Not Seen, Not Heard: Lebanon’s Woman Problem


When Mohamad Najem wrote a public post about refusing to be part of an all-male panel for a tech conference in Beirut, it was shared more than a thousand times by people who praised his stance. Not only had he convinced the organizers of the conference, which he did not wish to name for fear of embarrassing them, to replace him with a female panelist, but he ignited an important discussion that hit a nerve in Lebanon’s tight-knit startup community. His widespread support among men and women meant he’d surely made an impact. But less than two weeks later, Lebanon’s central bank held its annual accelerator conference BDL Accelerate, hosting a variety of experts from all over the world. As the highly anticipated conference began, tweets began appearing about the lack of women panelists. Najem counted seven women and 65 men. The lack of female panelists is a global issue that comes up periodically through blogs and news articles. A Tumblr account called “Congrats, you have an all-male panel!” and a Twitter hashtag #Manels invite people to post photos on the subject.