Creating Inclusive Event Environments

As an industry, we strive to demonstrate and embrace diversity and inclusion.

Diversity: “Diversity is the range of human differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin, and political beliefs”.

Inclusivity: “Inclusion is involvement and empowerment, where the inherent worth and dignity of all people are recognized”.

When planning events, it’s now our responsibility as good corporate citizens and to bring diversity and inclusion to the fore of our planning. No one expects perfection, this is an evolving topic and new learnings are emerging everyday day. For now, here are some of the things your company can do.

Be thoughtful and considerate by creating accessible events, creating menus that appeal to a range of dietary needs, creating icebreaker opportunities for introverts to engage, using pronoun stickers, gender diverse panels and panels with social/racial/ethnic diversity and if gifting, considering items that will foster inclusivity.

In the planning stage, a code of conduct (COC) can be written for your event. This gives the message that your company is committed to creating a space where EVERYONE feels able to contribute safely, regardless of background, family status, gender, gender identity or expression, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, native language, age, ability, race and/or ethnicity, national origin, socioeconomic status, religion, geographic location and any other dimension of diversity.

The COC should cover topics such as policies on washrooms, perspectives, respect for others, unacceptable behaviour (i.e., disruptive, racism, sexual harassment, etc.), as well as outlining what accommodations can or will be made for attendees.

Other planning factors can include a diverse line-up of speakers/ educators, suppliers, entertainers, etc., to have a broad representation of all parts of society. Considerations should be given to union/labour conditions at the venue(s), accessibility of the sites, captioning or sign language interpretation as needed, prayer rooms, nursing or feeding areas, food options that consider religious and cultural diets and alcohol free options. Your forms, website, registration, and communications should always reflect and reference back to your written code of conduct.

Training your frontline employees is paramount to the guest experience, and they need to understand the fluidity of gender as to not assume someone’s identity by addressing them as Sir or Ma’am. Use gender-neutral language such as they, them, folks, people, person, you – avoid speaking in binary terms. If you must use a prefix to address someone, staff could use Mx (pronounced Miks or Muks) and is a gender-neutral option that also doesn’t imply ownership. Pronoun stickers are an easy and visible way to let people know how you want to be addressed. Ask people what they need and be respectful and accommodating to the guests.

Gender neutrality is essential when writing about people because it is more accurate — not to mention respectful — and is consistent with the values of equality recognized, for example, in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is also professionally responsible and is mandated by the Federal Plan for Gender Equality, which was approved by the Cabinet and presented to the Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women in 1995. the Government of Canada website for more information on the gender-neutral language.

Respect and positive values are essential. Respect an individual’s identity, space, and boundaries. Go out of your way and across cultures to include everyone in team jokes or memes, create a welcoming environment free of cliques, avoid slang or idioms and most importantly, become a positive ally and be the change you want to see.

About the Author:
Eclectic Events was founded by Carolyn Luscombe, a renowned industry leader with close to 20 years of experience. In the field of event and conference design, management and production, she is one of the most qualified and accredited professionals in Canada. She has earned internationally recognized CSEP and CMP designations as well as Canadian CSEC and CSEM certifications.
Carolyn has written many courses and curricula for George Brown College’s “EMM Event & Meeting Management Program” and has been teaching for over 15 years. She is active in ISES Toronto and has served on the board as President in addition to chairing and producing multiple galas. Carolyn has had many articles published industry-wide and speaks across Canada and the United States on event-related topics.
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