin Dorney
    Heidi Steiner

    who are we kidding, there are too many to name. I think the point is that “big names” are great for getting conference attendance, but those who are planning sessions need to look a little harder when looking for speakers.


  19. Whenever a friend of mine (usually female) tells me they’re having gender rage of this kind (why don’t more women speak up/speak in public/promote themselves), I recommend the book Women Don’t Ask.


    I was introduced to the book through a political science class, and have found it indispensable ever since. It looks at a range of issues from childhood socialization to salary negotiation to how women are encouraged to be self-doubting. And it does this without being too touchy-feely/fluffy, which is often my problem with books of this sort.


  20. Amusingly, I just noticed a clickthrough from this post to my blog this morning – while I’m waiting in to board a train so I can go speak at a conference. (At which I’m not the keynote, but, well, he’s Nationally Famous Not Just In Libraryland, so, you know. I’m an invited speaker, anyway.)


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