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Meet the Woman Behind AWE’s First Conference

Changemaker Carrie Abernathy founded the organization’s sexual harassment taskforce, too

MeetingsNet’s annual Changemaker list recognizes 20 outstanding meetings professionals for their efforts to move their organizations and the industry forward in unique and positive ways. Find all the profiles here.

Carrie Abernathy, CMP, CEM, CSEP

Lead Meeting Planner, Altria Group Distribution Co.  
Altria (starting June 10, 2019)
Executive Consulting Officer
Association for Women in Events

For bringing her passion and energy to the Association for Women in Events and her leadership of its first annual conference

Making Change
As one of the five founders of the Association for Women in Events, I was extremely excited to chair our first conference earlier this year—Elevate! Powered by AWE.  AWE’s leadership had created a totally virtual, global community over the association’s first four years, setting up a safe space for members to come together and tackle the challenges that women face in the workplace. The board felt strongly that it would only plan an annual conference if members specifically called for one, and that’s just what happened. We heard from our members that they wanted a women’s leadership event that could be the catalyst for raw, unfiltered, peer-driven conversation on how to elevate women in the meetings and events field. As chair of the Elevate! task force, I felt a huge responsibility to offer not only an innovative style of event that brought people together in an intimate and comfortable setting, but also to provide compelling education that left people feeling inspired.

More Change
In May 2018, I founded AWE’s Events Industry Sexual Harassment Task Force as part of my legacy as president of the association. I felt strongly that the events industry needed to do more to provide education and resources to women and men who had been harassed. Taking it a step further, I believe that with enough education and resources we can eradicate sexual harassment in the workplace altogether. I brought together the EISHTF with representatives from seven major industry associations to pool resources and ideas. Last fall, we jointly produced a live webinar on harassment and will be putting out a “pledge” this summer that individuals and companies can sign to demonstrate that they are doing their part to eradicate sexual harassment. We also have videos, codes of conduct templates, and other resources available free of charge.

What’s Next?
Applications opened in mid-May for AWE’s third annual Hall of Fame awards, which recognizes those who support and raise up women in events. Our honorees will be recognized online during a live Facebook presentation in July and in person at IMEX America in September during the “Pink Hour” women’s gathering on the show floor.

Managing Change
Be prepared for resistance. There is a saying from Charles F. Kettering that goes, “People are very open-minded about new things, as long as they’re exactly like the old ones.” Affecting change is realizing something ahead of the trend and sticking with it—even if it’s not popular.

Role Model
I have had several important champions throughout my career. Johnnie White, CAE, CMP, CEO of the American Society of Appraisers and past chairman of the board at the Professional Convention Management Association, is a big influence. He has always taken the time to listen to my ideas and share industry knowledge. The same is true for Dan Traver, senior vice president with Freeman. When others “leaned out” as we started AWE, both of these gentlemen “leaned in” and became incredible ambassadors and advocates for women in the events sector.

Best Business Advice
“Who cares what others think—if you know that you are right, then keep working!”  This will forever be a favorite for me in life and in business. 


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