The Canadian Economics Association meetings take the same format every year: sessions start at 8:30 a.m. Friday morning and end at noon on Sunday. The Innis Lecture is Friday evening and the Purvis lunch is Saturday afternoon.
From time to time a bold and innovative President-elect will try a new experiment, like I think it was Curtis Eaton who introduced State of the Art Lectures. And my recollection is that Lars Osberg, who put the Canadian Women Economists Network (CWEN) lunch on the program.
At the time, there was no major event on Friday at lunch time - the slot was reserved for various Association committees. CWEN had been formed a few years earlier, but there was no time on the program for CWEN to meet. People got together over breakfast, but attendance was limited.
Lars's vision was of a major event with a high profile female speaker. I guess the idea was to inspire young women with a vision of what was and is possible, to showcase the work done by female economists, and provide a time for women to network with, and mentor, each other.
To a large event, that vision has succeeded. The annual lunch has given CWEN a semi-official status within the Canadian Economics Association. Serious scholars, like Nicole Fortin and Shelley Phipps, have been presidents of the network, and the CWEN lunch has featured some excellent speakers. But, for the most part, men don't go.