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Survey reveals only one in nine women are at board level

Women in Events survey reveals under-representation in leadership roles

Pictured: Fast Forward 15 founder Fay Sharpe

Women make up an average of one in nine board level positions in the UK events industry, exclusive new research from M&IT in conjunction with Fast Forward 15 founder Fay Sharpe has revealed.

The research, arrived at following responses from nearly 500 events industry professionals, also found that the majority of board chairs (77 per cent) are male, as are almost three quarters of CEOs (73 per cent).

The full analysis of the Women in Events 2017 survey will be released in the September issue of M&IT magazine. It comes amid widespread debate about the role of women in the workforce, following the BBC's pay gap scandal and the leaking of a sexist email from a Google employee.

Sharpe said she was not surprised by the under-representation of women in senior positions. "It has confirmed what I’ve been saying for the last four or so years. What this research shows is a bias in our industry, and it’s not intentional; I think it’s unconscious. There are areas that we know hold women back and there are challenges. But something needs to happen and it has to come from those who are at the top of the businesses," she said.

It is thought that women represent about 70 per cent of the UK events industry.

Asked whether women were under-represented at board level, 57 per cent of respondents said they believed they were. Of the 496 respondents, the majority (82 per cent) were women. More than half (52 per cent) were either agency or corporate.

Alan Newton, of Eventopedia, said: "Prima facie, it's pretty incriminating for a female-dominated industry, and although I’ve been vocal on the issue of diversity I would issue caution on the conclusions we draw. Much attention is focussed on gender, but I believe we need to tackle diversity more broadly, and the current political climate adds increasing challenges.  In the past 12-months, we’ve been strengthening our advisory board and despite reaching out to a diverse group, have – barring one exception – only had white males answering the call.  That means, despite best intentions, our non-executive board has a gender ratio of 1 female in 6. Sometimes, there are other factors driving statistics, and there needs to be greater confidence in stepping forward for opportunities.  That, of course, could also be symptomatic of the environment."

Nicola Burns, MD of Ashfield Meetings & Events, said flexible work options had helped female employees. The agency has four women and one man sitting on the board.

"The ratio of women to men is the same through our senior leadership team and all the way through the business. It's quite an interesting statistic and it's nice to see the senior team is reflecting the rest of the agency. It also gives every employee visibility of the progression opportunities available to them."

  • Rebecca Dempsey of Primary 23/08/2017

    Unfortunately this is not surprising at all but is a shame for an industry that is often dominated by women at other levels. I've known companies to specifically bring across men from other industries due to 'transferable skills' rather than looking at the brilliant women that are already around. I would also be interested to know the average age of board level personnel, I think there's often a misrepresentation when it comes to anyone under 40 who may also have a valuable contribution at board level.

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