A Primer on Gender Friendly Conference & Event Swag

Back in the day I worked for an organization that was quite keen on holding team retreats. These were off-site business affairs held at a somewhat centrally located resort or venue that could accommodate business meetings, dinners and frivolity for 100 or so managers for several days. Spouses/partners (SPs) were invited as well and, in a gesture of goodwill, the company arranged outings and activities for the SPs during the day while the staffers were locked up doing humdrum SWOT analyses and strategy stuff.

Several weeks before the gathering an itinerary of the available outings was sent out so that the SPs could sign up for their preferred activities; among the offerings were things like golf, shopping excursions, horseback riding, a day at the spa, cooking classes, and canoe trips. Now, people being what people are, there was a general guesstimate by the organizers up at the corporate office that the female SPs would sign up for cooking classes, spa trips and a visit to the local shopping district while the male SPs, naturally, would want to play golf, hop on an outrigger, and scale the nearest mountain while doing very very manly things like posing with the wild animals they caught. Or something.

One year however I got a phone call from a very perplexed administrative assistant/planning person at the corporate office who wanted to see if I could check with a few of the managers from my region to ascertain if, in fact, the female SP (of one manager) really wanted to go hiking and the male SP (of another manager) truly meant to sign up for the day at the spa.

A thing of the past…..right? Well, not quite.

Yesterday a friend of mine attended a seminar for organizational leaders (primarily Finance and HR) and was the lucky winner of a door prize/raffle called “The Executive Bag.” As she described it (see picture above)…”turns out the event sponsor thinks executives are 2XL males who like to golf.” (oh…and “The Executive Bag” contained two (2!) wine bottle openers with no wine………….#SuperSad).

Now I know it’s often a thankless task being the person responsible for ordering booth swag or assembling raffle prizes for a corporate or community shindig. Many a work relationship has blown up when one event organizer screamed at another in a planning session “Well if you’re so smart Betsy then you tell me exactly how many L vs. XL t-shirts we should order!”  

But this? How tone-deaf to think that a prize like this would go over at a leadership seminar with just as many females as males in attendance. Is it that only the men are truly ‘executives?’ Did the vendor/sponsor also have a designated “Lady Executive Bag” that held nail polish, a box of tampons, and a hair dryer?

One of the last bastions where this stereotyping exists is HR conference land. I’ve also witnessed it at payroll, education and healthcare conferences; three additional professions that tend to skew female.  Sadly the time-worn cliché of “Give Away a Coach Bag to Get the HR Gals to Visit Your Booth” is a cliché for a reason; over the years I’ve witnessed hordes of female conference attendees in orgasmic frenzy as they dropped their business cards in fish bowls.

I’ll admit I’m not, personally, a gatherer of swag; I keep things pretty minimalist at home and certainly don’t need to cart home loads of crap from a conference that will only clutter up my desk or closet or bookshelves. I’m not an idiot though so if someone wants to give me a new iPhone or some other fancy gizmo at a conference I’m all about taking home the booty.

But if you try to get my business by playing up dated gender stereotypes…keep the bag.

I don’t want it.

 

 

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Women in HR Technology #HRTechConf #nextchat

Today is the start of the HR Technology Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas; it’s the 20th annual event and we’re kicking off with the 2nd Annual Women in HR Tech pre-conference event today. Sessions include:

and many more.

The blended topics at the intersection of gender, technology and workplace inclusion make regular headlines and they’re important conversations. Yet, for many HR practitioners who either don’t work in tech or live here with me in “flyover country” the discussions are seen as much ado about nothing. Admittedly, I’m not basing that opinion on anything other than my own anecdotal experiences. To wit: within the last few months I spoke to two separate HR audiences, a thousand miles apart, and when I asked these several hundred HR practitioners/leaders who had heard of James Damore’s “google manifesto” the vast majority were unfamiliar. Which made me sad. This is important for human resources leaders to discuss and it’s not just about “women in tech;” there are bigger issues surrounding gender inclusion and ongoing stereotypes in any workplace/industry.

So yeah…I’m quite thrilled that for the second year the team the #HRTechConf is providing an opportunity for us to have these conversations.

In addition, SHRM will be running this week’s #nextchat live from the conference; join Conference presenter Cecile Alper-Leroux @cecilehcm; and members of the HR Tech Insiders Blogger Team: Dawn Burke @DawnHBurke, Heather Bussing @HeatherBussing, Heather Kinzie @HeatherKinzie, Jennifer Payne @JennyJensHR, (and me!) as we discuss “Women in HR Tech” live on the twitterz at 3 PM/ET on Wednesday (tomorrow).

p.s. check out this great post “Women and Tech – The Pace of Change” from Heather Bussing.

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image: Wikipedia: About 8,000 women worked in Bletchley Park, the central site for British cryptanalysts during World War II. Women constituted roughly 75% of the workforce there

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Saluting @LisaRosendahl – #TimSackettDay

Today, just like every other day, hundreds of thousands of HR leaders will head off to work. A veritable battalion of professionals, they work in every industry and at every size organization imaginable. Unsung heroes, most of them; leading the good fight and doing their best to make the profession, their teams and their organizations better.

Lisa Rosendahl, Acting Associate Director at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, does those things every day.

