Ahhhh yes, General Conference.
Right now, I'm reminded of one of my most memorable conference moments of all time.
It was the Sunday Morning Session, April 5, 2021 General Conference. As you can see in the video below (at the 48:28 mark), President Oaks thanked "the Brethren for your great messages." This was after Sister Reyna Aburto had also spoken.
(My bet: It has become so normalized that conference talks are given by men, that it isn't surprising he forgot to include her in his comments).
The Essentiality of Women in the Church
Despite that little mix-up, the Church reportedly needs and values women a great deal. Here is what President M. Russell Ballard said at a BYU Women's Conference on May 1, 2015:
"For years I have spoken about the power of councils with faithful women participating. Your insight and counsel are absolutely essential." 
A month earlier, Pres. Nelson said this in the April 2015 Conference:
"We, your brethren, need your strength, your conversion, your conviction, your ability to lead, your wisdom, and your voices. The kingdom of God is not and cannot be complete without women who make sacred covenants and then keep them, women who can speak with the power and authority of God!" 
Elder Neil L. Andersen also said this during the October 6, 2013 General Conference Afternoon Session (which, ironically, had no women's voices included):
"Sincerely asking for and listening to the thoughts and concerns voiced by women is vital in life, in marriage, and in building the kingdom of God." 
In the October 1996 Conference, Pres. Hinckley said,
"You sisters do not hold a second place in our Father's plan for the eternal happiness and well being of His children. You are an absolutely essential part of that plan." 
He also stated in the same conference,
"In this Church the man neither walks ahead of his wife nor behind his wife but at her side. They are co-equals in this life in a great enterprise." 
President Spencer W. Kimball said,
"When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS women to be silent partners or limited partners in that eternal assignment! Please be a contributing and full partner" 
Lastly, he also said,
"… It will be … female exemplars of the Church [who] will be a significant force in both the numerical and the spiritual growth of the Church in the last days." 
All that "Essentiality" at Conference
Unfortunately, that "significant force" of women doesn't exist in the upper echelons of the church.
In the 1980s and beginning the 1990s, generally one woman spoke per conference (unless an organization president was released). Around 2002, the number went up to three female speakers. , 
Since 2010, women have typically delivered between 1 and 4 (usually 2) General Conference addresses:
Which means in the aggregate that they give roughly 10% of the conference talks:
Please check out these pictures. Does anything look a little lop-sided to you?
So, I think the evidence is pretty obvious: On one hand, the church says we need to listen to women. But on the other hand, it consistently invites disproportionately fewer women to speak.
How are we supposed to hear them if they're hardly speaking?
The church wants to continue to be able to say that women are important…without actually showing it.
It says how important women are, but then treat women as some kind of afterthought. Women are so important that the speaking ratio is abysmally male-centric.
Tough Questions…Lame Answers?
Looking at this data above might lead you to ask at least one of the following questions:
- "Why do we have to hear from each member of the First Presidency more than once?"
- "Why can't the Relief Society Presidency speak every time?"
- "Why can't at least one woman from the Primary and Young Women speak every conference?"
- "Why do we have to hear from so many of the 12?"
- "With over 1/2 the church membership female, why can't we have something closer to equal representation?"
When the Salt Lake Tribune asked about the drought in female conference speakers, Church spokesman Eric Hawkins had no comment, saying only that the governing, three-man First Presidency "assigns the speakers" and "there are no quotas." 
But in November 2019, one person - Katie Rich - wrote and sent a letter to the First Presidency about the conference speakers' gender inequity, and received a (comparatively lengthy) response (you may have to zoom to read these): 
In my opinion, the First Presidency's responses are pathetic, insulting, hurtful and disempowering. They send a message that (1) it's OK to talk out of both sides of your mouth, (2) hypocrisy among leaders is acceptable behavior and (3) women do not have a meaningful place among the church's top leadership (at least during General Conference).
One could say, "Why do you care about the speaker's gender? The Spirit is the real teacher, and its instruction can come through a man or a woman equally." They could also say, "God is no respecter of persons so it doesn't matter to God (nor should it matter to you) if women speak or not." Also, "Why aren't you trusting the Lord/sustaining the Brethren who call people to speak?"
However, by minimizing womens' voices in General Conference,
- Women, girls, men and boys are free to increasingly believe that women have little to no worthwhile spiritual development insights (let alone value, intellect and skills) at any level of church government, even the local level.
- Fewer female speakers means fewer female quotes in church talks and lessons. Following that lead, the General Authorities, Stake Presidents and Bishops are less compelled to strive for greater parity when selecting teachers, speakers and leaders.
- First, three auxiliaries - Primary, Young Women and Relief Society - have three female presidency members each. That's nine speakers. Each of these auxiliaries have general boards, which are themselves comprised of many more women. Finding a total of 20 female speakers (who have been "given authority to function throughout the entire church") shouldn't be a problem.
- Secondly, President Nelson has demonstrated significant enthusiasm for policy changes. If the First Presidency wanted to change General Conference speaker composition, they easily could.
- Third, I'm bewildered why a sister might have reason to be precluded from speaking in General Conference just because she's working full-time.
The curtailing of women serving in more church leadership positions is one of the greatest hinderances for growth in the church. How can the church possibly hope to make greater strides with potential female convert baptisms when its disdain for female leadership is readily apparent to the world every six months?
A Lose-Lose Situation
It's clear that the Brethren are conflicted as to what to do. For example: Speaking of sisters, Pres. Ballard said this at a Europe Area Sisters' Meeting on September 9, 2014:
"That you will let your voices be heard, we cannot, we cannot meet our destiny as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in preparing this world for the 2nd coming of the Savior of the world without the support and the faith and the strength of the women of this church. We need you. We need your voices. They need to be heard." [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSWPrzICnlQ ]
He next said:
"Don't talk too much in those [ward or branch] council meetings. Just straighten the brethren out quickly and move the work on."
So, in other words, we need your voices! Now don't talk too much...
(Pres. Ballard has left the door open to shut down any woman who tries to "straighten the brethren out." All they have to do is claim she's talking "too much" and BOOM. Nobody will hear a word she says from then on. Kinda like this YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LS37SNYjg8w).
Thus, if women speak out, they'll be criticized for speaking out of turn (outside their authority in the patriarchal hierarchy). If they don't, they'll be criticized for not speaking up. A perfect set-up for being gaslighted.
As one sister said,
"Our leaders say: Sustain and obey your priesthood leaders.
Our leaders say: Don't steady the ark.
Our leaders say: Don't criticize the brethren, even if they're wrong.
Our leaders say: Sisters, step forward, speak up, we need your inspiration.
Obeying that last directive requires going against a lot of cultural conditioning.
As long as our model is patriarchal, partnership is impossible, and women will continue to choose silence over unsolicited assertiveness." 
- The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 315-316