Why is it that, in our industry, over 70% of professionals are women but most CEOs and top executives are men? Why most speaker line-ups are male-dominated? These are questions that, as a woman and a young leader, I’ve asked myself many times. So I was very excited when I received an invitation to speak at a panel session about Women and Leadership at the World Education Conference 2015 in San Francisco. The jam-packed session was facilitated by Karin Krogh, president of the MPI Denmark Chapter, and featured Fiona Pelham chairwoman-elect of the MPI's IBOD, Dr. Tyra Hilliard and Kevin Kirby chairman of the MPI's IBOD.
To prepare for the session, Karin asked us to think about what’s the biggest obstacle for women working in the events industry. Reflecting on my own experience and what I’ve learned from my mentor, Dr. Elling Hamso, I came up with the conclusion that my biggest obstacle has been myself. I think that we, as women, tend to lack confidence in ourselves: we always want to please everyone but we don’t dare to ask for that raise or promotion that we deserve. During the panel session some women also asked why we tend to put each other down and point out our weaknesses, seeing other women as competitors. This behaviour doesn’t help to raise women to the top.
Other hurdles that women often find are a lack of support from their companies, their families or the society at large, a lack of communication skills or male bosses who don’t value our unique talents. It was very inspiring to hear the story of Fiona Pelham who runs a women-friendly business. Her company, Sustainable Events Ltd., allows its employees to have a flexible schedule, as well as reduced hours, so that they can better manage their work-life balance. Say what you may, but I don’t believe in the so-called “work-life blending” - in my opinion, what any healthy person needs (male or female) is a proper balance.
How can women excel in the meetings and events industry?
After we discussed the obstacles, Karin asked the 170 people attending the session to come up with an idea to overcome them. Most ideas were about building our confidence: gaining communication skills, supporting and mentoring each other, owning our own successes and being more assertive. One of my favorite ideas is to be part of professional associations like MPI, where you can get involved in boards and committees and surround yourself of a community that will support your professional development. I believe it’s also very important to have role models. That’s why at my company, myQaa, we’ve started an initiative called “The Top 5 Women in Event Technology”, which showcases women who are doing outstanding work, and oftentimes are too shy to ask for the credit that they deserve.
Now it’s your turn to make it happen! It’s clear that there are many things that can be done, while at the same time not everything is under our control. But if you’re dreaming about a new job or promotion, I encourage you to gather all the confidence that you can get and take risks - after all, life is about getting out of our comfort zones.
Written by Rosa Garriga Mora, Marketing & Communications at myQaa.com