‘We Want to Provide Solutions’

Ladies only: An ambitious new program aims to support female professionals through practical, hands-on training and advice. The ‘Business Riot’ event series takes place in Vienna, attracting an ever-growing number of participants. Elisabeth Großschädl, one of the initiators, told us why networking alone doesn’t work for women – and what does.
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The ‘Business Riot’ event series has been hugely successful in Vienna in recent years, bringing together women from the most varied professions and, above all, providing answers to questions around the job market and the future of work. And this is exactly what the founders of the series have in mind: providing solutions rather than complaining. Editor Rosa Schaberl talked to initiator Elisabeth Großschädl about previous achievements and what to expect in the future.

2015 saw the premiere of your ‘Business Riot Festival’. A year later, visitor numbers had more than doubled. But how did it all start?

It all started in a coffee house, which is a bit of a cliché when it comes to Vienna. But that’s where we had our first ‘office’. My project partners Therese Kaiser and Katharina Brandl had already set up the women’s network Sorority, but we wanted to look even deeper into the situation of women in labor markets and, above all, to develop a new, content-related event format. In 2015, 250 women attended our festival, and more than 600 in the following year. It very quickly became clear to us that there was an interest and indeed a need for our work.

Despite the rising numbers of visitors, you did not host a festival this year, but founded the ‘Business Riot Series’ instead.

Yes, exactly. We decided to do things differently for two reasons: we wanted to offer our visitors more than a yearly one-off meeting, and there were simply too many topics we wanted to address, or have to address as a matter of fact. This can be done much better in the course of a series than one huge event. Now, there is a Business Riot Series event every other month, each dedicated to a different overall topic.

What can your participants expect? What sets you apart from other events around the topic of ‘women and work’?

Our events are not about the usual talks followed by a bit of networking and a glass of wine. We clearly focus on training and on working together. We want to provide answers, not just impulses. For each event, we invite experts from different fields, and up to eight workshops on the respective focal topic take place in parallel. Before and after, there are open discursive formats – and, of course, there are plenty of networking opportunities.

… answers to which questions?

In a nutshell, we look at the challenges faced by women in the work market and ask ourselves how we want to work. There are many questions here – the list is almost endless – but we are particularly concerned about the gender pay gap, the role of women in leadership positions and generally new forms of living and working. There are some solutions to these issues already, and we aim to present them and continue our work in the respective areas. We do not want to moan, but to deliver answers.

Equality in thelabormarket is important to you. At the same time, you categorically exclude men from your events. Is this justifiable?

Yes, it is, and yes, we are fully aware of the issue. The main reason is the atmosphere. We wanted to create an environment that encourages the participants to open up quickly and exchange ideas. We received feedback that this is exactly what happens at our events, and the atmosphere is very much appreciated by our visitors.

Talking of feedback, which events have proved particularly popular so far? Which topics are most interesting for women at the moment?

Judging purely by the number of participants, the topics of communication and career have been particularly well received. It is more difficult to say which part of these overall topics has hit the mark. We present very different approaches in the field of communication, from language training to social media support. We try to offer as much variety as possible to ensure each participant will find something suitable – no matter if she’s at the very beginning or more advanced in her career.

You deal with work and workspaces on a daily basis, but what about your own? How and where does Business Riot work?

When it comes to the workspace itself, much has changed since our days in the coffee house. We have moved several times and currently have our offices in the Sophienspital [a former hospital]in the center of Vienna. It’s an interesting place and an exciting location. For example, our office is glazed on two sides and mirrored on one side. The building features some hilarious architectural solutions like pointed rooms or staircases that do not lead from one floor to the other. My personal highlight is the associated park. We are surrounded by green and still located in the middle of town. This is also the place where we hold our Business Riot Series. We have plenty of space for our workshops here, and it’s interesting to see how people react to different spaces and settings. The atmosphere is very special.

Finally: Can you give us an outlook? What awaits your participants in the near future?

We’re concluding this year with the Business Riots Series on ‘New Work’ in September and ‘Content’ in November. The themes for 2020 have already been fixed, but I am especially looking forward to the Business Riot Summit. Similar to our previous festivals, this event will last several days. Conceptually, we have something new in mind, so the Summit will be different from our festivals and series formats.

The next Business Riots Series will take place on September 27, 2019 on the subject of ‘New Work’ in Vienna. For further information, visit: businessriotseries.at

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