Why celebrating women needs to include men
I've just sat down to reflect after a whirlwind 4 days attending the Women Deliver 2019 conference on Power. Progress. Change. in Vancouver.
The conference was jam packed with back to back sessions covering topics ranging from tech and innovation to family planning and reproductive rights. In amongst it all were sessions dedicated to 'male engagement'.
Firstly, what was immediately apparent attending the conference, was that the delegates were mostly female. This was to be expected and if the opposite happened it would have raised many eyebrows and thrown the media into a frenzy, however it was still noticeable how male representation was severely lacking.
This made me think - how will we ever create a gender equal world when the half of the population who have historically (and still do in many countries) hold the highest positions of power are not involved in the discussions and held accountable to change?
While I ran AKIN ASIA in Bangkok, I curated a series of events titled 'Celebrating Women.' These were industry focussed conversations that were designed, developed and facilitated by women. The panelists were made up of extraordinary women working in various industries and the discussions were never gendered but rather dived deep into the opinions of these leaders about the field they worked in. They shared insights, tips, ideas and learned from each other and the audience around them. The events became communities of like-minded professionals. What was missing was men.
Male participants were hard to come by. We actively encouraged men to attend in all communication we put out about the events, telling our community that men can celebrate women too! But at any given event, the highest percentage of male representation we ever achieved was about 30%.
So with this context, it became really clear to me at Women Deliver, that celebrating/advancing/empowering (the last word is used begrudgingly - read here why I dislike the term 'empowerment') women, needs to include men.
For too long have the discussions on gender equality only been attended by women. How do we encourage men to be involved in these conversations and participate actively in lifting women up and celebrating their power?
But how do we reach the point that, at every Women Deliver conference, at every Celebrating Women event, at every initiative aimed at achieving gender equality, you can find an equal representation of men and women? Because, after all, that is what gender equity is all about.