She Means Business: empowering women in the events industry personally and professionally

By IMEX Group

4 mins

Two Event professionals writing on a luminous board

Supporting women in the events industry

Gender parity is not recovering, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2022 of the World Economic Forum. It will take another 132 years to close the global gender gap. So what more can we do to support women in events and empower them to succeed, professionally and personally? 

Inspirational women from around the world unite at She Means Business: A conversation for all. Part of IMEX's free education program, She Means Business provides the opportunity for both women - and men - to discuss their experiences, share valuable advice and inspire action.

We spoke to three inspirational women from the program to discuss gender equality and women in the workplace:

  • Karin Nordmeyer, Chairwoman, UN Women National Committee
  • Lyn Lewis-Smith, CEO, Business Events Sydney
  • Talia Sanhewe, International Moderator, Keynote Speaker, Producer, Writer
Buyer and exhibitors meeting and handshaking at IMEX America
Two Event professionals writing on a luminous board

Look for female mentors and inspiration

Karin had no mentors in her career - that was common at the time. However, she did have mentors in her social environment who inspired her. She says: My mother and my grandmother have always helped other people and shown me what good, respectful collaboration can look like.

Today, she tries to support young women and men where she can. Since I didn’t have a mentor when I was younger, I try to pass on my experiences, ideas and offer alternative perspectives, she says.

Lyn is most inspired by women who have authenticity and courage, those who are true to who they are and their values. The most inspirational women are those who know their own worth but are not afraid to ask for advice when they need it. She thinks it’s important to thank all the inspirational women who’ve set the trailblazing path for us to follow and who provide guidance and encouragement to our emerging leaders.

The role of diversity in events

Talia believes a woman’s greatest strengths are her ability to empathize, collaborate and create life. She says: We are unique by design and celebrating this diversity creates balance.

"Our position in the world isn’t secondary, it’s equal." 
Talia Sanhewe, International Moderator, Keynote Speaker, Producer, Writer

Men seem to have fewer insecurities about their ability to perform and deliver, says Talia. Women tend to second-guess their competence and discredit their position, even when experience and education indicate the opposite. Women could learn how to be more confident in their abilities from men, however it is understandably difficult when they’ve been taught from a young age to be modest.

Women must believe in their strengths

"Men need to be aware that women may use different ways to communicate their ideas and achieve their goals than they’re used to."
Karin Nordmeyer, Chairwoman, UN Women National Committee

Karin sees a difference in perception regarding how men and women work and behave. She remember a conference in which she presented ideas that did not resonate with the audience… a few minutes later a man communicated the same ideas and received much more interest.

We need to move on from this behaviour and improve the perception of women and their ideas. When women aren’t taken seriously they change themselves to feel respected, but in doing so lose what makes them special. Women - believe in your strengths and shape your plans!

How can we help women at all levels of their events careers succeed?

Senior leadership must create flexible working opportunities for women in events

Karin grew up in a professional world that was strongly influenced by hierarchical structures. When she had to decide between having children or a career, she found a compromise and worked part-time. She believes the events industry needs to make more options available for other women to do the same.

"The diversity discussion is important throughout all levels of an organization between men and women, however in terms of implementation, lasting impact will only be seen when senior leadership decides to change."
Talia Sanhewe

Build diverse teams, foster an inclusive environment

Lyn believes the most successful companies of the future will be diverse and inclusive. She says it’s important to distinguish between the two, because you can only truly harness the benefits of a diverse organization if you also create an inclusive environment.

Diversity is about making sure companies have men and women throughout the organization who bring a wealth of different perspectives, experiences and expertise. Inclusion is about making sure that all of those groups are given equal respect and the same opportunities to contribute, progress and lead.

Why is the conversation on women's empowerment in events so important?

We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go, says Lyn. And the only way we’ll get where we need to be is to keep talking about it, keep setting bold targets to focus us and keep throwing a spotlight on what needs to change.

We have so many incredibly talented women within the business events industry, and tourism more broadly, and they deserve celebration. However, there are still nowhere near enough women at the very top of the industry, and this is why we need to continue the conversation.

Never before has the power, position and purpose of women been more important than it is today, says Talia. Our voices are being amplified in such a distinct way that every part of society that overlooked or undervalued the female voice is stepping up and reassessing its stance.

Join the discussion at She Means Business: A conversation for all

About the author

IMEX brings the global meetings and events community together to power profitable connections, foster innovation, spark inspiration, and propel purposeful progress at two world-leading trade shows, IMEX Frankfurt and IMEX America.

We use our influence to unite, advance and promote a thriving global industry focused on positive change.

IMEX Group