BizBash - Design 2018 - 17

Wonder
Women

How to create authentic, empowering
events for women in the era of #MeToo.
By Claire Hoffman

F

rom the Women's March and its four million
attendees, to an award season dominated by
discussions of sexual harassment, to a series
of new women-led conferences from major brands,
more and more events are taking steps to accommodate-and empower-women in thoughtful and
creative ways.
The barriers to equality still exist: According to a
February 2018 study by Georgetown University, over a
course of a career women earn a whopping $1 million
less than men. Meanwhile, women are facing-and
exposing-an undercurrent of sexual harassment
across all industries, while domestic violence still affects one in three women and the current presidential administration is taking steps to roll back abortion rights and other hard-fought measures.

Focus on substance over style. While eye-catch-

ing decor and Instagram-worthy moments will always
be important, women have come to expect more.
"I find it played out to see so many 'you got this'
messages spelled out in neon pink lights at lifestyle
conferences," says Katie Hintz-Zambrano, the editor of Mother magazine and the founder of In Good
Company, a conference for working mothers held in
San Francisco in October. "As feminists and leaders
in 2018, we don't need a sign to tell us that. We know
we've got this, and we've 'had' this for a while now."

Tadini notes a recent shift of brands and events
"As the conversation grows about women as an attentrying to insert a more human component. "It's no lon- tive audience, the brands are listening."
ger about just going to an event and taking beautiful
pictures and sharing them online," he says. "It's about
Create comfortable spaces for conversation.
how marketing can really impact change."
As events expand to accommodate a more diverse
Sponsors are beginning to do their part. At the
crowd, certain logistics may need to change. Recent
inaugural Teen Vogue Summit, for example, which was events, for instance, have turned men's restrooms into
held in Los Angeles in December, sponsors such as
all-gender restrooms, and made sure to have conciergFacebook, LifeWtr, and Playstation created interactive
es on site who can accommodate special needs, dietary
experiences that encouraged creativity and expression, restraints, and more.
rather than simply displaying their logos.
Erica Boeke, the vice president of experiential for
"In the last two years, we've seen a lot of compa23Stories-the event arm of Condé Nast that produces
nies that wouldn't previously have focused on women the Teen Vogue Summit, Glamour's Women of the Year
shift their focuses-particularly tech companies, or
awards, and more-notes a few other
companies focused on entrepreneurship," says Tadini.
trends in women-focused events.

MORE

The annual Makers Conference in Los Angeles draws
advocates for women's rights from the tech, entertainment, business, and nonprofit fields. This year's
speakers included Hillary Clinton and screenwriter
Lena Waithe (right).

photo: ViVien Killilea/Getty imaGes for maKers

strategy session

In the wake of this, an increasing number of
brands are using events to fill the gap, facilitating
networking opportunities and thoughtful discussions,
creating accommodations for working mothers and
gender-fluid attendees, and focusing on empowering
women of all ages, races, and socioeconomic classes.
"Major brands are hyper-aware that they have to
go above and beyond right now to communicate to
their audience that they're not alone," explains Nicky
Balestrieri, co-founder of the Gathery, a New Yorkbased production firm that recently designed women-focused events for brands such as Girlboss and W
Hotels. "Brands want to be spending their money on
things like [women-led conferences] right now, more
than they want to throw lavish parties. They're stepping up where the government is lacking."
The Gathery co-founder Luigi Tadini agrees. "I
also think that brands are afraid of just jumping in [to
these types of events]; they don't want it to seem like
they're only doing it because it's trendy," he notes. "The
key is to find the best way to communicate to that audience that remains true to the brands."
So how can events become places for authentic
discussions and empowerment?



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