5 Ways to make events more gender inclusive
As our culture evolves, so too does our language and our practices around gathering. As event professionals, it’s our responsibility to remain attuned to shifts in culture, and one of the biggest shifts in recent years has been around gender identity. Increasingly, gender — at least in the west — is no longer seen as two categories.
One way to become a better event professional is simply to continue learning about other people and how to make everyone feel welcome at the events that we organize. With that in mind, here are a few gender-related terms to familiarize yourself with and a few tips to make your events more inclusive.
7 Gender-related terms to know
Before we get to tips on how to make events more inclusive, let’s brush up on our terminologies. The savviest event professionals understand people. Part of having good “people skills” is the continued sensitization to the realities of a wide spectrum of people, and this includes the many nuances of gender and gender expression. Here are seven terms that are increasingly being used.
Non-binary. A person who doesn’t identify exclusively as female or male.
Gender fluid. A person who doesn’t identify with a single, fixed gender — and whose gender identity may shift over time.
Gender non-conforming. A person who does not conform to traditional expectations of their gender.
Transgender (or trans). A person who does not identify, either fully or in part, with the gender associated with the sex assigned to them at birth.
Heteronormative. A standpoint or belief system which assumes that heterosexuality is the default or norm. Often this is expressed in the assumption that everyone is heterosexual and/or cisgender.
Cisgender. A person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex the person was assigned at birth. Essentially, a label for individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies and their personal identity.
Misgender. Referring to someone by a gendered word (i.e., pronoun or title) that does not match that person’s own gender identity. Typically used as a verb to indicate a mistake: to misgender someone.
5 ways to make your events more gender inclusive
Here are some simple ways to ensure your events are inclusive for people of all genders.
Add pronouns to name tags
We’ve seen the increase of social media platforms offering the ability for users to state their pronoun preferences. This is immensely helpful. If you’re creating name tags, consider also adding pronouns. This reduces the chance that an attendee is misgendered and increases the chance that your event goes smoothly.
Ensure gender diverse speakers
Increasingly we’re aware of the importance of having diverse speakers. This applies to race, age, gender, and other dimensions of diversity. Do you have cisgender speakers? Great! Do you have trans or non-binary or gender non-conforming speakers? Wonderful!
Avoid gendering people
When speaking at an event — whether one-on-one or to the entire room — ensure that the language you are using does not assume gender. Avoid saying, “nice to meet you ma’am” and simply say “nice to meet you.” When addressing a group, don’t start by saying “Good evening ladies and gentlemen.” Instead, simply say, “Good evening everyone.”
Hire suppliers with explicit LGBTQ policies
You want to ensure inclusive events? Insist on working with partners that have inclusion at the heart of their business models. The HRC Foundation's Corporate Equality Index shares a list of employers that are committed to implementing LGBTQ-inclusive policies and practices.
Opt for all-access washrooms
Venue washrooms have been poorly designed for years. How many times have we witnessed long lines for a certain gender (women) while another gender (men) never seem to have to wait? An all-access washroom doesn’t mean everyone is peeing together. It just means separate stalls for everyone, no matter where they are on the gender spectrum. Work with venues who understand this.
Get more support
The terms listed above are from the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC). Canada is home to over 28,000 LGBT+-owned businesses, and these businesses generate over $22 billion in economic activity, employing over 435,000 Canadians. In other words, LGBT+ business is big business — and the CGLCC helps them thrive.
If you’re looking to shift the culture of your organization, visit the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce website for ideas and programs. They also offer seminars, events, a podcast, and various other ways to help educate and be involved!
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