Kindness Counts: SITE’s Women In Leadership

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Kindness counts in our post-pandemic stressed out worldKindness is a powerful attribute in the post-pandemic world of meetings and events. Participants in SITE’s 4th Women in Leadership session share lessons learned on being kinder and gentler in our stressed-out times.

The power of kindness was a recurring theme at SITE’s 20 Minutes Of Women In Leadership – A Time For Kinder And Gentler session, the most recent in the series. Moderator Barbara Scofidio, Prevue editor and curator, Visionary Summit series, was  joined by Mary Clare Darland, Director of Sourcing for Maritz Global Events and Marcella Zuniga, CITP, CIS, Director of Sales for Langham Hospitality Group. Here are top takeaways from their conversation:

There has been a shift towards kindness in the meetings and events industry. “Both internally within our organization, and externally with clients and industry partners, I’ve seen a real kinship of coming together and taking the extra time to be kinder and gentler,” said Darland. Maritz, she said, lost much of its work force during the pandemic, and now is building back. “Clients have been very understanding of working with our reduced work force. They continue to be considerate of our well being, as well as their bottom line.” One Maritz hotel partner, for example, eventually returned deposits and penalties from a pre-Covid cancellation that happened in early March 2020 because it was ethically the right thing to do. “They looked beyond the dollars and cents,” said Darland.

Women colleagues lift each other up. After Zuniga was let go from her job during the pandemic, she experienced waves of kindness and practical assistance from women colleagues. “Many women in the industry checked in with me and sent me job leads,” she said. “I feel that there is a real sense of community and support with women in the industry, and with women in my life.” Mentorship, Zuniga noted, is a meaningful career boost. “I’ve been in the industry since 2003 and keep in touch with all my previous bosses who are, for the most part, women. They are so supportive and I want to be able to pay it forward in the same way.”

There’s power in numbers. Whether teaming up for a mission or joining a group for personal enrichment, group involvement is a powerful support tool for women in leadership. “I learn something new every time I chat with SITE’s Women in Leadership committee,” said Zuniga. “And I know we can count on each other for support throughout our careers.” On a personal level, Darland’s involvement with an organization that fights against human trafficking connected her “with some incredible women who have helped me contribute to this fight, specifically in our incentive and travel industry.” Darland also pointed out the benefits of teaming up with people of all ages.

CSR adds kindness to events.  “We have seen a strong need for kindness at events and corporate social responsibility (CSR) is leading that charge,” says Darland. “Our clients want to make a difference. I think that stems from what we’ve all been through with the pandemic. It’s been hard for everyone. No matter what side of the fence you are on, giving back to the community is super important right now.”

Self care is essential. Being kind to others when you’re stressed out isn’t easy, but taking time out for creative endeavors can alleviate the stress. During the past few years, Darland learned to paint and and Zuniga learned to make hand-crafted greeting cards. Darland also recommended talking on the phone versus emailing for clarity on business communications. “We all got burned out from emails and zooms. I found that it was so much easier to get to a resolution when we just talked to each other. It took away some of that  bitterness and shortness of an email.”

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