VidCon’s agenda went live recently, and I found myself curious about the degree of equal gender* representation – of the conference generally, but especially of the panels. Panels are a platform, literally, given to people perceived as legitimate and qualified to give advice; they’re a quick measure of whose opinions we value on what topics. And the representation of women on these panels is horrifyingly low.
As with everything related to media, representation matters. The lack of women on these panels both reflects and perpetrates a refusal to acknowledge the validity of women’s voices, experiences, and expertise. This is especially dangerous given the statistically young and female demographic who’ll be watching these panels at VidCon. VidCon could be an opportunity to catalyze a shift towards valuing everyone instead of, overwhelmingly, cis white men… But if the People In Charge ever DO decide to live up to that moral obligation, they certainly won’t be doing so at this year’s conference.
Below is a full list of which panels fit into the categories detailed in the above charts. If you don’t feel like reading that entire list, here are a few “highlights”:
- Of the 4 all-women panels, all 4 of them are heavily gendered: “Beauty Bloggers”; “Women on YouTube”; “Starting A Beauty Channel”; “A Focus on Beauty”
- Of five panelists, there are 0 women on the “Online Gaming Strategies” panel
- Of eight panelists, there are 0 women on the “Faceless Channels” panel
- Of seven panelists, there is 1 woman on the “YouTube and Your Music Career” panel
- Of eight panelists, there is 1 woman on the “Writing Comedy for YouTube” panel
* a similar report on the representation of POC on VidCon panels will be coming shortly. Spoiler alert: it’s even worse than this one.
FULL LIST OF PANELS**:
I participated on 4 panels/discussions this year: “Women on YouTube,” “Education + Entertainment: Is it possible?,” “Sexism on YouTube,” and The Brain Scoop Q&A.
There is a lot that can be changed and improved about the makeup of the panels at a convention as large and far-reaching as VidCon. I understand scheduling is a complicated process, but having the “Women on YouTube” panel occur at the same time as “The Future of Online Video” left a bitter taste in my mouth. While I’m proud to sit on a panel with some of my personal heroes and friends on “Education + Entertainment,” I can’t help but feel a sense of awkwardness at being the only woman up there. My opinions do not represent the entirety of women educators in online video.
We also run into a frustrating problem with feeling as though we’re preaching to the choir on the “Sexism” and “Women on YT” panels - while those may arguably some of the most important discussions occurring during the convention, we’re not attracting audiences that otherwise wouldn’t be inspired to attend. When I went to ScienceOnline the first 4 hours of the conference was devoted to issues of gender and race representation inequality - so if you didn’t go to any panels you were actively choosing not to participate in the first quarter of the conference. I’m not suggesting we force people to go to a panel they don’t want to - but structuring the timing of these discussions in such a way sends an encouraging message of support from the convention organizers. It is powerful.
Next year, it’d be great to see “Women on YouTube” on the mainstage. I would love to have a few men participate in the discussion. Let’s not see the ‘Future of Online Video’ represented solely by men. When you ask how you can help women reach a more equal platform, the answer is that you speak up, and you participate. We need your voices.