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New Report: Women’s Career Advancement

Nobody is surprised to hear that there are disproportionately fewer women in meeting leadership positions compared to the number of women in the field. A new report looks at why.

“The business-events industry has seen disproportionately fewer women in leadership positions compared to the number of women represented in the field.”

To many observers, this finding from a new report released in January, “Advancing Women in Business Events,” is obvious. For the study’s designers, though, it’s a possible step toward change. The Professional Convention Management Association and Business Events Sydney released part one of their report, which features the results of a year-long project that details the current landscape faced by events-industry women who aspire to be a director, vice president, or a C-suite executive.

In the United States, about 85 percent of event-planner roles are held by women, while the figure is above 70 percent across the rest of the world. The research found that nearly 60 percent of respondents felt that leadership roles at their organizations were not available to them—or if they were, that they did not have clear steps on how to advance into them.

That finding is underscored by a survey by IBTM, the group that owns the Barcelona-based industry show IBTM World, which found that the percentage of women with the title of director or vice president of events, or in C-suite positions with events responsibility, is just 16 percent. By comparison, 32 percent of director, vice president, and C-suite positions across all industries are held by women.

One significant hurdle the study found is the lack of formal networking and mentoring programs. Just 31 percent said their organizations provided formal networking opportunities for them, while just 16 percent said they had access to inclusive mentoring programs. What’s worse, only 23 percent of those who had access to either type of program said they participate.

The report addresses several other reasons why the leadership disparity exists in the industry—in short, a combination of institutional, societal, and personal barriers—and provides recommendations for overcoming those barriers.

“The business-events industry is the ideal platform to demonstrate the value that women generate every day, and we need to lead by example,” says Sherrif Karamat, president and CEO of PCMA and CEMA. “Inclusivity and equity are not only the right thing to do; they lead to greater profitability, successful organizations, and a just society.”

“As leaders of an industry with a strong female talent pool, we need to take collective and bold action to accelerate progress towards equitable leadership for all. Diversity in board and C-suite leadership ranks is the right thing to do and makes good economic sense for our sector’s resilience globally,” adds Lyn Lewis-Smith, CEO of Business Events Sydney.

The study initiative consisted of two think tanks that gathered perspectives from 20 female and male executives in different U.S. cities plus one online think tank with 10 Asia-Pacific executives; six one-hour interviews with female executives; and a survey of 438 female event planners around the world, more than 86 percent of whom have more than five years of industry experience.

Read part one of the report herePart two of the report is due to be released sometime in Q2 2024.

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