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Women and Work After The March

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Women and Work After The March

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In an industry in which nearly 80 percent of the workforce is female, why are there still pay and opportunity gaps and what is the event industry doing about it?

In an industry in which nearly 80 percent of the workforce is female, why are there still pay and opportunity gaps and what is the event industry doing about it?

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Women and Work After The March

  1. 1. “This isn’t a‘We are women, hear us roar’ atmosphere. It’s more like,‘We are women, we are learning these skills together and we are productive mem- bers of society, hear us roar.’ We take a positive approach as opposed to the victim approach.” 90 THE MEETING PROFESSIONAL MARCH 2017
  2. 2. MPIWEB.ORG 91 A SPECIAL SECTION BROUGHT TO YOU BY B Y M I C H E L L E B R U N O O n Jan. 21, 2017, women across the globe took to the streets to voice a collective opinion. At the Women’s March, pay equity, access to affordable childcare, sick days, healthcare, paid family leave and healthy work environments for women were at the top of the list of Unity Principles. The march pro- vided further evidence that women, including women in exhi- bitions and events, have power and each other. And whether they decide to lean in (code words for becoming more assertive) or lay low, women are demanding choices and opportunities. Fortunately, there is a growing movement in the meeting industry to put some strategy behind those aspirations. Afterthe March Women AND Work
  3. 3. 92 THE MEETING PROFESSIONAL JUNE 2016 WhatWomen Are Up Against According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statis- tics (BLS), 46.8 percent of the national labor force is female and the typical woman who works full-time, year-round earns about 21 percent less than the typical male. In the predominantly female events profession (the BLS reports that 77 percent of meeting, convention and event planners are women), the pay gap is wider. A survey of show man- agers from the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) revealed that women at the manager level earn 17 percent less than their male counterparts. Female directors, vice presidents, C-level executives and owners make 27 percent, 41 percent, 62 percent, and 117 percent less, respectively, than males. Convene magazine’s 2016 Salary Survey reported that women earned nearly one-fourth less than their male counterparts. Pay disparity is only one aspect of the female-employee experience. The Women in the Workplace 2016 study, the result of a partnership between LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company, reveals some inter- esting findings. Compared to men, women are underrepresented at every level of the organization. They are less likely to be pro- moted to manager, participate meaningfully in meetings, receive challenging assign- ments, believe their contributions are appro- priately valued or be consulted for input on importantdecisions.Thereportalsosaysthat although women negotiate as often as men, they are still 30 percent more likely to receive negative feedback and less likely to get the promotion. In Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg discusses the workplace dynamics that prompted her to develop the “Lean In” framework. “When a woman excels at her job, both male and female coworkers will remark that she may be accomplishing a lot but is ‘not as well-liked by her peers.’ She is probably also ‘too aggressive,’ ‘not a team player,’ ‘a bit political,’ ‘can’t be trusted,’ or ‘difficult,’” Sandberg says, going on to talk about the downside of achieve- ment and how women react to it. “If a woman pushes to get the job done, if she’s highly competent, if she focuses on results rather than on pleasing others, she’s acting like a man, and if she acts like a man, people dislike her. In response to this negative reac- tion, we temper our professional goals.” Personalizing the Path to Leadership About five years ago, IAEE set up a mem- ber task force to assist with the design and delivery of a single event, the Women’s Leadership Forum. Since then, the task force has evolved into the permanent Women’s Leadership Committee to help develop pro- gramming for the forum. It also oversees the association’s other women’s initiatives, including educational webinars, bi-monthly newsletter, members-only message board, charitable-giving campaign, Woman of Achievement award and an Equal Pay Pledge requested of member companies to eliminate the gender pay gap that exists in the exhibition industry. The committee also works to ensure that all of IAEE’s events address gender—from the composition of speaker panels to decisions about sponsor gifts. IAEE’s women’s programming comes from listening to female members. “We do a lot of pre-event needs assessments so we can customize the leadership education to everygroup.Wedigdeep,askingthemabout their responsibilities at home and work, what keeps them up at night, and where they need help. Over the course of four years we’ve gotten the sense that women are trying to succeed in lots of areas, both per- sonal and professional, at the same time,” says Marsha Flanagan, M. Ed., vice president of learning experiences at IAEE. As a result, IAEE has developed a holistic approach to leadership.“We teach skills that can help you lead whether you’re at home, at work, in your community or in government,”she adds. In its upcoming installment of the Wom- en’s Leadership Forum, IAEE will focus on a range of topics. Speakers will tackle reinven- tion and adaptability, how to maintain physi- cal and mental health, the impact of women on politics and the economy, financial strat- egies to help women protect themselves, communicating leadership values to others and handling the disruption that’s a normal part of life.“This isn’t a‘We are women, hear us roar’ atmosphere. It’s more like, ‘We are women, we are learning these skills together and we are productive members of society, hear us roar.’We take a positive approach as opposed to the victim approach,” Flanagan says. Leveraging Female Economic Power One of the presenters at the Women’s Lead- ership Forum is Jocelyn Wright, MBA, CFP, director of the American College State Farm Center for Women and Financial Services. She will speak to attendees about the impor- tance of getting their financial houses in order. “As caregivers or as mothers, we have to make sure that we have everything in place for ourselves and our families,”she says. But, her presentation won’t only be about maximizing what women get; it will also be about helping them understand what they’re losing through wage disparity. “It’s not just saying, ‘Oh, I make 78 cents to your dollar.’It’s realizing that over a 30- or 40-year 92 THE MEETING PROFESSIONAL MARCH 2017
