3 things to do to increase equality in business events right now

International Women’s Day is a date to recognise the pioneering efforts of women all around the world, while also raising awareness of continued inequality.

However, it’s just one day a year.

On average, around the world men still take home 75% more in wages. In the workplace, women are still widely discriminated against, especially at the higher levels of organisations. In the FinTech sector, a mere 17% of senior executives are women. There are still far too many FinTech conferences and events that rarely see more than a handful of women in attendance.

Azimo Chief Commercial Officer Dora Ziambra goes over three things that all businesses need to remember when hosting these events, to ensure more equality.

I am torn. I am torn because I am not sure I like International Women’s Day.

The reason I am not sure if I like International Women’s Day is the same reason I don’t like Valentine’s Day — do we really want to celebrate women (or love) for only 1 out of 365 days a year?

Women represent 47% of the workforce in the UK and 51% in Europe. It’s inspiring to see so many messages of support on social media, with even the biggest websites and publications celebrating women.

But do we still need to have specific day to do so?

In addition to to all the positive messages I received, I also got a text message from my partner who was attending the annual conference of one of the top investment banks (that will remain unnamed), telling me that the attendance was 99% men.

Happy International Women’s Day, I responded. I know all too well that situation, as most of the events I’ve attended for financial services or FinTech I have been one of only a handful of women — if not the only woman.

He further told me that the women who were there were mostly hired escorts. If we want to increase diversity in business, we have to start with the basics, especially when it comes to events and conferences. These problematic issues got me thinking about how we can make them better. Here are three simple steps that businesses can start doing, right now.

Invite more women to business events

There is plenty of talent out there, I guarantee you. When looking for people to participate in or speak at an event, invite capable women in the sector to contribute.

Not only should we see more women speaking at these conferences, but also more women should be in overall attendance. It’s that simple.

Stop inviting escorts to these events

Please note that this is absolutely not a criticism of escorts themselves.

I mean that inviting escorts could be perceived as increasing diversity, however this is not the case. The power dynamic is still off — the men are invited as esteemed guests, and the women are there to work.

It’s more than about the numbers. It’s about the equality of opportunities and fair representation across the whole business — managerial positions included.

Stop assuming that all men at the event are interested in escorts

Tying in to my previous step, remember what the point is of the event or conference. Sure it’s a little more relaxed, but it’s still business. It’s work and networking rather than pleasure.

Therefore, not all men will want to attend with the assumption of hanging out with the escorts. The focus isn’t exactly on the assumption that men do/don’t want escorts, but again the power dynamic and tone of the purpose of the event.

It’s of no surprise that all of these were actually the cases of the aforementioned event.

That being said, there are good examples of business events that make an effort to be more inclusive — we just need more of them. We need to do better with empowering females not just once a year, but every single day.

Previously published on Azimo Medium page.