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IWD – It’s Not What You May Think

Happy International Women’s Day!

Today we celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women from all around the world, past and present. Today we also reflect and advocate on behalf of women’s issue and gender equality and social equity.

At Super Woman Productions and Publishing we contribute to International Women’s Day by hosting the only official IWD event in Michigan each March 8, called Women’s Day Tea. This year isn’t any different. However, for the first year this year, I ran into a small roadblock. In Detroit, I’m accustomed to people being behind in receiving and sharing information. I’m also accustomed to people not being receptive to something that is different from what they typically know about or are exposed to. Detroit isn’t the most innovative place in the world, like it once was.  It takes time for people to understand the value of something “different”.  Although I’m accustomed to these factors, I don’t accept them and I find ways to work around them.

This year, however, I received a lot of inquiries from women business owners whose only interest in Women’s Day Tea was to be a vendor at the event. I literally received messages on social media, by phone and email asking if there were any vendor tables left for the event. They didn’t seem to understand that vending wasn’t the purpose of the event and that I only offer four vendor tables to create an added feature and opportunity for women-business owners in Detroit, that would help them to meet and interact with other successful women in hopes it will encourage them and help them economically. Most of the women who contacted me by phone immediately dismissed me (practically hanging up on me) when I told them that vendor tables were sold out, and they didn’t allow me an opportunity to invite them to attend. Women who contacted me by email, didn’t accept my invitation to attend and responded with “let me know next time you have an event with vendors”.  Very disappointing.

When I vented about this sudden upswing of women business owners only wanting to be vendors at events and not understanding the importance of IWD as a whole, someone had the audacity to suggest that I should just turn the event into a vending event since so many people seem to want that and, in essence, just take the women’s money since they didn’t know any better.  That’s not the type of business woman I am and that does not contribute to the purpose of IWD.

In my post event surveys from Women’s Day Tea for two prior years, attendees stated that the event vendors were not the primary reason they attended the event or would attend again. Those who attend, attend to celebrate the purpose of International Women’s Day more than they attend to buy products from vendors at the event. In fact, their attendance still supports women-owned businesses, and attendees network with each other and hopefully support each others’ businesses and community projects after the event concludes. So, if my paying attendees have an understanding of the goal of the event and attend because of that goal, why would I want to shift the focus to please those who don’t have an understanding? I wouldn’t. And there are thousands of other events all over Michigan, throughout the year, if women want to buy a vendor table for a few hours or an entire day. I stuck to my guns. I did not turn Women’s Day Tea into a vending event or expo.

As a result this is what happened:

I received an email from an internet television program asking if they could cover the event; they now have a level of exclusivity and “bragging rights” because they get to cover the only official International Women’s Day event in MichiganWalt Disney Pictures contacted me and asked if they can send representatives to give away promotional items to the event attendees. Of course I said ‘yes‘ and it may turn into future business opportunities with Walt Disney Pictures. At the last-minute, for online ticket sales, tickets were still selling. I woke up this morning to emails from women asking if they can pay at the door.

At 6 pm today, Women’s Day Tea will take place as planned. The ladies who attend today will have a delicious and fun time, receive gifts and giveaways, network and celebrate the purpose of International Women’s Day with one another. Selected women in attendance will be awarded as #MakeItHappen honorees. Those women who opted not to attend Women’s Day Tea because they only wanted to be a vendor, have unfortunately lost out on opportunities to be vendors at the I Feel Good! Mind, Body and Soul Women’s Conference in August at Wayne State University, where we have up to 20 vendor tables available.  I have learned that sometimes passing up one opportunity because it doesn’t fit what you think it should, results in other missed opportunities. I truly wish more women in Detroit would realize that. That’s today’s lesson on being short-sighted, I suppose.