October 24, 2017

South Jersey magazine ditches all-male 'Women in Business' event after social media uproar

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102417_SJMagWE Source/SJ Magazine

SJ Magazine's "Women's Empowerment Series."

An all-male panel discussion on the topic of "Women in Business" has been scrapped after tweets promoting the event drew a scathing response from critics who found the whole idea tactless and tone-deaf. 

The event was planned for next month as part of SJ Magazine's annual "Women's Empowerment Series" on women in business, a popular program that sold out last year. It came under fire Monday when the magazine reminded its Twitter followers of the upcoming event.

The response was so forcefully against the idea that the discussion ended up taking place on Twitter. 

SJ Magazine had already held two panels this year in the run-up to the all-male event, which was set to feature ESPN correspondent Sal Paolantonio, Rowan University President Ali Houshmand, Virtua President and CEO Richard P. Miller and New Jersey Assemblyman Lou Greenwald.

The topic of one of those earlier events, for example, was “Gutsy Goals: How you get to the top – and what it’s like when you get there," and it featured Sixers COO Lara Price, SJ Magazine Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Marianne Aleardi and Nyeema Watson, associate chancellor for civic engagement at Rutgers University-Camden, among others. 

"It's a bigger series and there's a couple of different organizations that do them," a Rowan University spokesperson said Tuesday on behalf of Houshmand. "When it came up, we said great. Dr. Houshmand has been interviewed about his views on diversity in the workplace and the need for more women in higher education. It's a natural thing to talk about. There's often a knee-jerk reaction on social media that doesn't look into the broader intent. Could the ad copy have been better? Obviously. Hindsight's 20-20." 

Some critics of the all-male panel argued that excluding women from the discussion defeats the purpose of supporting women in business in the first place. Others questioned whether any of the panel participants was suitable to lead a conversation based on a track record of experience on the issue of gender in the workplace. 

Under mounting pressure, SJ Magazine canceled the panel and released the following statement. 

A fourth panel discussion, "Success Stories: Taking Charge Without Wearing a Suit and Tie," is still scheduled to be held Dec. 4 at The Mansion on Main Street in Voorhees.