As we were designing the She Means Business conference for IMEX in Frankfurt 2018 with tw tagungswirtschaft, we had an inkling of the excitement that could be generated given the enthusiastic response to the idea, but we didn’t predict the full effect of having over 350 women and men together on the actual day. The group had enough positive energy to light up Frankfurt!
Bringing together all types of women—from meetings industry veterans and newbies to business and U.N. leaders, and even an astronaut and a fighter pilot—the focus was on empowering each other as individuals and discussing how we can work together as an industry to build more equity in the workplace around opportunity, leadership, and pay.
Here are some of the main takeaways from the event. There is little doubt there was a lot of “lady power” in the room, but I think it’s safe to say that any of these ideas can apply to both men and women as we help each other advance and grow.
Reach Back and Up. Mentoring was one of the hot topics of the day. We need to do more of this, as Susanne Labonde from SAP reminded us. If you are further up the ladder, don’t forget to reach back to younger or new-to-the-industry women. If you want to advance, choose someone you admire in your organization, the industry, or beyond and work to establish a relationship where you can share ideas and open new doors.
Be Your Own Biggest Fan. In astronaut Laura Winterling’s talk, called “Mission (I’m) Possible,” she spoke about not being afraid to reach for the stars (in her case, literally and figuratively), to trust intuition, and find and follow joys and passions. She recounted her father’s advice: “There will be plenty of people to tell you that you can’t do something. You have to give yourself a chance.” So, instead of just thinking about what you could be doing better, also think about what you do really well and look for ways to capitalize on and highlight that in your daily work as you advance towards your career goals.
It’s Not Just a “She” Thing. We all need to work together to bring equity to the workplace. Many men showed a strong interest in the She Means Business program and want to get involved in similar events. We need to look for opportunities within and across our companies and the industry to work with people who understand the value of growing female as well as male rock stars in any organization. Isabel Harvey of the European Cardiology Association challenged the women in the audience to “bring a man next time!”
It’s a Long-Haul Issue. Fighter pilot Nicola Baumann reminded the audience that, “Anyone who’s achieved a huge feat [knows] it’s a marathon not a sprint.” She urged attendees to take that first step towards change and then take things one step at a time. Building leadership opportunities and pay equity in the workplace is a topic that is not unique to our industry, to any one country, or to any one culture. It is a deep-seated global issue, which Karin Nordmeyer of the U.N. Women National Committee, Germany, reinforced in her presentation. It will take time and continual effort to shift attitudes and create action. This means consistently looking for ways to raise awareness, have positive and constructive conversations, and create opportunities to build platforms at our own events and in our own businesses. It’s also important to celebrate and share the successes of the women around us, so they can serve as role models to others.
Growing Women Is Good Business. It’s natural for women to feel like an even playing field at work is the right and fair thing to do, but that may not be enough of an incentive for all organizations to take action. We must look for ways to show that it’s simply smart business to harness the power and ideas of women. For example, SAP’s Susanne Labonde shared this statistically proven fact: Companies with boards comprised of both male and female members have 48 percent higher margins than those with by male-only boards. Dr. Mara Harvey of UBS talked about women being the next “emerging market” in terms of economic power, as well as the need to build more financial confidence in ourselves. To get a seat at the table, it’s important to help educate leaders and colleagues on the specific ways that we bring tangible business value to our clients and the bottom lines of our companies.
More food for thought: For more insights about equity in the workplace, check out the Women’s Empowerment Principals at weprinciples.org.