Women’s History Month is always packed with events, which makes this a good time to talk about accessibility. If you want Black Women Business Owners in the room at your event, ask yourself these four questions:
1. Is Your Pre-Event Marketing Inclusive?
Are you being intentional about reaching Black Women to let them know about your event?
Are you making conscious marketing and media choices to earn their attention, or are you just sharing your event information on generic platforms that don't cater to diverse audiences?
Image via MediaPost
Sharing information about your event on platforms that Black Women Business Owners engage makes more sense than putting your event information behind a paywall or on platforms that don't have a diverse reach if your goal is to be more accessible.
Another factor to consider is whether you’re letting them know in advance or as an after-thought? Are you sharing information with them early enough in the process that they can make the necessary preparations and take advantage of the booking benefits that come with securing a ticket early? Or are they getting this information at the last minute because you need to meet your sales quota?
If your marketing isn't inclusive you're likely excluding Black Women before even opening the doors to your event.
2. Have You Factored In The Pay Gap?
Image via 2019 State Of Women-Owned Businesses Report by American Express
Have you accounted for the fact that Black Women Business Owners make five times less than other women business owners, so everything from getting a ticket to traveling to your event could put it increasingly out of reach?
According to the 2019 State Of Women-Owned Businesses Report, Black Women-Owned Firms earn $24,000 in revenue on average, in comparison to the $142,900 earned by other women-owned businesses. This means that as much as they may want and/or need to be in the room, it may not be possible due to limited resources.
What can you do to address this disparity?
Create travel grants for Black Women Business Owners
Sponsor their tickets
Offer low cost or sliding scale tickets
Have virtual attendance as an option
Making sure that cost isn’t a barrier to entry is the most practical way to make your event more accessible to Black Women Founders.
3. Is Your Content Relevant To Black Women Business Owners?
Will your topics, speakers and moderators take into account the lived experience of Black Women Business Owners? Or will all your content be delivered from a place of privilege that doesn't take into account the hidden barriers that Black Women face due to gender bias and systematic racism?
Ideally, talks should include discussion of these barriers to invite transparency and lay the foundation for a practical way forward.
The Wellness Shouldn’t Imply Whiteness panel at SXSW is a good example of this:
The topic is relevant to all wellness experts, including Black Women in wellness.
The panelists are all industry experts. Youmie Jean Francois (Flex-N-Fly), Malaika Jones (BROWN GIRL Jane) and Shanae Jones (Flyest) can specifically speak to what it takes to navigate whiteness in the wellness space.
And as the moderator, I can facilitate the conversation with nuance because I know where the panelists are coming from.
However, this level of conversation only works in environments that are safe for Black attendees. So ask yourself, how safe is your event for Black Women and what are you doing to create a safe space?
4. Have You Considered How You Can Support Black Women Business Owners?
Aside from attendees, how are you including Black Women in this experience? Do you have Black Women vendors? Have you included products from Black Women in your event gift bags? Do you have Black Women speakers?
Black Women Business Owners are present in every industry. Look at your supply chain and consider how you can include a Black Woman-Owned Business in your planning and execution. Diversifying your event in this way could count towards your DEI and CSR initiatives, while ultimately improving your event for all attendees.
March Is Just The Beginning
If you can’t revise your marketing, revisit your pricing, and diversify your content and supply chain in time for your Women’s History Month event, consider whatever action you do take a step in the right direction. Ultimately you want to get to a point where you’re able to offer a meaningful experience to everyone in the room, which is a process. But start now, and keep challenging your team to do better. And if you still aren’t sure where to start, just buy from a Black Woman.