  4. 4. MPIWEB.ORG 93 SPECIAL SECTION career,thataddsupsignificantly,”sheexplains. Wright admits that women are in a better position today to improve their opportunities at work than ever before. “Women now con- trol a growing percentage of wealth in this country,” she says. According to Investment News, by 2020, some $22 trillion in assets will shift to women as they outlive their husbands and advance in the workforce.“There is going to be a huge wealth transfer in terms of the money that women will inherit not only from their husbands but also from their parents. If we’re controlling the dollars, we’re going to get the attention from companies and busi- nesses. We just have to recognize the power that we have,”she explains. Wright will also talk about tactics. IAEE’s research shows that while not every woman in the exhibition industry wants to be in the C-suite, most want to be able to have that opportunity, whether they take advantage of itornot.Historically,Wrightsays,womenhave been afraid of the repercussions of appearing too aggressive or of going against the grain and giving people reasons to dislike them. “We have to be willing to let go of the fear. Whether you want to be CEO or you just want to be paid equally based on your experience and credentials and just take care of your family, you should be able to have that too. It’s important to give people steps and best practices so that they have options,”she says. A Skills-Based Approach to Getting Ahead As a college-aged Gen-Xer, Kristi Casey Sand- ers,DES,HMCC,directorofprofessionaldevel- opment at Meeting Professionals Interna- tional (MPI), had trouble understanding why her female professors were unable to move past the “equal rights” discussion. Years later, she saw the data. Leanin.org reports that 46 percent of women hold entry-level jobs, but only 19 percent last long enough to join the C-suite. Harvard Business Review says that women at Fortune 500 companies spend an average of 23 years at the same company before being elevated to CEO while their male counterparts put in only 15 years. The Pew Research Institute reveals that 43 per- cent of people believe that firms hold women to higher standards than men, and an equal percentage believes that companies simply aren’t ready to hire women executives. Sanders’ response to the growing body of information about pay inequity and the climate for corporate career advancement prompted her to develop a leadership pro- gram for women in the events industry. To start, she looked at four women in executive leadership positions and studied what they have in common and where their experiences diverged. Then, she reviewed the data, had discussions with other women in the industry and even looked at what recruiters say are the reasons keeping female job applicants from getting the positions they want.“There is this sense in our industry that yes, you can reach some kind of position where you can have influence and where you can be visible, but for some reason, women aren’t getting to the next level,”Sanders says. Sanders became intrigued by “the forces at play” preventing women from achieving their goals at work given that “women have always been able to succeed despite major obstacles and throughout history,” she says. She believes it comes down to priorities and skill sets. “If moving ahead is a priority, you should be aware that there are unique challenges and there are concrete things that you can be doing to package yourself,” she explains. Her work has culminated in MPI’s Women in Leadership certificate pro- gram (sponsored by Marriott international). It addresses, among other things, research that says,“Even if you possess all the qualities that make your peers attractive candidates for CEO, CMO, CFO or COO positions, studies show that if you’re a woman, you’re 28 per- cent less likely to get the job.” In MPI’s four-hour course, participants explore a number of topics, such as the five qualities senior-level executives possess, what holds both men and women back from clos- ing the deal and the strengths and skills that women need to work on.“We talk to women about where they want to be and the value of askingformorethantheyactuallywantrather than focusing on the minimum expected standard. We give them time to mentor each other and help them work on a five-year plan ofaction,”Sanderssays.Shehopesthatbytak- ingtheclass,womenwillbecomemoreaware of their personal strengths and more strategic about achieving their professional goals. WillWomen Lean In or Lose Out? The Women’s March was designed to convey the collective angst that women feel about their desires to be fulfilled, empowered, enriched and respected. Both marchers and non-marchers gained a sense of optimism and a blueprint for activism that they can take from Main Street to the C-suite if they want. Jocelyn Wright believes that women have a tremendous opportunity to leverage their power and potential to make significant advances in the workplace. “Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, the Women’s March was an example of what can happen when women work together as a group,”she says.With the momentum around women’s initiatives building, the only ques- tion for women in the event industry now is “when?” n Michelle Bruno is a writer, blogger and technology journalist. She publishes Event Tech Brief, a weekly newsletter and website on event technology. You can reach her at michelle@brunogroup.com or on Twitter @michellebruno. “We have to be willing to let go of the fear. Whether you want to be CEO or you just want to be paid equally based on your experience and credentials and just take care of your family, you should be able to have that too.”

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