Despite all the good work going on to improve gender balance in leadership I was astonished to learn this week of the Diggers & Dealers conference – whose organisers earned my second Ass of the Week award on sphinxx. Now in its 20th year, the conference and associated activities are held annually in (of all places) Kalgoorlie, WA. Why Kalgoorlie? Some would say it’s proximity to mine sites; but ask the mostly-male 3,000+ participants and they’ll tell you its the after hours programme in the town’s eleven topless bars that’s the big drawcard. Gives you an idea why it’s a mostly-male event when the jugs of beer come with the option of having the barmaid’s own “jugs” “dipped or undipped” in the beer’s frothy head (seriously!)
The 2011 Diggers & Dealers conference held last week ran a program that featured CEOs and Executive General Managers from companies such as Fortescue Metals, Sundance Resources, Newcrest Mining and a host of junior miners all giving updates on their operations and prospecting activities. It seems these guys (and yes, they were all guys according to the program) haven’t realised yet that women do in fact hold key influencing roles when it comes to the assessment of their stock values as bankers, dealers, brokers, analysts and reporters… which is a pity because all the women in these fields I spoke with said the well renowned after-hours activities keep them away from the event.
A bigger pity is that some companies in the banking, broking and software industries mandated attendance by their female analysts – which would be pretty awkward for those few women in attendance being served drinks by the barmaids wearing nothing but G-strings and stillettos. And whether or not it’s true that two planes of prostitutes were flown in just for the event, I’m definitely sure this conference isn’t my cup of tea – and that the after hours activities are in breach of workplace sexual harassment laws.
Tip for the 2012 conference organisers? Move the event to Perth, clean up the act and you’ll get the kind of attention you’re looking for from the many women dealers of influence.
And if you were asked to attend this conference – would love to hear your thoughts on it, if you attended or not, or whether indeed you’ve seen the same sort of thing in a different industry lately…