Why this IWD what women want is for men to show up

Founder of industry initiative, Fck The Cupcakes, and CEO of Innocean Australia Jasmin Bedir, asks that this IWD, men look to make a contribution.

Every year, the first quarter of the socially responsible marketing calendar is filled with 50 shades of pink and the ultimate crowd-pleaser of every internal corporate event: cupcakes.

Once the kids are back at school, and Valentine’s Day sales posters are placed in shop fronts, warm feelings and minority groups enter Australian boardrooms at scale. Just before the rainbow-coloured main event of socially conscious marketing (Mardi Gras), we have the much anticipated 24 hours, where highly qualified women speak to other highly qualified women at corporate events filled with baked goods, sometimes goodie bags, and plenty of self-empowerment messages, about issues that don’t really seem to improve much, year on year.

Yes, I’m talking about IWD, International Women’s Day (8 March).

A previous IWD campaign from Taboola

In the lead-up, women (and other minorities) everywhere are busy: from corporate HR to event teams, to office managers, and women in leadership positions. We are busy planning and working extra hours to get our events/plans/keynotes/write-ups ready. Women in marketing and media are busy plotting activations, PR statements, on occasion a marketing stunt, and social media calendars with posts and invites that contain carefully curated messaging that is warm in tone, inclusive in nature and, of course, never angry.

It is raining encouraging messages to embrace equality (I mean seriously, why didn’t I think of this earlier, groan) paired with invitations to come along to listen to other women’s stories of adversity, success and roadblocks on the muddy and complex obstacle course that is the road to equality.

According to a World Economic Forum study, women are two times as likely to work on a DE&I initiative as men, but it rarely gets acknowledged in performance reviews and is mostly taken for granted. The vast majority of men still aren’t actively involved with IWD events.

In the absence of official data, we estimate that male attendance is no higher than 5-10% for actual events, and after an AI analysis of IWD posts or mentions of IWD on LinkedIn, only 17% come from men. On top of it all, it’s largely on women to organise the day.

Put simply, it’s a “women’s event”, that men are largely detached from.

But the truth is, we need men to be engaged; otherwise, we will never move the needle on gender equality. Men tell us they either don’t know they are welcome; they tell us they care, but they are too scared to get involved or not sure how to because we haven’t told them what we want from them.

Well, here it goes, and the good news is it’s not too late to act for this year’s IWD.

Equality starts with equal attendance. Men will be welcomed with open arms to any event, talk, or online discussion, if they are there to listen and learn. In fact, explaining (or mansplaining) or holding a keynote on IWD is the opposite of what we want men to do. We want you to be there with us, listen, hear us out and just be. Easy, right?

If it’s your first time attending an IWD event, it’s probably better you don’t say much at all.

Just be there to listen and take it all in, which may feel awkward to begin with. Sit with discomfort, soak it up and be aware of how topics being discussed make you feel and your biases.

If you’re worried about what other guys will think, we’ve all got that one mate. But it’s 2023 and the times they are a-changin’. Luckily, most men in our male affiliated groups report their male friends either being supportive or wanting to get involved themselves, so you might be pleasantly surprised. But with so much to gain by attending, we say fck the haters (not just the cupcakes).

So please make sure you encourage your male workforce, colleagues, and mates to engage with the topic. If you do not host an event yourself, make sure that you encourage your entire  workplace to engage with the topic of gender equality on the day and also allow them to do so without ridicule or minimisation of the topic.

Still not convinced? Too scared? Unsure? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered – showupforIWD.com.au has just launched with our new campaign to get Australia’s good guys inspired into action.

And if asking a question is another reason to avoid attendance, there’s a handy FAQ that should cover it. Or if you need to speak to other men about it, the Allies are a men’s group that will welcome you with open arms.

IWD is next week and there is still plenty of time to make or even change plans to show up for equality.

Jasmin Bedir is the CEO Innocean Australia and founder of Fck The Cupcakes. 


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