Women Building Women Seeks to Empower Next Generation of Female Event Planners

The event brought together female meeting professionals for a day of networking and informational sessions in New York City.

Women Building Women Female Event Planners
Karen Gamba, creator of Women Building Women (center), moderated the all-female panel discussions. Photo Credit: Elise Schoening

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As attendees filed into Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom on January 28, Beyoncé's smash hit, "Run the World (Girls)," blared through the speakers. Moments later, an all-female panelist lineup took the stage.

The occasion? Women Building Women, a female-focused event held in New York City this week to support and uplift women across the meetings industry. The half-day event was put together by Karen Gamba, owner of the public relations and business strategy firm Ellipsis LLC, with help from Frank Carlisi, founder and creative director of Ventus Global, a full-service event planning company. It featured panel sessions and networking opportunities designed for women at any level of the events industry. 

"The future is not just female. It is the past, present and the future," said Ariel Palitz, senior executive director of the NYC Office of Nightlife Mayors, during introductions.

The sold-out event included four panels, where speakers discussed everything from navigating industry challenges to how to create unique event experiences. Panelists included meeting professionals from the Manhattan Center, Sequence Events, Tao Group Hospitality and more. Karen Gamba, creator of Women Building Women, moderated all of the sessions. 

"I think this event is incredibly important. There are many women in this industry, but I'd like to see women start to rise up to executive level positions," said panelist Debbie Barnes, business development manager of Party Rental Ltd. "It's been a male-dominated industry for many, many years, but women are very talented and they're certainly able to handle positions at that level. Events like this help to build women up and break that glass ceiling."

For meeting planners looking to get ahead and create standout, seamless events, speakers stressed the importance of connecting and collaborating with others in the industry.

"Every event we do is a puzzle. We have all these pieces that need to come together to create one big, beautiful picture," said Emily Schmalholz, director of special events for NYC's Capitol Theatre. "The way to elevate our events is by collaborating. We all have new, different ideas, and you may look at our space in a different way than I do."

Other topics touched on throughout the event included the need for a strategic social media presence, the importance of self-care in the meetings industry and the rising role of sustainability.

"We've definitely seen clients evolve in their priorities when they are planning events," said Emma Tietze, senior sales and events manager of Brooklyn Bowl, a LEED-certified event venue. "When they are doing venue searching, they are much more interested now than they were maybe five to 10 years ago on what the venue is doing on the back end as far as their footprint and their sustainability."

Carline Beaubrun, creative director of Events by Carline, agreed, and encouraged planners to remain steadfast in their sustainability initiatives and take time to educate clients on their importance.

"When we were first starting to be sustainable, we got a little bit of pushback because it is expensive," said Beaubrun. "You have to educate the client and get the client on board to be sustainably responsible. Ask them, 'If you're ordering X, Y and Z amount of flowers, where are they going to go? What are your causes? How can we design things so that we can reuse it or donate it somewhere that needs it?'"

As female professionals navigate a changing meetings landscape, the panelists urged audience members to rely on each another -- whether it be for event planning contacts, sustainability tips, career advice or simply a shoulder to lean on when the going gets rough.

"It's so important to have a support group. Women Building Women is an amazing platform to be a part of and just knowing that no matter what you're going through, someone will be there to help you," said Bethany Martone, senior event director of Botanica Inc. "It's such an inspiration to listen to everyone here today and look at what they're capable of and know that I'm just as capable, if not more."