Exhibition News February 2019 - Page 25

COVER FEATURE Naomi Barton, portfolio director, Clarion Events Ruth Carter, managing director, Telegraph Events Haf Cennydd, managing director, GovNet Exhibitions Emily Challis, portfolio event manager, Fresh Montgomery Julie Harris, CEO, Upper Street Events Corina Hedley, group event operations director, ITE Group Lori Hoinkes, managing director, Fresh Montgomery Alex Jones, marketing director, CloserStill Media Nicola Macdonald, editor, Exhibition News Lydia Matthews, group head of content, ITE Group Debra Ward, managing director of Camm & Hooper In January 2019, EN gathered a group of senior female organisers for a breakfast roundtable at Camm & Hooper’s Six Storeys to discuss gender equality and equal opportunity in the exhibition industry. Here’s what we found out… or over a year the #MeToo movement has been making headlines around the world. In addition to shedding a somewhat unsavoury spotlight on some high profile individuals in the world of pop culture, it also became a shorthand for looking at gender issues in a wide range of contexts. Most forward-thinking business leaders have a strong awareness of the gender balance, and the gender pay balance, in their workforce, but how can an industry as a whole work to improve its diversity and gender balance? One answer is clearly through its industry press, and while EN works to try and feature a diverse range of individuals each month, on the whole we still have some way to go in achieving gender-balanced coverage. Another is through industry associations, and while things are certainly moving in the right direction, the leadership of the exhibition industry associations still sees an imbalance in terms of gender, with one woman on the 12-person ESSA board, five on the 14-person AEV board and five on the 20-person AEO council. To gauge the opinion of just a small subset of our industry, EN invited some senior female organisers to discuss the topic of gender and diversity in the world of exhibitions, along with their personal experiences. First, the conversation turned to the attendees’ experiences as young women growing up in events. “I’ve realised, looking back, that my personal career experience and mental health have been impacted by some leaders’ decisions that have been under researched or ill-advised, forced through by arrogance or gone unchallenged,” says Alex Jones, marketing director at CloserStill. “I think as people we often struggle to challenge in a positive way. That was definitely the case with myself and I had to learn the hard way that a two-way conversation is okay, no matter the seniority or gender of the person you are discussing things with. “At CloserStill there’s a collective group of women, and indeed men, with similar experiences and we’ve been able to talk about it in a really positive manner. It’s important to be able to make sure that the younger women, and men, coming through have a voice and that they can say ‘that doesn’t seem right’, and are given a platform and encouraged exhibitionnews.co.uk | February 2019 25