to talk openly.” Haf Cennydd, MD of GovNet Exhibitions, reflected on a gender-based incident early in her career that threatened to impact on her ability to bond with male colleagues, saying: “I remember someone asking me if I’d slept with my boss to get my job, because we got on. “That really, genuinely upset me; it hit me like a hammer that someone would think I was in that position for that reason. It almost made me want to pull back from building relationships with my male colleagues. But then I thought ‘sod this, I’m here because I’m good, I’m not here because I’m a female’. “I’ve seen a huge change in the industry, compared to how I was treated as a junior by some very senior men, who should have known better. I haven’t witnessed those kinds of behaviours in the last five to 10 years. They still exist, but there are also women who behave in those ways. If we’re all aware of unconscious bias then it makes life a lot easier. I don’t feel today there’s such a stigma attached to whether 26 UFI – Women in the industry survey 82% love the industry 69% love their job 52% did not feel equally treated to male colleagues when it came to career opportunities 49% agree with the principle of ‘female quotas’ 61% said their employer actively supports women in leadership roles 53% did not feel equally treated to male colleagues when it came to salary February 2019 | exhibitionnews.co.uk “You have to have the right support systems in place to allow women to rise to the top” – Julie Harris you’re a male or female in a role.” Lydia Matthews, group head of content at ITE Group, agreed: “There are personality traits that get people to where they are, whether they’re male or female. With younger women in the business they’re already coming into the business with a different viewpoint – it’s how you take them and coach them through that journey. I think the male/female divide is a conversation, but it becomes more and more down to the individual and how you can develop people” Ruth Carter, MD of Telegraph Events, recalled learning the offside rule to enable her to participate in conversations in meetings where she was the only woman, adding: “The flip side now is that if you listen to the conversations you’re having around the boardroom, or with your teams, the conversation has gone the other way, It’s not about revenge or retribution, it’s about balance. “The gender pay gap at Telegraph Events is pretty damn good, but one of the big challenges I’m seeing, because we’re quite female dominated, is that if you had a chap that put up a girly calendar we’d be on him in a shot, but I had a lady put up a chippendales- style calendar and she was really surprised when I asked her to take it down.” A strong theme that emerged from the discussion was finding a balance in the workplace and in the wider industry. While sales might be a role typically filled by men, and which should be aiming to being more women into the fold, the inverse is true with the historically female ops roles. The topic of balance led on to a discussion around quotas – always a subject which prompts strong reactions. The research by international exhibition association UFI on women in the industry found that an intriguing 49 per cent of respondents (who were predominantly but not entirely female) were in favour of female quotas for boards. Naomi Barton, portfolio director – Revo Media at Clarion commented: Three of us in this room were lucky enough to be part of a company [Ascential] that for the FTSE 350 had the top percentage of women on boards, and that was a really strong agenda that they pushed.” In 2016, Ascential took part in the Hampton-Alexander review, which aimed to see British business drive to improve further the number of women in senior leadership positions. The review had a stated aim that a third of all FTSE 100 leadership roles to be occupied by women by the end of 2020, up from 25 per cent in 2016. Ascential was highlighted in the November 2016 review as ‘leading the way’, with 57.1 per cent women on its plc board, the highest at the time in the FTSE 350. “Some of the environments I’ve been in have been very inclusive, very focused on that diversity and inclusion piece and in the last few years there have been huge leaps forward,” continued Barton. Emily Challis, portfolio event manager at Fresh Montgomery, commented: “If quotas can help get you to a balanced place then that is a good thing. I don’t think the principle of a quota is a good thing – to be putting women on a board just to have women on a board – but if that’s what it needs and there’s no other way to get women to the table, then I think quotas are the right thing to do.” Upper Street Events CEO Julie Harris added: “I’m all for balance, and it is important to make sure we don’t go the other way. My approach is mentoring and support, as opposed to slamming the table. “You have to have the right support systems in place to allow women to rise to the top. I sit on three boards and I would hate to think that I’m on those boards because I’m a woman, and that I’m a quota. It’s not my experience on any boards I have been on that the men who are there are there due to nepotism.