After success from its 2017 Pink Hour event, IMEX Group announced its new She Means Business initiative that will debut at IMEX Frankfurt 2018 in May.
The half-day conference will explore challenges such as gender equality and career advancement that affect women in the meetings industry. Prevue caught up with IMEX Group CEO Carina Bauer to discuss the initiative and how it can help women advance their careers.
How does IMEX’s She Means Business initiative hope to inspire women in the industry?
It has long been noticeable that while women are in the majority in the meetings industry, they are in the minority in leadership positions. IMEX wants to play our part in highlighting the challenges that women face, but more importantly, to play a positive role in laying the ground work for solutions. We think one of the best ways to do this is to bring people together—both women and men—for open conversation and learning. We believe that this is the right time to be having this type of conversation with an event like She Means Business. If the industry is continuing to attract and retain the best talent and be a truly diverse workforce, we must address issues such as these. She Means Business is meant to be one gathering point to help do this.
How can other meeting planners incorporate similar initiatives into their events?
What you incorporate into your event really depends on your audience, what’s appropriate within the flow and plan of the event program, and what you are hoping to achieve. At IMEX America, for example, we worked with the Event Tech Tribe to host a reception on their booth celebrating the role of women in the industry. This was well received as it gave prominence to the topic while also providing the opportunity for women to get together and network in a more informal setting. Sometimes, that’s enough; other times, something more formal or in depth makes sense. She Means Business, for example, takes the conversation and connection to the next level.
Can you share any specific tips for women in the industry looking to achieve gender equality in the workplace?
First off, I think we need to acknowledge that we work in a great industry for women compared to many others. Women make up 75 to 80 percent of the meetings/events workforce, and there are a number of women in the industry in leadership positions. Plus, on the whole, I find that men in our industry are very open to the issues that women face and want to do more to help achieve balance and equality. The key question then is how we achieve balance and equality. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution I think.
One key thing I think we can do right now to achieve higher numbers of women in senior leadership positions—without a doubt—is to actually put ourselves forward more actively and frequently for these positions. Whether that’s internally within our own organizations or externally in terms of volunteering on industry wide committees and boards, setting our sites on and going for top positions is a big part of it. I believe these opportunities are out there, but sometimes women still need to work a little harder to be recognized as leaders. So, being even more present, more vocal and showcasing our talents more strongly is what it takes. If established women do this across the industry, younger women also will be inspired to put themselves forward more often, and in this way, positive change and evolution will happen organically in our industry.