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Women should be 'leading the charge' in the events industry

Women should be frontrunners in the industry, the latest edition of discussion forum EventHuddle heard

Pictured: The panel at EventHuddle at 1 Wimpole St

Women should be “leading the charge” in the events industry, the latest edition of discussion forum EventHuddle heard.

The discussion, titled “What’s holding women back in the events industry?” was chaired by Zibrant MD Fay Sharpe with panelists Rachael Bartlett of Warwick Conferences, Joy Thomas of Lloyds Banking, Carol Stewart of Abounding Solutions and experiential consultant Melissa Noakes.

Noakes said: “I think there’s a lack of confidence in stepping into roles. If there’s an opportunity comes up, a woman is more likely to say “I don’t know if I can do that.

“There are societal problems and children is a big taboo we never talk about, but in an industry that is 70 per cent women we should be frontrunners and leading the charge.”

Stewart said that unconscious bias was also a factor.

“My experience is that women hold themselves back,” she said. “But the industry is still predominantly male at the top, because there’s still a lot of unconscious bias. Confidence is a big factor. I carried out a survey last year in which 78 per cent of women said that fear held them back in their career.”

The panel also discussed the effects motherhood can have on a career in the events industry.

Thomas said: “Being a mother is a positive. Talk about negotiations? It’s not been a problem. If you plan for it, it’s just one of those moments in life. Luckily we’re planners, so we can plan.

Sharpe addressed the lack of women at board level in the industry.

“If we’re honest, across the industry we know there are a limited number of women on boards,” she said. “Sometimes without thinking about it, you interview someone like you, with the same background. That’s unconscious bias. 

“Our industry has a duty to encourage a fair balance. I think it’s about encouraging people to apply and put themselves forward.”

Stewart added: “If you see there are no women at the top, that’s not going to encourage you. Women are getting to a certain level and finding they’re unable to get through.”

Bartlett said that women need to have more confidence and take risks.

She said: “I often say, what would you do if you weren’t afraid? Men are more risk takers, women need to take risks, have more confidence and use positive language. If you know your subject there’s no reason you can’t make yourself do something you don’t want to do.”

Stewart said that it was important that the industry presented a level playing field. 

She said: “I don’t believe in quotas. There is an issue with women progressing. Have a career plan and a vision, choose your battles and find an environment where you can flourish.”

Thomas concluded: “Be accountable, be genuine, trust yourself. You have to trust the decisions you’ve made. It’s not a career ladder, it’s more of a jungle gym.”

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