Jason Dunn Sr.
Co-Chair, Events Industry Council’s Equity Task Force
Executive Director, National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals
For bringing data and analysis to questions of racial and gender equity in the meetings and events industry
Holding a mirror up to the events industry on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion is a not a task for the weak willed. But that is exactly the job Jason Dunn Sr. volunteered for as co-chair of the Events Industry Council’s Equity Task Force, a driver behind the 2022 Equity Benchmark Study.
This significant research project, which included a series of focus groups and a survey of more than 1,400 event professionals, reports on the DEI experience of meeting professionals in a wide range of industry sectors.
“In my mind, the industry had to find a way to take the pervasive ignorance and neutral acknowledgment that racism doesn’t exist out of the conversation,” Dunn says. “The task force provided a platform to lead with data, which takes out the emotion and dismantles excuses. Also, it reflects the great minds of experts from around the globe, who truly are committed to helping organizations achieve equity in a comprehensive way.”
Results, released last October, indicate that that racism and other inequities are still evident within the rank and file of the events industry, says Dunn, who was named executive director of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals last fall after a long career with Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau. He urges the events industry to “publicly recognize, support, and implement corrective strategies that the study clearly lays out.”
The benchmarking study is phase one of the EIC’s three-phase Equity Acceleration Plan. Phase two is now underway. “We are on the road, talking to association executives and EIC members about the study, ensuring that there is a complete understanding of what the data is showing and how we as an industry can convert the information from the pages into action to impact change” says Dunn, who co-chairs the Equity Task Force with Tina Wehmeir, CMP, CAE, president and CEO of the AMC Institute.
With phase one gathering data and phase two amplifying that data, the third phase of the Equity Acceleration Plan will be about solutions. “Phase three challenges the task force to come back with a road map, KPIs, and a toolkit that will help associations measure their success” against DEI benchmarks, Dunn says. “This is a three-year assessment, where we will continue to define our progress annually and target areas of growth, per the data and subsequent engagement. This work will be hard for many and uncomfortable for others, but the stakes are too high to fail.”
Industry associations have a role to play in moving DEI forward, and Dunn urges industry associations to “adjust their resources to reflect their stated values.” Dunn would like to see organizations’ spending match their stated DEI priorities, and also see spending on DEI initiatives to achieve parity with other programs. Organizations, he says, need to honor their commitments toward DEI “when the reporters leave and the cameras are off.”
His own driving force is clear: “It is my hope to always be an example of how one person can use their influence to cause change.”