Anita Khakh — an Institute of Public Administration Canada student — shares some strategies for ensuring that your next women’s empowerment event is everything it can be.
New initiatives are popping up around the city that seek to connect and empower women through the hosting of networking events. These initiatives provide great opportunities for mentorship and to collaborate with other women in the city. With that being said, the invite lists can often signify exclusivity and privilege. To elaborate, invites are typically extended to women who are already established in their careers and industries. As a result, women who may be hesitant to step into the entrepreneurial realm, struggling with their business(es) and/or face systemic barriers that have proved as roadblocks in their careers are left in the margins. Improving the diversity at women empowerment events not only makes these events more successful, but also encourages opportunities for mentorship, growth and new perspectives by hearing from broad range of women with unique experiences. In order for organizations to enhance the diversity of attendees at their next event, the following 10 effective strategies may be useful:
- Provide alternative ticket options for students or women facing financial hardship.
The costs of venues, catering, speakers, decorations and other miscellaneous materials adds up. However, if a small portion of the tickets can be set aside and offered at a discounted or waived fee, greater financial accessibility is established for those that might otherwise be incapable of attending. Other alternatives may include, but are not limited to, two for one events or bringing a friend for free.
- Expand outreach and promotion to diverse communities in the city.
Notifying diverse communities about upcoming events may help to broaden the demographic of attendees and detract from consistently holding space for the same niche group of already successful women who attend.
- Use multiple-modalities for promotion of events.
Similar to strategy 2, using multiple-modalities (e.g., newspaper, television, social media, etc.) to promote events will help to inform women of all ages and backgrounds, who receive their information from different platforms, to attend.
- Hold events in an accessible space.
Ensuring that the event space is easy to get to by public transportation and is wheelchair accessible will likely improve the turn-out of the overall event and allow for women who do not have access to a vehicle to attend. If possible, hold the event in a space that is centrally located or in areas with large populations of diversity.
- Invite women to bring their children.
Receiving child-care can be a barrier for many women that prevents them from attending events. Therefore, having the option to bring children to the event or offering the event in a child-friendly space will likely permit more women to attend. Additionally, bringing children can be a method of connecting new moms and forming supportive networks among women.
- Foster a non-judgemental space that prioritizes community over competition.
If the goal of the organization is to uplift and support all women in their career prospects and industries, the social environment should be a reflection of this. Any power dynamics that are present should be dismantled and replaced with equitable forms of encouragement. This will not only foster a greater sense of community, but can also aid in feelings of vulnerability or intimidation for women when attending events.
- Partner with grassroots initiatives in the city.
By partnering with initiatives that already work with marginalized communities, women from these communities may be more inclined to attend. Not to mention, the unique perspectives that these women bring with them, which might not have been considered beforehand, can be extremely valuable in terms of discussions targeted at addressing current barriers for women.
- Incorporate mentorship opportunities.
Through mentorship, women from all stages in their careers are welcomed to connect, share ideas and participate in ongoing professional growth. Mentorship fosters leadership and interpersonal skills, increases self-confidence for both the mentor and mentee and facilitates a system of knowledge transfer, among many other benefits.
- Utilize speakers who are representative of different dimensions of diversity.
Utilizing speakers who are representative of different dimensions of diversity will prompt more women who embody these dimensions to attend. With increased diversity, discussions can become more rich and new viewpoints can be shared.
- Avoid exclusive membership fees.
Membership fees can not only be financially inaccessible but are also a method of promoting power imbalances, privilege and exclusion of those who are non-members. When possible it is best to avoid systems of hierarchy that present specific privileges to ‘member’ attendees (e.g., mentorship, VIP access to tickets, workshops, etc.) while withholding these same privileges from ‘non-member’ attendees.