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Event leadership | 9 November 2015

Three Experts Share Their Advice For Women In The Events Industry

Guest Author

At the Association of Women in Events, we challenge the norm. We are here to be the resource for women in the events and hospitality industry. As much as we would all like to believe that women are treated equally in the workforce, it is not the case, even today.

We believe it is necessary to unearth the issues, dissect them and bring them to life in full form ­ so that we can discover solutions, welcome change and advance the professional careers of women worldwide.

We believe it is important to involve men in the conversation. That’s why we would sat down with our three male board members and to let them share their advice for women in the events industry.

Between the three of them, they have 50+ years of industry experience ­ from labor to leadership. Dan Traver, CEM (Vice President, Business Development at Freeman Co.), Cedric Calhoun, CAE, FASAE (Executive Director at Academy of Certified Hazardous Materials Managers) and Johnnie White, CMP (Senior Director, Education and Meetings at American Academy of Otolaryngology) share their insights on that state of women’s success in the event’s industry.

Question: Why do you think men should be involved in this conversation?

Answer: Cedric says, “No conversation should be confined to one gender. Those discussions become limited and ultimately useless because only one group is hearing and engaged in it. If true change is going to happen then the discussion needs to be broader and inclusive if that is truly the end­game. Involving men in the conversation can only help progress move forward.”

Johnnie adds, “Unfortunately, the percentage of decision­makers in this industry are men and because of that, we have to be involved to provide the ability for the women to move up the ladder.”

Question: Why do you think it is more difficult for women to elevate their careers than men?

Answer: Dan says, “Our industry traditionally has been dominated by men because of the nature of the work, but today, the industry has evolved and grown and there are many more opportunities for growth for both men and women. What we can’t do is assume that because there are still so many men in the industry, that there aren’t rich opportunities for women.”

Cedric points out that there are many factors, among them being that “early in history, women were expected to stay home and raise families and not join the workforce.” Times have changed, and to that, Johnnie adds, “A woman or a man, whoever is the caregiver, should still be given equal and fair thought when it comes to their availability to the tasks associated with the job.”

Question: Can you identify any personal reasons as to why you support this mission? If so, please tell us about those reasons.

Answer: “I come from a company who has a great mentoring program, and as a mentor myself, it is very gratifying to see women succeed and obtain more senior level careers. Plus, the headway that we make today will help pave the way for my daughters in 30 years or so,”

“My first supervisor in association management was a woman and I learned a great deal from her, but the CEO at the time was male and she was not taken seriously. She was ‘pat on the head’ and told that she did good work, but never received the same respect as her male counterparts. I saw that and vowed to coach and elevate women that I managed to achieve more than they were expected,” Cedric promises.

Question: Do you have any advice for male C­Suite Executives to empower women in their office ­ ideas they could implement tomorrow?

Answer: Cedric lists, “1) Empower women by giving them opportunities based on their skill set and not their gender. 2) Coach and mentor women in your offices to achieve more. 3) Allow women to lead major initiatives and support them throughout the project. 4) Provide support both verbally and in writing to overall management about the accomplishments of women staff.”

Dan and Johnnie agree that it all starts with communication and trust in skill set. Johnnie also adds, “Be flexible in ways that aren’t traditional. Consider offering flex time or telecommunication options.”

Dan proclaims, “How can you change a mindset without education and experience? I want leaders to understand that all should have a voice regardless of gender, age or anything. That’s why I’m a part of this mission with AWE.”

AWE is an inclusive community dedicated to the success and advancement of women’s professional careers. Our board wishes to encourage women to exceed beyond the status quo. While the issues are alive and thriving, we see a future that is bright. “Forward­thinking” when it comes to women in our industry will become the norm. We look forward to that day. In the meantime, we thank our board for their relentless efforts and encourage both women and men to join our movement. For more information visit womeninevents.org.

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