Most of the posts we write for WeddingIQ either offer advice for wedding business owners, or examine a wedding industry issue with our suggestions for solutions or changes.
Unfortunately, some topics don't have an easy solution; some topics come straight from the heart. Today's topic is one of those. I'm writing today from my own experience, as well as experiences my friends and colleagues have shared with me that make working in this industry a challenge.
It seems that women in the wedding industry should have it easy. After all, what sector is more female-led than that of weddings? With only a couple of exceptions, most event service categories are dominated by women, and the majority of business transactions are initiated by female clients (hence why "brides" somehow became the collective vernacular for all wedding clients, before gender-neutral language was commonly embraced).
There's no "old boys' club" culture in weddings. In terms of sheer numbers of business owners and executives, women have more power in this industry than just about any I can think of. Sure, most wedding businesses are small businesses, but given that weddings are apparently a $72 billion industry, that's a lot of women leading and innovating.
So why are sexism, sexual harassment and misogyny still such a struggle?
"But there is no struggle," some might say."The fact that women are so successful in the wedding industry proves there's not."
I wish that were true. Given that it isn't, I wish I had a solution. As much as I might rant on this site, it bugs me a lot to do so without any real ideas for how to make things better. I guess sometimes all I can hope for is to put an issue on the table, in hopes of sparking a discussion. Maybe increased awareness, if nothing else, will cause some folks to rethink their approach to women in this business, and in general.
To those who think women have it easy in this industry, I'd ask: if we have it easy, why do so many offensive, insulting and hurtful things happen, and happen often?
Why do some male vendors try to intimidate or embarrass female vendors into backing down from her own contract policies, or acquiesce to the male's expectations even at the expense of our own ability to do our job? Why does a male vendor rely on the social conditioning we as women endure, the conditioning that tells us to smile, be sweet, don't be difficult, don't make waves, and not stand up for ourselves when the situation calls for it?
Why do male clients - grooms, sometimes, or more frequently, fathers of the bride - expect us to consent to having our contracts completely butchered, as though we don't have legitimate businesses to operate and protect? Why do they assume we should be grateful to be offered less money than we actually charge, and have our companies taken about as seriously as a child's lemonade stand? To be clear: I realize female clients haggle, too; I'm referring specifically to the condescending approach more often taken by men who clearly don't think much of the wedding industry or the women who work in it.
Why does a male organizer for an industry conference invite a female business owner to submit proposals for a speaking engagement, overestimate his own influence in the programming decisions, and make the opportunity sound like a sure thing...only to repeatedly ask her for "more ammo" to help her earn a spot (implying her businesses that he previously raved about are no longer "enough") and ultimately not selecting her? Of course no one books everything they pitch - it's totally valid to not have made the cut if other speakers were a better fit. Who could argue with that? One has to wonder, though...did this organizer also send private Facebook messages to the male applicants, with repeated references to them being "blonde?" Did he inform them that "blondes" were his "#5 love" (after three sports teams and science fiction/Star Wars)? Did he tell them they have a "naughty streak" and a "warped mind...fun people always have a warped mind?" When they jokingly mentioned wanting "mogul" on their tombstone, did he suggest it should say "hot stuff" instead? (It's probably a safe bet that he didn't refer to the male applicants as a "single lady...watch out Maryland men!") Did he tell them they were a flirt when they called themselves a nerd about business? Did he tell them about his "geek wood?"
Why do some male guests at weddings think it's okay to grab, grope, paw at and proposition female vendors? Is it that good old social conditioning again that should remind these women not to object, not to make a scene? Are they counting on the vendors not to say or do anything that might interfere with their clients' happiness, including not complaining about being touched? (I should mention, it's not always sexual, either - never did I feel as violated as the last wedding I worked as a coordinator, when I was two weeks away from delivering my first child - the number of hands on me, and offensive comments made to me, that night were off the charts.)
And, lest anyone think the problem is just with men, women contribute, too. Why do some wedding professionals, particularly those with major influence in clients' vendor selection, seem to gravitate so strongly toward the relatively few male vendors in our industry? Being that I don't work on-site at events - - - and perhaps because I run a business whose event contractors are all male, in one of the few service categories where females are rare - I don't see this much personally. However, the fact that WeddingIQ has received more than one anonymous complaint about planners and other pros preferentially recommending male vendors (usually attractive ones) whenever possible suggests that this is a legitimate concern for some, and worthy of reflection.
I'd love to hear from other wedding professionals, women and men, about their thoughts - either in the comments or in private. Is my perception skewed here? Have you observed and experienced these things, too? And what can we do about it? Because, frankly, we deserve better. We've worked hard to build our businesses and do the best job possible for our clients, and being minimized shouldn't be okay. Not in weddings, not anywhere.