Monica Smiley

Monica Smiley is Editor & Publisher of Enterprising Women. The magazine will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2020. She is also the President and Founder of the Enterprising Women Foundation. To learn more about Enterprising Women or to donate to the Foundation's initiative to mentor and inspire the next generation of women leaders, please email Monica at or call 919-362-5151.

Innovation Women Calls on Event Organizers and Venues to Commit to Making Events “No Manel Zones”

New campaign urges conferences, event organizers and venues to support gender-balance, diversity and inclusion on stage
BOSTON – December 5, 2019 – Innovation Women, an online visibility bureau for entrepreneurial, technical and professional women, today announced the launch of a new campaign calling on event organizers and venues to declare their events “No-Manel Zones.”

“Manel” is industry jargon for a panel of featured speakers at a conference or event consisting of all men. The No Manel Zone campaign urges conferences, event organizers and venues to create policies, procedures, guidelines and/or recommendations that support inclusion, diversity and gender-balance for their speakers and presenters. The No Manel Zone campaign also asks other speakers, panelists and presenters to “speak up” when diversity and gender-balance is lacking.

“By working with speakers, presenters and by using tools like Innovation Women, event organizers can usually fix a manel,” said Innovation Women founder, Bobbie Carlton. “They might have to expand their search or change the limiting parameters of the panel, but they can find additional options. We’ve made it easier than ever to connect with female speakers through our self-service platform.” 

Carlton added, “Public speaking is an important path to thought leadership, expert status, credibility and career growth as well as better pay, more promotions, board seats, and equal access to funding. But these are the factors event managers weigh before they invite a speaker – we need to get more women on stage at conferences and events so they can be seen as the leaders they are.”

Diverse panels are only part of the equation – conferences also need to consider:

  • The diversity among their keynotes, featured speakers and MCs
  • How they promote their speakers
  • The diversity of participation during roundtables, pitches, hack-a-thons and other event segments.

Event organizers can sign up to receive a free No Manel Zone kit, including a No Manel Zone badge, diverse and inclusive events guidelines, sample codes of conduct and more. More information is available at “We hope the No Manel Zone campaign inspires event organizers everywhere to take action by creating policies, procedures, and guidelines that support inclusion, diversity and gender balance,” added Carlton.

Charter members of the No Manel Zone campaign include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Hubspot, Mass TLC, Forge, Greentown Labs, and Capital Network.

“In my experience, historically dominant all-male panels are the accidental result of network effect - men in leadership tapping their relationships which happen to be largely men in leadership - that can be solved for with an intentional, systematic approach to reaching out to and recruiting a more diverse speaker group,” said Laura Teicher, Executive Director of Forge. “At FORGE, where we support dozens of hardware startups and technical founders each year, we take the importance of this seriously, and are committed to our pledge.”

About Innovation Women
Innovation Women is an online speaker's bureau designed to connect entrepreneurial, technical and professional women with speaking engagements at conferences and events. Speaking provides important professional visibility and an opportunity to demonstrate thought leadership. Innovation Women helps event managers find great female presenters and subject matter experts, creating more gender-balanced, inclusive and diverse speaking slates and panels. Follow Innovation Women on Twitter at @WomenInno or visit

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