Paul Cornell has a plan for achieving equality of gender representation on convention panels:
If I'm on, at any convention this year, a panel that doesn't have a 50/50 gender split (I'll settle for two out of five), I'll hop off that panel, and find a woman to take my place.
If I know of a professionally qualified woman (a fellow creator or critic or someone with specific knowledge of the subject) in the room, I'll start by inviting her up. If there's nobody like that, I'll ask for hands up, and hope that bravery counts as virtue enough for them to hold their own on the panel. I will ask such women that they don't spend their time on the panel criticising the convention or the companies I work for. That would make me a very rude guest. I will then stay in the room to listen to the panel, and then, due to the small possibility that someone might have come to the panel purely to see me, make myself available outside afterwards, so no audience member is short-changed.
Comments on his post are mostly positive. alittlebriton links this to the SFX Weekender panel balance discussion here. Chance is unimpressed here. FJM reframes to discuss the problem of "token men" here.
I find myself feeling wishy-washy: I respect the goal and the stance, but it feels almost disingenuous to protest so late in the process; and seems to me more useful, from the point of view of producing a panel that is both gender-balanced and a good discussion, to intervene when the lineup is first proposed. The argument, I suppose, is that protesting in the room draws attention to the problem in a way that protesting earlier might not. I'm not sure that's true for someone of Paul's profile, who could still widely publicise his stance. But I speak as someone who's helping to put together literary panels for the upcoming British Eastercon at which Paul is one of the guests of honour. I've seen the sausage being made, and know that programme deputy Liz Batty was already seeking women for some panels. (And of course there's also the issue of how the women who will end up invited onto the panel will feel; I've seen at least one person suggest that they wouldn't be thrilled to be singled out without preparation in such a way.)
EDIT: Some more comment from Cheryl Morgan, Tom Pollock, and Tansy Rayner Roberts, the latter enthusiastically in favour: "Sometimes you have to stop worrying about the little details that might go wrong, and appreciate the joy that comes from a glorious, messy, gimmicky consciousness-raising stunt. While eating popcorn." Paul's last comment, for now:
Thanks again for all your comments, it's given me a lot to think about. I've changed the plan a little, as noted in the edits, and absolutely nobody is going to be pushed into doing anything, in terms of being literally hauled up onstage. Now I have to get myself, and my ego, out of this, and start pointing out the women who've been doing this sort of stuff all along. Cheers.
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