Success Through Female Empowerment: A WILMI Spotlight

Nadya Okamoto explains how women's empowerment and the menstrual movement are key to global development. 

Are you on board with the Menstrual Movement? No? This organization strives to spearhead the overall fight toward gender equality within the office and around the world. The concept was crafted by Nadya Okamoto, author and founder and executive director of Period. Essentially, the movement focuses on the widespread availability of free menstruation products as the foundation for gender equality. 

From April 26-27, Northstar Meeting Group's WILMI (Women in Leadership Meetings & Incentives) will take place in Boston, Mass. This exclusive event brings female planners and industry leaders together for meetings, networking and dialogue on present and future challenges and business opportunities.

Leading up to the event, Northstar is highlighting the expertise of our WILMI presenters. The following article on gender equality and the menstrual movement has been contributed by Okamoto, featured presenter at WILMI.

The Menstrual Movement and Women in Leadership

Q: What exactly is "period poverty"? 

Period poverty is when people cannot afford access to menstrual health products to maintain menstrual hygiene. When I was 16, my family experienced losing our home, and during this time, I had many conversations with homeless women and learned about an unaddressed need I had never thought about before. 

Period stigma refers to our reluctance to discuss the topic of periods/menstruation, making it something shameful and secret, a subject that is taboo. It's so natural, but we still don't know how to talk about it out in the open. The truth is, though, when people can't afford menstrual products, they resort to using unsafe methods, like toilet paper, socks, rags or brown paper bags. Learning this, that's when I knew I had to do something. 

We must address both period poverty and the stigma to achieve gender equality -- first on a global level, but within the business world, as well, since these two problems create barriers to success for women and girls in education, economic mobility and equal representation in politics and decision-making. These are all topics I will expand on at WILMI. 

Q: How do these ideas tie into the meetings and events industry? 

First of all, take a look at the numbers:

  • Nearly 65% of the workforce in hospitality overall in the United States are women.
  • More than 75% of meeting planners are women, according to DataUSA.
  • Nearly 79% of travel agents are women.
  • Women make more than 70% of all travel-buying decisions.

Now a question for you: Does your workplace provide free period products in the restroom? If not, why? We'll never reach gender equity if we can't even talk about and properly handle periods. That's why we're building a movement to raise awareness, make changes and ensure menstrual equity. 

The meetings and events industry is an awesome place to grow this important conversation. We can spark conversation during lectures, panel discussions and breakout sessions to break the stigma. You can implement activations where you ask attendees that same question -- whether their workplaces provide free period products in their restrooms. If not, why?

Similarly, as people walk in the door, why not have the service activity be donating period products or packaging period packs for the local shelter? It all makes a difference. 

Q: How can everyone harness the can-do attitude that you seem to have mastered? 

I think that it starts simply with being mindful about the power of language. Create your own safe space; start a conversation; know that we all have the potential to mobilize and make a difference.

When it comes to global development, women's empowerment is the key. This is a huge topic right now and the most sustainable way to accomplish it -- and gender equality in general -- is by improving education and employment opportunities for women and girls. 

 

Women need to know that all humans deserve to feel confident, dignified and ready to discover and reach their full potential. No one deserves to feel quieted or weaker because of a natural need. If the key to international development is women's empowerment through education and economic purpose, we as a global community want to make sure that women are supported and feel confident to excel, meaning that we all need to become advocates for natural needs.   

Q: What role do younger people play in this scenario?  

Young people are misunderstood but critical to be understood in any industry. If companies want to be relevant, getting the attention of young people is everything. I think we need to empower Generation Z members and encourage them to participate as partners in the meetings and events industry, not just mentees or interns. 

I’m chief brand officer at JUV Consulting (our CEO is 20 years old) and we have created of a network of more than 1,000 members of Generation Z from all 50 sates and 20+ countries. We have worked with more than 20 Fortune 500 companies and a diverse array of many other clients. If you need to better understand the teen demographic, start working with them. They're the next generation of meeting planners, suppliers and buyers. 

Womens-Gender-Equality-Period
Nadya Okamoto, author and founder and executive director of Period

At 21-years-old, Nadya Okamoto already has an impressive list of accomplishments to her credit. At age 16, she founded and became executive director of Period, an organization now considered the largest youth-run non-government nonprofit devoted to women’s health. Since 2014, the organization has registered more than 300 campus chapters.

In 2017, Okamoto ran for a seat on the Cambridge, Mass., city council. While she did not win, her campaign made headlines for the way it mobilized young people on the ground and at the polls. Okamoto recently published her debut book, Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement (Simon & Schuster), which made Kirkus Reviews’ list for Best Young Adult Nonfiction of 2018. Most recently, Okamoto has become the chief brand officer of JUV Consulting, a Generation Z marketing agency based in New York City.

A Harvard student on a leave of absence, Nadya proudly holds a spot on InStyle Magazine’s The Badass 50: Meet the Women Who Are Changing the World list, along with such luminaries as Michelle Obama, Ariana Grande and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

WILMI takes place later this month in Boston. Nadya Okamoto will speak to the women of WILMI on her own experience and how to empower each other both inside and outside of the workplace. 

For more information on this can't-miss event, click here.