Aspen Institute plays down Security Forum’s gender gap
March 8, 2015
Aspen Security forum
When: July 22-25
Topics: Homeland security, national security, counterterrorism, intelligence, cybersecurity, local law enforcement
More info: aspensecurityforum.org
Where are the women?
Valid or not, it's a question that's been gaining momentum over the past few weeks as the Aspen Security Forum begins to finalize its list of speakers, panelists and moderators for the July event.
"(The forum's) 2015 speakers list is so far dominated by (as in, consists entirely of) men who have long been in positions of power in the national security arena," recently opined JustSecurity.org, a website that says it serves as "an online forum for the rigorous analysis of U.S. national security law and policy."
Clark Ervin, director of the Aspen Institute Homeland Security Program, said Friday that he's heard the buzz of discontent. He also said it's premature.
"This all got started when we started a series of releases to our confirmed speakers at the time," Ervin said. "That was in January, and we do a succession of them until July. So, it just so happened on the very first one that we sent, all of the people who accepted our invitations were men."
The list later grew to 27 confirmed guests, including two females — Suzanne Spaulding, the undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security and Elissa Slotkin, principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.
This year's Security Forum — the sixth one — is scheduled July 22 to 25. It will be put on by The Aspen Institute, CNN and the New York Times. The Aspen Meadows campus is the venue for the veritable who's-who list in the field of national security who discuss the impact of national and global current events, ranging from terrorism to email interceptions.
Speakers include FBI Director James Comey, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and National Intelligence Director James Clapper, along with both former and current ambassadors and government officials.
In addition to Slotkin and Spaulding, other women are expected to speak or moderate, as well, Ervin said.
Among them are PBS "NewsHour" correspondent Margaret Warner, Lesley Stahl of "60 Minutes" and CNN contributor Kimberly Dozier.
It's undeniable, however, that more men are in the field of security than women, so that correlates with the Security Forum's disproportionate number of men to women, Ervin noted.
"It's also the case that there are more men than women in the field to start. That's unfortunate, but it's true," he said. "And like everything else at The Aspen Institute, we have some women speakers and we have some women moderators."
Ervin said it's "regrettable" that some critics have made conclusions based on the earlier announced lineup. After the original all-male list was released earlier this year, the website GenderAvenger.com inducted the Security Forum into its Hall of Shame.
"So far, they have 10 speakers listed and none of them are women. Aspen Security Forum can do better," the site says. Many women also took to Twitter to complain.
Ervin said much of the bellyaching is coming from those who are envious that they weren't asked to speak at the event.
"To some extent, this has been jammed up by people who wanted to be invited to the forum who haven't been invited to the forum," he said.