Women in the Meetings Industry: Making Strides

Highlighting female success, empowerment and the presenters of #WILMI19.

Whether you are a woman working for a global company or are an independent planner, you have the power to build awareness and champion the career development needs of women in the meetings industry. Doing so was just one of the many goals of Women in Leadership Meetings & Incentives 2019, which took place last week in Boston, Mass.

WILMI is the premier, women's-only Northstar event taxed with inspiring female leaders to put their goals into action, to measure their progress against the opportunities and challenges of the industry and to push forward in their careers. WILMI unites women meeting planners and suppliers by establishing and maintaining strong connections between each other and the surrounding world.

In honor of this event, Northstar is highlighting the expertise of our WILMI presenters. The following article on women leaders and making strides in the meetings and events industry is padded with wisdom from several honorable speakers from #WILMI19.

Making Strides in Diversity and Inclusion Efforts

Representing the Masses

According to Phocuswright, more than 77 percent of the country’s meeting, convention and event planners are women, and many industry groups are continuing to do their part to empower women. For example, next month's IMEX Frankfurt conference will feature the third-annual "She Means Business" forum about diversity, gender equality and female empowerment. And that program is not just for women in business and events, but also their male counterparts.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, “The Gender Diversity & Inclusion in Events Report,” published by Bizzabo, highlights areas where the meetings industry falls short. The report found that just 31 percent of conference speakers worldwide are women. In the U.S., that number is only slightly better, at 35 percent. Still, conference organizers and other groups are taking action to highlight the issue and reduce that gap; WILMI being just one example. 

Allowing for Flexibility 

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Judi McLaughlin, CMP, managing director for HelmsBriscoe

"One of the greatest strides I have seen over my career is due to technology and the ability for people -- of all genders -- to work from home," says Judi McLaughlin, CMP, managing director for HelmsBriscoe, a third-party meeting procurement and site-selection service for corporations and associations. "And, although possibly slower to adapt to this flexibility than other industries, this is now common in our business."

McLaughlin says the ability to work from home or on location lets women with responsibilities outside of the industry -- as mothers, caretakers and the like -- more options for getting the job done successfully. "This tactic is allowing companies to retain better employees, most often women, who want to be able to also spend time with their families while fulfilling their career goals."

Encouraging Female Success

The Power of Mentorship

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Laura Yates, principal, Dovetail Event Partners

"It is important to mentor younger women coming up in the industry," says Laura Yates, principal of Dovetail Event Partners and 30-year veteran of the incentives, meetings and corporate events industries. "Not just to give them tasks to complete, but to take the extra moment to explain the impact of the action or decision so they can better educate themselves to be positioned for advancement."

A study by professional services firm Egon Zehnder found that only 54 percent of up-and-coming women have access to senior leaders who act as mentors or informal sponsors in their careers. While advocacy and sponsorship rates decline as age increases, the women with the highest level of support are those already sitting in the C-suite.

Yates suggests that, when mentoring becomes routine, it's not only the mentee who benefits from this meaningful relationship in terms of fostering connections or delegating responsibility. "As a bonus, by doing this, you will be be able to delegate more effectively as that individual will develop into a thinker who can take on larger tasks or projects, thus removing things from your own plate," Yates adds.

McLaughlin agrees. "We should all be mentoring and demonstrating that there are no barriers to success due to gender." She adds, "We should share with other women our stories, of what has worked for us, what hasn’t and what we learned along the way as it relates specifically to being a woman in the business."

Exploitation and the Solution

"Because many of us spend so much time in hotels and on airplanes, we are uniquely positioned to be an active watchdog for human trafficking," says Yates, touching on a hot topic within the meetings and events industry. "At the SMU conference in NYC last month, we had an excellent speaker who shared some surprising statistics and explained how we can plug into solutions."

At Northstar's SMU International, Tu Rinsche, Marriott's global director of social impact, educated the audience on the scope of the human-trafficking problem and the industry's role in being part of the solution. There, Rinsche highlighted four main things meeting planners and hoteliers can do immediately to fight the continuation and/or growth of human trafficking:

1. Be aware: Know what to look out for and continue to get educated on human trafficking and what it really means.

2. Familiarize yourself with and be on the lookout for signs of distress.

2. Report any issues as soon as possible.

4. Stay accountable and educated. 

For more information on Rinsche's presentation, click here. For a better understanding of how meeting planners can combat human trafficking, click here.

Hosted by Northstar Meetings Group, WILMI  is an exclusive conference for executive-level women in the industry – by women, for women. At WILMI, leading female meetings and incentives buyers and suppliers will join together to network, engage in dialogue on present and future challenges and opportunities, and plan and do business together.