“It matters who you do business with! When it comes to choosing partners, vendors, and clients, finding the right people to work with, shared values and common goals make an enormous difference in your event. “
These are the words I found coming out of my mouth (admittedly without much preparation) as I was emceeing the Woman of the Year Lunch at FestForums 2018 in Santa Barbara. The audience was music, film, and food/wine/beer festival promoters along with creative vendors (essential oils, phone charging stations, technologies, and more) assembled in the middle of the day to honor the place women are filling in the male-dominated fields of music, film, and production.
I’m a huge supporter of FestForums for more than just the potential business TicketForce may gain there. I’m a supporter because of the heart and soul that founder Laurie Kirby puts into it, along with her amazing partner, Stuart McNaught. And because I believe that it does matter who you do business with.
Ensuring that women are not only given equal access and opportunity is good, but not enough. We must continue to bring the issue to the forefront of our conferences and our organizations until we are actually there. And we’re not yet.
So those like Laurie Kirby keep plowing away. This year was no different with the Woman of the Year Lunch. This is not just a token effort, but a welcome and powerful message to everyone.
Yes, we are doing another Women’s lunch. Yes, we are going to have a panel about women in the industries. Yes, we are going to talk about this at every turn. Because – sigh – and some of them were nearly audible – we are not there yet.
And I keep coming back. Because the message is key and talking about the struggles and celebrating the successes is one of the ways we will create change.
Sadly, some are exhausted from the battle; or no longer see the need for it. But now is not the time to get fatigued.
Diversity does not happen organically. Sad, but true. It just doesn’t. Left to ourselves, humans will resort time and again to what is comfortable. And if history says that men dominate in the workplace, that women can’t have families and be successful at work, or that people of color are to be mistrusted (it does on all), then it takes intentional action to see change. It simply will not happen without intentional action.
I presented the startling facts of inequality with women in tech to a group of mostly male CEO’s last year at my Vistage group. I love these guys and they were humbled, inspired, and responsive. One of them raised the question of “How do I bring women into my team of developers? They aren’t applying and sometimes when they do, they see they will be the only woman among men, and they pass.”
One of the others jumped right in, and it impacted me again in a new way. He said, “It doesn’t happen by accident. You have to be intentional about it. Target women with your job ads. Create an atmosphere they want to work in. Ask them to lead the way and help build the team. Make sure the pay and benefits work for them.”
Intention. And action.
So yes – we will still have beautiful lunches where we are inspired through music (the amazing Judith Owen and positive energy of Carly Jo Jackson, lead off with intentions (thank you, Giselle Koy for leading a noisy room to peace) and honor some of the great successes. In this case, Maureen Ford who has worked her way to be one of just a few female Presidents at entertainment giant, Live Nation. And hearing from beautiful souls like Kelly Jones, who apologized for her role in the not-so-female-empowering InfoWars, escaping with love over bitterness and shared her inspiring message of hope.
We closed by honoring women who have created new technologies with the TechTrender awards.
And so, we keep telling the stories we need to tell. Some are ugly. Some beautiful. All necessary.
Yes, it matters who you do business with. With every choice, whether employees, clients, vendors, or partners, you build your world around you. Build it intentionally! Fill it with equal opportunity folks. People who care. People who with you, want to make their world more balanced and equitable for all.
Fight the nature to divide.
Thank you to Laurie, Stu, and the amazing FestForums team for leading the way and showing us what it looks like to be intentional every step of the way and for the message of celebrating women – and the folks of every gender who continue to listen until we are there.