New and emerging trends suggest the idea of dropping masculine and feminine designations for more gender-neutral distinctions.
But Bernadette Smith, founder of the Equality Institute, encourages the focus be placed on gender diversity instead.
“Remember there is a diversity of gender. More and more folks are identifying outside the gender binary—beyond just male and female—and to be truly inclusive, meeting planners should respect this diversity. Some simple ways to be inclusive of these folks are to offer attendees a way to share their pronoun and provide all-gender restrooms in the meeting area," says Smith.
To ensure a more gender-diverse and inclusive event, planners need to look at the big picture and how it affects attendees from its conception.
A gender-inclusive event requires a unique approach to even the smallest details. C3 Experiential bucks tradition by omitting formal gendered titles like “Mr.” or “Ms.” when addressing invitations, says CEO Christine Courtney.
Using only the guest’s preferred name ensures the guest’s first touch point with the event respects the gender identity and relationship status. Just as the Equality Institute encourages, C3 Experiential also ensures details like bathroom signage help guests feel welcomed and comfortable.
Of course, not all venues and meeting spaces offer gender-neutral or inclusive bathrooms. A historic building in a metropolitan downtown area may only have traditional bathrooms.
Courtney suggests creating gender-diverse wayfinding restroom signage (for example, an anchor image with superimposed male and female icons to welcome all).
Hiring practices are also at the forefront of a gender-neutral event or conference. A diverse staff where everyone honors each other's preferred pronouns and represents a wide range of backgrounds trickles down to how an event is run and the way everyone communicates with one another.
Courtney says different perspectives from gender-diverse professionals can bring new experiences and insights to the industry. Brianna Morris, marketing manager at Emerald Expositions, says she concentrates on what resonates with her audience.
“I work in a predominantly male technology field, but my marketing strategy is not ‘male-focused.’ Instead, my strategy is based on what resonates with my audience and the industry as a whole. What business needs keep them up at night? What shifts in the industry are coming down the pipeline?”
Faisal Al-Juburi, a New York-based cause branding specialist and events consultant, says it’s important to break down silos. “Every area of event planning should work together to inform a cohesive experience of gender neutrality and inclusion,” Al-Juburi says.
With experience in theater, Al-Juburi also harnesses the power of storytelling from first stages of planning to marketing collateral and booking diverse guest speakers to ensuring more inclusive and diverse events. The end result is an experience where guests leave feeling heard, understood and connected, he says.