Fresh thinking needed on flexible working

by Julia Gallagher, head of sales, VisitBrighton Convention Bureau.

Scanning the most recent blogs posted on Conference News stimulated a light bulb moment for me: six, out of the last eight, blogs posted were written by men whose job titles ranged from consultant to managing director, while the female contributors were a sales manager and head of venues,

Similarly, I looked at a ‘Words of Wisdom’ post on the mia website which boasts ten quotes from, you guessed it, ten men. Do women really have so little to say? Reflecting on the industry in Brighton & Hove, there only two female hotel GMs, in a city that prides itself on its diversity.

A quick trawl of VisitBrighton Convention Bureau’s CRM revealed that 82% of event organisers on our database are women so why is it, in an industry that is so female-dominated at grass roots level, that the top is firmly dominated by men? And more importantly what is being done to redress the balance?

Currently juggling motherhood with my role, I can well appreciate that many women choose to take time out of the job market raising families and thus may not accumulate as much work experience as men, with many returning to the industry on a part-time basis.

I also appreciate that enthusiasm to circumnavigate the globe, which can often be a defining feature of MICE employment, may decline with the onset of parenthood.

But surely a progressive industry such as ours should be eager to embrace flexible employment to ensure we harness the surfeit of female talent out there. Should we be thinking about how to make senior careers not dependent on working five days a week from the age of 21 until retirement?   What seems clear though is that traditional career paths do tend to count against anyone who has taken their foot off the gas at any point.

I don’t believe that women lack ambition, but do we need to be more assertive in marketing ourselves and our skills?

Only time will tell whether the weight of new generations and fresh attitudes will affect a pull away from a male-centric top achievers list – but food for thought in the meantime nevertheless.

Julia Gallagher

Head of sales, VisitBrighton Convention Bureau.

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