International Women’s Day, a platform to spring forward

International Women’s Day, previously marked mostly in former socialist countries, is now taking on ever greater significance in Europe and North America and today, 8 March, proving a powerful rallying point for women in the UK events industry to celebrate their achievements and push for more positive action to secure broader opportunities at work.

Stephanie Moss, business development manager at Somerset House in London is part of an all-female events team and reports her venue is holding several events based around International Women’s Day.

It’s great to be part of an industry so focused on the development of women’s careers. I am part of a team of 10 events professionals, all of whom are female.

Somerset House has proven popular for events relating to the International Women’s Day and we are excited that this year our clients have chosen our venue to host a variety of different events to raise awareness. Examples of these events include an event run by Avon and Refuge that aims to combat domestic abuse and a networking breakfast for Peak B that includes a panel discussion based around empowering women in business.” 

Conference moderator and speaker Nadine Dereza marked the day on Twitter, saying: “I’m on a mission to encourage more women to take up public speaking opportunities. Let’s end the gender pay gap.”

MD of industry PR and communications company Mexia, Kursha Woodgate describes the opportunities for women in the events industry as “tremendous”, but adds: “Yet, often we hesitate to seize them. I recently watched an older TED Talk video of Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook, talking about why we have too few women leaders. One thing she said really struck a chord with me, and it was recently reinforced by a trade journalist I spoke to: women often hesitate to put themselves forward. Sheryl spoke about ‘Taking a seat at the table’ and we need to be confident and comfortable with taking that seat. Often women will be more hesitant to do so, holding back on applying for roles unless they are 100% confident they meet all of the criteria, whereas men tend to be more confident even if they do not.

“The trade media journalist I spoke to (not from the events sector) said he was awash with opinion pieces and comments being offered by male executives, but really struggled to get women to put forward their view. Great strides have been made in driving equality in the workforce and creating equal opportunities, but there is still a long way to go. A lot has been written about the events industry being female dominant yet lacking in women in the most senior positions. Maybe that’s down to how we feel about ourselves and that natural hesitation to put ourselves forward. Is that because of our collaborative nature, or the role women have traditionally played in the family?

“I am not sure I have the answers. Maybe we just need a little encouragement and today is a good incentive.”

Spotlight Communications CEO Nina Gardiner added: “Nothing in business life is an easy path but in this industry I really feel that women are equal.  There are no barriers – unless it is building exhibition stands, where in 13 years watching build up at trade shows, I never saw a woman up a ladder on the show floor. – so that has to change! But there was a women leading the build up team for ibtm world.

“Women in events is a given in this country but my wish would be that in every region of the world women are given the opportunity to prove ourselves and if that doesn’t work then I say start your own business and push those objectors aside.”

Industry guru Jackie Mulligan told CN: “Women make up a significant proportion of our amazing industry – today I will be thinking of their many achievements inspiring others.”

Business development manager at Eden Hotels and director of VisitDartmoor, Jo Butler added: “IWD is a key platform for the events industry and allows companies to showcase and celebrate the achievements of women in business. I’m delighted to see so much happening today in Devon to celebrate IWD.”

And Business Visits and Events Partnership vice-chair Simon Hughes said on Twitter, 8 March: “One of the great things about the world of #eventprofs are the brilliant and creative women who work in it.”

The Women of the World festival, meanwhile, runs at the Southbank Centre this week.

And a reminder that there is clearly plenty still to do comes from journalist Nicola Kemp who notes: “There are still more men named John than there are women CEO’s in FTSE 100 companies.”

The UN started celebrating International Women’s Day in 1975.

Paul Colston

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Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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