For associations to work towards their mission, a focus on the diversity and inclusion of members is necessary. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives help organizations validate different perspectives and backgrounds and fosters a community where all voices are highly valued, regardless of age, race, sex, or gender.
Our Perspectives recently spoke with three Smithbucklin client organizations about how they considered and developed programming for women. From lunch and learns to annual conferences, below are five important questions to consider for shaping DEI programs of all sizes.
How can this event address gender disparity in your professional field?
Many professional organizations have memberships traditionally comprised of men, which can create unique obstacles for women pursuing careers in an industry of choice. Susan E. Bernard, director of regulatory and technical affairs at Battery Council International (BCI), a Smithbucklin client, credited Pam O’Brien, former senior vice president of operations, with sparking the creation of the Women in Global Battery Industry (WGBI) group.
According to Bernard, O’Brien saw the need for forming an affinity group – a collection of individuals who share a common identity characteristic – to support women within the battery industry. Since its initial launch, WGBI has provided programming, networking receptions, mentorship, industry education and professional development webinars, among other benefits and received positive feedback from members.
Will there be time allotted for sharing participant experiences?
Not all programming needs to be centered on skill development or education. According to Jill Swanson, an education coordinator who works on the Smithbucklin client team for Lamaze International, it is important to provide dedicated time for members to connect with other women and discuss shared professional experiences.
“Creating spaces where women’s voices are centered is crucial to creating or nurturing your organizational culture – for Lamaze, it’s imperative,” shared Swanson. “These spaces where members can fully show up as individuals and authentically share their experiences allow them to further grow their passion for the profession and connects them to others who have had experiences that mirror or differ from their own. In turn, this helps create an organizational culture of acceptance and respect for the various backgrounds and life experiences of our members.”
Are there opportunities to recognize the contributions of women in your industry?
Uplifting industry change makers is standard for most organizations, but women’s contributions are too often overlooked. The Smithbucklin staff team supporting the annual Design Automation Conference (DAC) shared how they are recognizing the achievements of women in electronic design and creating space for women in the industry to connect.
Since 2000, DAC established a namesake award recognizing individuals who have visibly helped to advance women in electronic design. The award is named for the late Marie R. Pistilli, former organizer of DAC, who placed a high value on equality, diversity and acceptance.
Going beyond the annual award, DAC has worked to establish a networking reception that highlights the impact women have in the industry. The event gives the platform to recognize advancements by women and for women within our field.
What are ways you can model success for women professionals who are new to your field?
Industry novices of all gender identities can benefit from seeing women leaders uplifted and celebrated. Having representation at the organizational level – not just in affinity groups – is crucial to showing your membership how women help shape your field.
According to the DAC staff team, organizations launching women’s programming allow for better representation in a gender-dominated industry. As is the case in most technology fields, DAC has been a male-dominated industry for a long time and women-specific programming serves as a pathway for future women in technology to see themselves represented.
What accommodations are made for nursing and expectant mothers?
Accessibility is a crucial concern for expectant and nursing parents, and can be a deciding factor in whether they attend professional events. Lamaze International shared how organizations can make nursing and expectant members feel welcomed and supported.
Swanson said, “A lactating parent needs a comfortable environment to pump/feed and time during the event to do so. Organizations should consider designating ‘nursing rooms’ or other private lactation spaces and ensure there are breaks throughout the day when this could occur.”
Swanson added, “For longer events where attendees are staying in a hotel, consider if your selected site can accommodate the parent with a way to store milk that has been pumped (e.g. do the rooms have refrigerators or freezers or can you provide access to one for the parent?). For attendees who are pregnant, associations may want to also consider the frequency of bathroom breaks and access to nutritional snacks or meals, including mocktails during a cocktail hour.”
Whether you’re planning an established event or brainstorming the next new program for your organization, keeping these questions in mind can help ensure your team is engaging and bringing value to every member within your network.
Bethany Larrañaga is in Marketing and Communication Services at Smithbucklin.