Exhibition News February 2019 - Page 27

COVER FEATURE “Coming in [to the exhibition industry] as a CEO, a huge number of my peer group are men and being on the AEO board, most of the council are also men. The first people to call me were my male peer group I have had the most amazing support, which hasn’t been the same in every other industry I’ve been in.” No men allowed A perhaps surprising general consensus from the group was that ‘women only’ groups are rarely the way forward (which made EN suddenly conscious that we hadn't invited any men to join the discussion). Jones mentioned that CloserStill regularly holds ‘women in CloserStill’ lunches. “I think people may have thought it stemmed from the #MeToo movement’ which of course it didn’t,” she reflected. “It was simply about having a group of smart women who happen to like and want to support each other and wanted to think about the future of the business and everyone in it, now and for anyone that joins us as we go through the next exciting period of growth.” Carter commented: “I’m not sure how I feel about having a group like ‘women in CloserStill’, ‘women at Telegraph’ etc., can you imagine if there was a similar group of men? I think we have to be really careful.” Debra Ward, MD of Camm & Hooper, mentioned that she had chaired three, ‘women in x’-style groups but had tried to have around 20 per cent of the group by male, adding: “The reason to do it is to give women confidence and to make them feel safe about airing their concerns. Over 20 per cent would change the dynamic, but without it then we’re not as rich.” Lori Hoinkes, MD of Fresh Montgomery, agreed: “I struggle with the idea of the woman only groups too, it feels like a double standard. There really is no issue at Montgomery; when you look at our pay gap the women are making slightly more than the men because the majority of senior roles are held by woman. We’re in a good position. “I do, however, still find some of the more junior women who are coming up through the organisation lack the confidence of their male counterparts, despite their strengths and abilities. There’s an issue of self-confidence that needs to be supported.” “Women seek reassurance much more than men,” added Corina Hedley, group event operations director at ITE Group. “I’ve talked a lot about imposter syndrome. Certainly for younger team members it’s about reassuring them to be strong and be themselves. Operations is predominantly women and I actually do have to be mindful to try and have a mix, and make sure that men are given opportunities and are coming through. I love the idea of including 20 per cent men in a women’s network because a lot of companies do have these women only groups, and they are great, but we do need to be mindful of the male perspective “For younger team director on a very large UK trade event when I had a six year-old and two year-old twins. I had been in the Middle East for seven years. “I witnessed people coming back from maternity leave and just looking completely overwhelmed.” She added that it was fantastic that having a young family didn’t stop her from being hired and thriving in the role. Carter revealed that The Telegraph, including Telegraph Events, has just introduced six month paternity leave with the aim of supporting women in the workplace as well as giving men time with their young families. “For men who take that it will help them understand about the return” she added. “When I had my son, I reckon I was promoted six months later than I would have been. But, you know what, I don’t have a problem with that because I wasn’t there. “I wasn’t there and, also, they don’t know what my head’s going to do. Whether it’s a man or a woman you have no idea how your head is going to play out once you have a family. I don’t mind it being delayed. I think this will help men get that understanding. While our discussion sadly had to come to an end, EN hopes this is just a small part of the ongoing industry-wide reflection on diversity and gender equality. EN What do you think event profs? How should the conversation around women in the industry continue? Email editor Nicola Macdonald at nmacdonald@mashmedia.net. members it’s about reassuring them to be strong and be themselves” – Corina Hedley Family first Naturally, the topic of family and maternity leave was part of the conversation. “Coming into Upper Street, what really struck me was the challenges for women, particularly those who are coming back from maternity leave and who have got kids,” commented Harris. “Being offsite, being away from home, needing flexible working and support and mentoring - this is a particularly heavily operational business, where you are away from home, you work late nights and in the run up to a show it’s 24-7. It’s important to make sure that we support women practically, as well as emotionally. Barton added: “I took the role of portfolio exhibitionnews.co.uk | February 2019 27