Need for more women-friendly events, also in our country


Foto: © Expertisecentrum Publieke Impact

The festival summer is coming to an end and after two years of corona crisis, it was all about freedom and happiness: Woodstock vibes anno 2022. But freedom and happiness for women requires extra efforts from event organisers. After all, not all women feel equally 'comfortable' at events. Still (too) many decide not to go. This is what the research of the centre of expertise Public Impact of KdG University of Applied Sciences and Arts reveals.


The centre of expertise investigates the thresholds that influence accessibility for women at events. The ambition is to develop insights and tools that organisers can use to take more impactful initiatives so that more women want to attend events next summer. When will they succeed? When festivals like WeCanDance no longer make the headlines because more women than men bought tickets. "This should no longer be big news, but an obvious fact," says head of the centre of expertise Christine Merckx.


Thresholds and initiatives to lower them

Research by the centre of expertise shows that six women in ten have already felt unsafe at an event. This feeling of insecurity deters some women from attending events. For example, no less than 14 percent of women avoid busy events often to always. Yet a difference with men, where this is only 9 percent. Not only the feeling of insecurity is a threshold for women, also the ticket price and access to technology, language barriers, physical access, the lack of childcare or free time. Even stereotyping and fear too often keep women at home, especially fear of offending behaviour.


Although there are quite a few initiatives to make events more accessible, they are not yet sufficiently known by all women. This is also striking in the case of the ‘ask for Angela‘ campaign, which is intended to make people feel safer when they go out. This is a good initiative, however. With the code word 'Angela', someone can discreetly tell the staff that they are being harassed.


In addition to the Angela campaign, there are other initiatives that stood out this summer but too often remain under the radar, such as the number of ladies’ toilets at events that the city of Amsterdam wants to increase. Our northern neighbours even made a list of the ten best festivals for women aged 30+ in Damespraatjes. Loud music and drunken teenagers were certainly not at the top of their wish list.


In the newspaper HLN, we read that Wecandance is the most woman-friendly festival in our country. No less than 62 percent of the visitors are women. As a 'boutique festival', they consciously choose a small scale, with only 30,000 visitors, so that it may never become too busy. They also focus on the total experience, fashion, art and food, and not just on music. For example, there were also Wecandance chocolates and a special Wecandance tea. And that appeals to women in our country.


At the festival Pukkelpop this summer, there was a strong focus on reports of transgressive behaviour. For this purpose, the organiser had placed messages on LED screens calling on people to treat everyone with respect. There was also a Milk ’n Boobs Bar for mothers to pump their milk, heading ‘party-pump-repeat’.

Foto: © Expertisecentrum Publieke Impact

Also world stars are taking initiatives, such as the British rock band Coldplay. During their concerts, they do not only want to focus on the ecological aspect of sustainability. There is reportedly also room for improvement in the area of diversity and inclusion. They refer to ticket prices that can still play an important role in the still often very white and male-dominated world of rock and pop.


Tackling infrastructure, sentiment and experience

Women-friendly events are above all places where women feel safe. Statistics Flanders also reports alarming figures on feelings of safety and avoidance behaviour. More than one fifth of the Flemish people feel sometimes, often or always unsafe. So, tackling the feeling of insecurity, also at events, is important and not just adapting the infrastructure.


This feeling should also be addressed proactively. Event Safety Institute calls for the use of a protocol for security guards at events 'How to deal with a report or an alert of (e.g.) sexual violence at events'. According to these Dutch experts, this would help to improve the response, but also to increase uniformity in approach and awareness among security guards. Profiling and camera surveillance can also contribute to the timely detection of and proactive intervention in suspicious situations or striking behaviour.


"By zooming in on the experience of women, we, as a centre of expertise, want to use our research to gain insight into the accessibility of events and how these thresholds differ according to gender in a broader perspective. We are looking for nuances: can we combine a gender perspective with a socio-economic perspective, or an age perspective? In this way, we can work in a refined way on events that are organised for everyone. After all, balanced gender participation in social life has not only social but also economic benefits", says Christine Merckx.