And today, on #TimSackettDay, we’re celebrating Lisa.

This is a day when we celebrate the inspirational folks in HR and recruiting; we started with Tim Sackett and have since sent a collective shout out to Paul Hebert, Kelly Dingee, Victorio Millian and Animal. Oh…and it’s a surprise too (I wish I would have thought to ship some cake up to Lisa in Minnesota. Damn).

So let me tell you how Lisa inspires me…and countless others.

  • She’s a mom to a wonderful daughter
  • She’s a fearless HR leader with a focus on exceptional leadership, the building of high-performance teams, and strengthening the contributions of her team
  • She’s an inspirational writer
  • She’s a military veteran who served our country as an Officer in the US Army
  • She’s one of the co-founders of the site WomenofHR

I first met Lisa in 2010 and we’ve had the opportunity to get together at various events for lunch and laughs and coffee and dinner over the years. Not enough though. And here on #TimSackettDay I vow to rectify that for 2017.

So congratulations Lisa – you are an inspiration and I, for one, salute you!

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Women at Work – 1940

woman-at-work-guide1943 to be precise.

What follows is an excerpt from the July 1943 issue of Transportation Magazine; written for male supervisors of women during World War II.

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Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Employees

There’s no longer any question whether transit companies should hire women for jobs formerly held by men. The draft and manpower shortage has settled that point. The important things now are to select the most efficient women available and how to use them to the best advantage. Here are eleven helpful tips on the subject from western properties:

1. If you can get them, pick young married women. They have these advantages, according to the reports of western companies: they usually have more of a sense of responsibility than do their unmarried sisters; they’re less likely to be flirtatious; as a rule, they need the work or they wouldn’t be doing it — maybe a sick husband or one who’s in the army; they still have the pep and interest to work hard and to deal with the public efficiently.

2. When you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside the home at some time in their lives. Most transportation companies have found that older women who have never contacted the public, have a hard time adapting themselves, are inclined to be cantankerous and fussy. It’s always well to impress upon older women the importance of friendliness and courtesy.

3. While there are exceptions, of course, to this rule, general experience indicates that “husky” girls— those who are just a little on the heavy side — are likely to be more even-tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.

4. Retain a physician to give each woman you hire a special physical examination — one covering female conditions. This step not only protects the property against the possibilities of lawsuit but also reveals whether the employee-to-be has any female weaknesses which would make her mentally or physically unfit for the job. Transit companies that follow this practice report a surprising number of women turned down for nervous disorders.

5. In breaking in women who haven’t previously done outside work, stress at the outset the importance of time — the fact that a minute or two lost here and there makes serious inroads on schedules. Until this point is gotten across, service is likely to be slowed up.

6. Give the female employe in garage or office a definite day-long schedule of duties so that she’ll keep busy without bothering the management for instructions every few minutes. Numerous properties say that women make excellent workers when they have their jobs cut out for them but that they lack initiative in finding work themselves.

7. Whenever possible, let the inside employe change from one job to another at some time during the day. Women are inclined to be nervous and they’re happier with change.

8. Give every girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day. Companies that are already using large numbers of women stress the fact that you have to make some allowances for feminine psychology. A girl has more confidence and consequently is more efficient if she can keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick and wash her hands several times a day.

9. Be tactful in issuing instructions or in making criticisms. Women are often sensitive; they can’t shrug off harsh words the way that men do. Never ridicule a woman — it breaks her spirit and cuts her efficiency.

10. Be reasonably considerate about using strong language around women. Even though a girl’s husband or father may swear vociferously, she’ll grow to dislike a place of business where she hears too much of this.

11. Get enough size variety in operator uniforms that each girl can have a proper fit. This point can’t be stressed too strongly as a means of keeping women happy, according to western properties.

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note: I realize this has circulated on the interwebz for a number of years now, but I still find it fascinating.

 

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Women at Work – 1920

1925_Accounting_Office_BrooklynThe Nineteenth (XIX) Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified on August 18, 1920 when Tennessee became the 36th US state to ratify and thus provide the final vote to amend the US Constitution. The amendment had been passed by the US House of Representatives on May 21, 1919 and, as we were reminded in HRC’s speech the other night, was passed by the US Senate on June 4, 1919.

In 1921, the Sheppard-Towner Act (officially known as the Promotion of the Welfare and Hygiene of Maternity and Infancy Act) which provided federal funding for prenatal care and education and included the creation of women and children’s health clinics, passed Congress and was signed by President Warren G. Harding. Somewhat appropro, since, as we now know, old Warren G. fathered a daughter with Nan Britton who was not, as you might surmise, Mrs. Harding.

Times were changing.

Then during the 20’s female employment began to rise especially, of course, for single women. Common occupations for the ladies included typist, filing clerk, stenographer, social worker. nurse, teacher and librarian. But, at the same time, women more frequently filled the creative ranks as artists, singers, actors and designers; women like Martha Graham, Coco Chanel, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Dorothy Parker. (dang…I always thought Dorothy Parker was the bee’s knees).

Of course, we still had this kind of thinking….

“I pay our women well so they can dress attractively and get married.” – Henry Ford

Much still to be done.

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image: Early Office Museum

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