Is the events industry lacking women in senior roles?

Here at drp 50% of our board members are women, and we are extremely proud of this fact. The word ‘fact’ is better than ‘stat’ because we aren’t filling a quota. These women are incredible at what they do and we have acknowledged it. EventHuddle, the monthly topical debate platform for the U.K events industry, hosted an important discussion entitled “Are women being held back in the events industry?” at 1 Wimpole St, on 14th July. The panellists were:

  • Rachael Bartlett – Sales & Marketing Director, Warwick Conferences
  • Joy Thomas – Senior Manager (Group Events), Lloyds Banking
  • Carol Stewart – Personal Development, Career and Business Coach, Abounding solutions
  • Mellisa Noakes – Experiential consultant, coach and mentor,  #20 in the Event 100
  • Faye Sharpe, Founder of Zibrant as the chair.

Various topics were discussed during the debate including motherhood, maternity/paternity leave, career paths, gender prejudice, and stigmas.

Prior to the event EventHuddle polled the event’s registrants, and these statistics were determined:
•  86.7% of those who took part, think women might be being held back in the events industry.
•  73.4% answered ‘no’ or ‘not sure’ when asked whether they had ‘personally experienced gender bias in the events industry’

So, what else did the discussion bring to light?

Overall, the panel agreed that you have to work hard to achieve your goals and make the right choices for you and your happiness. Joy commented that she doesn’t believe in luck, and you have to seize the opportunities presented to you. Similarly, you shouldn’t expect a work-life balance because sometimes it isn’t possible, so you need to make choices. Carol highlighted that when you’re planning your career, you should have short and long term goals, factoring in having children if this is what you want.

Planning is key to maternity, and discussing it with your employer is important too, do you need flexi hours? For how long do you want maternity leave? Will you have a transition period of working 5 days a week? Again, think about long term and short term goals. Joy emphasised that if you plan for maternity leave, it doesn’t stall your career at all because it’s just part of life.

Surprisingly 45% of people working flexibly are men, so is there a stigma around flexible working for women? The panel agreed there is, but there shouldn’t be – nobody deserves to be discriminated against for bringing a life into the world, or for the choices they make during parenthood. Of course, ‘business is business’ and the whole world isn’t going to stop if you have a baby, so the best advice is to just plan ahead. Whether that’s taking a back seat to enjoy parenthood, or juggling both work and home.

Interesting quote:

Another point made was the lack of confidence women have in their own capabilities and talents. Rachael stated, “it’s not men or the industry that is holding us back, perhaps we hold ourselves back without realising.” Perhaps women don’t shout out enough about how great they are?”

Faye pointed out that businesses hire for talent, regardless of gender, or anything else such as race, religion, or sexuality. Women therefore need to acknowledge their abilities, and Joy urged women to “be accountable, be genuine, and trust yourself.”

The debate ended with the understanding that the issue in fact extends beyond the events industry and society needs to change the stigma surrounding male and female roles. It should never be about gender, but who is the best person for the job.

Another societal issue is maternity and paternity leave. This includes heterosexual and same sex couples. Men want just as much time with their children as women do and for same sex couples would one person get more time than the other? There needs to be changes made so it is acceptable to take leave no matter what your gender is, or your sexuality.

To see the EventHuddle discussion in full watch this YouTube link here:

Disclaimer: there are some sound issues on the video.

Emily Johnson

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