I recently attended a conference and was pleasantly surprised to see one of the days featured what was billed as a “Women’s Pre-Networking” event. This event was supposed to be an exclusive opportunity for female attendees to network prior to the larger conference-wide networking hour. The coordinators even plied attendees with free mojitos just in case women didn’t find the opportunity to network with their peers enticing enough.
Upon arriving, there was really no indication that it was an event that catered to women in the industry other than the fact that the attendees were female. While the idea was well intentioned and it was a nice cocktail hour, the execution of a networking event that would better cater to women had missed the mark. Even after speaking with other women that attended, the consensus was that while it was a nice networking event, it really wasn’t necessary to have it separate from the main networking event. So, what can conferences do to better welcome their female attendees and make them feel more included in these industry events?
Content, Content, Content – And, Dare I Say It Again, Content
When women attend industry events and conferences, they are there for the same exact reasons as their male counterparts: to network and find contacts that will benefit their businesses, and to watch panels and sessions that will increase their knowledge of what is occurring in the industry. While many “women only” events tout female friendly networking opportunities and promote gimmicks they feel will attract women, so few focus on appealing content to complement the event program.
The best female-forward events I’ve attended over the years are not the ones that bar men from entering or offer free fruity drinks upon arrival, they are the ones that have incredible speakers and actionable content. There are inspiring female speakers not only in the mortgage industry but in other industries with stories that parallel what women have to go through to climb to the top in the mortgage space. Often after attending conference after conference and hearing from men and speaking with our male counterparts over and over again, sometimes all we really want is to hear a female perspective for once. If events want to truly want to take the extra step to focus on women in the industry, get the right speakers and provide them with valuable and relatable content.