The past years have shown the introduction of gender quotas for leading positions in many countries. Companies and public organisations then realised that in order to fill these positions they would have to attract the talent. However, the general recruiting tools such as career fairs, (online) marketing and career events were not as successful in attracting a balanced number of male and female talent. We then saw the introduction of tools that focused on women only. There now are weekend workshops, career fairs, conferences… strictly dedicated to women only.
I recently attended the “Top Women – Top Careers” event in Brussels where women from dozens of different countries met multinationals to discuss their future career options. The companies presented themselves not only as a possible employers. They also presented their work-life-balance programmes, their solutions to combining work and family, their coaching / mentorship approaches, and their women networks. It quickly became clear that most women choose their employer not strictly based on a wage and career advancement basis. Rather, questions on working conditions or the compatibility of work and family were of equal importance. In the various presentations and panel debates that I attended, the questions posed by the participants focused on such qualitative aspect of the work environment.
So why should there be such events? First, and most importantly, by organising events catered to specific groups the participants can easily shift the focus to aspects that are of key importance to them. As explained above, in the case of the Brussels event, the focus clearly shifted away from quantitative aspects to more qualitative points. It appeared as if many participants posed questions of high priority that they would not have asked if they had been surrounded by male participants (as is usually the case at career events). Second, and in line with the first point, it facilitated knowledge exchange concerning those key aspects among the participants both at the career event and the social program. Personally, I thought it exciting and astonishing how other women from other countries and continents faced the same questions as me.
Should all events be gender focused? Absolutely not. However, I do believe that such events offer variety to the omnipresence of career events of all-encompassing character.