It is not every day that someone is willing to admit to their folly. This world is full of wicked problems that no one man or woman has a complete solution for, thus we have to take a piecewise approach to problem-solving.
Discrimination in all its forms is one of the biggest ills that bedevil society in our day, but no one has been able to find the silver bullet to eradicate this bad behaviour. All we can do is, contribute the little we can in our corners with the hope that others are doing their bit and one day it will all have an aggregated positive effect on our lives.
Yesterday, Edzai Zvobwo of TEDSF started a battle with SuitsAndSneakers around their failure to transform and incorporate women in their activities which have grown to international prominence. You can read the article on https://tedsf.org/suitsandsneakers-event-not-women-friendly/
It is our pleasure to announce that Mark Sham, CEO and Founder of #SuitsAndSneakers has heeded the call to change. We at TEDSF appreciate his honesty and commitment to change. It is heartwarming when someone realises their mistake and commits to be a better person.
Mark has promised to overhaul his modus operandi and be more sensitive to the South African context whose past is checkered by rampant discrimination of black people and women at large.
Below is his apology as written on his LinkedIn page.
I OWE YOU ALL AN APOLOGY!
As most of you know, we are hosting our first event of the year in Gauteng next week Tuesday night (22 January) called RISE! At first, I launched the event on Facebook with 6 males and no females. I did mention from the very beginning that the line-up was still a work in progress and then posted an image two days ago with 8 males and no female speakers.
Since then, I have had many people comment about our lack of female representation on the night and our lack of transformation in general. I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for not getting this right and also explain how I plan to correct this for future events.
I started Suits & Sneakers three years ago in an attempt to reduce the drastic levels of inequality in South Africa by starting a conversation around what needed to change within the education space. I am still committed to that cause and I never want to be seen as excluding any gender or race.
I have been in London for the last week on a business trip. When I landed in Johannesburg yesterday morning, I opened my phone and saw a whole bunch of tweets and posts suggesting that people should boycott our events because of the gender composition of our line-up. I can’t lie and say that it didn’t hurt to see that but upon further reflection, I realised that the point many of these people were alluding to is correct and I hadn’t put in enough effort. Even though I have been reaching out to quite a few female speakers, I haven’t actually been able to book anyone and that’s something I need to take responsibility for.
I decided to spend yesterday building a strategy to make sure this won’t happen again. I reached out to many trusted figures on my side asking for recommendations for female speakers and I’m happy to say that at least 2 ladies will be added to our line-up for next week. BUT more importantly, I also spent the day working on a “Transformation Constitution” for future events. There have been some incredible people who have reached out to try help me understand both the situation at hand and also offer me advice on how to get this right.
To ensure we address this matter thoroughly, we are compiling a framework, or a “constitution”, to be applied to all future events, that will ensure equity and equality.
We need to do this and we need to get this right. And we aren’t just doing this to make numbers balance; the team at Suits & Sneakers fundamentally believes that diverse representations and disparity of inputs ensures we further enrich our events and their value. Not only do we learn from our mistakes but we also need to grow from them. I will be publishing the “Suits & Sneakers Event Constitution” by the end of next week so that there are clear guidelines set out for when we host future events!
I want to close off by telling all of you that I love this country and I really have tried to put my money where my mouth is in an attempt to play my part to make it a better place. I don’t always get it right but my heart is in the right place and I hope you all see that. Thank you to everyone who has helped guide me toward understanding how important this issue is.
Mark Sham (founder & CEO of Suits & Sneakers)
Below is the new lineup after our efforts. We are glad sanity prevailed.