New Study Launched to Explore Gender Inequality in Meetings and Events

March 8, 2021
New Study Launched to Explore Gender Inequality in Meetings and Events

While a faculty member at East Carolina University, Dr. Alleah Crawford taught courses in event management. She joined the Association for Women in Events as a board member to build connections for her students.

The association may no longer exist, and Crawford is now professor and associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Human Sciences at Auburn University in Alabama, but the work done by both remains of utmost importance to an industry trying to match its talk about diversity and inclusion with action. 

Specifically, there remains a need to elevate women to leadership positions despite studies that show they comprise up to 80% of all event professionals. Men also make, on average, about $4,000 more in annual salary.

Why does such a gap remain?

“Excellent question,” answered Crawford politely.

Alleah Crawford
Dr. Alleah Crawford

Crawford has teamed with popular keynote speaker and emcee Courtney Stanley and Sorcha O’Neill, a hospitality management master’s student at Auburn, to get to the bottom of the long-standing issue.

Step No. 1 is currently underway: the trio has launched a study to gain the perspective of women who have navigated the field. They are seeking experiences of rising the ranks (or not) to identify patterns, behavior and other tell-tale signs that have perhaps hindered advancement.

“If we can identify professional development avenues and barriers for women in this industry, we can then shift our work to focus on closing this gap,” Crawford said.

With a background in academics with limited hands-on experience in events, Crawford is on a fact-finding mission. She knows that factors like environment, support systems and mentors play a major role in other women-dominated fields, and is using them as a starting point for this project.

Stanley is a former board member of AWE, which held its last annual Elevate! Conference in early March 2020 before the pandemic forced the organization to disband. Despite her young age, Stanley, 32, has been an advocate for women in events for years, bringing stories of misconduct to light to help create a better future. When the women’s advancement association succumbed to the pandemic, Stanley co-launched a Facebook community, Meetings Mean Community, to unite event professionals unable to meet in-person.

This project is a natural outgrowth of her mission, Stanley explained.

“The executive leadership gap between men and women in the meetings industry is not simply about gender,” she said. “There are a number of variables and circumstances that can lead to a disparity like this. The more we learn about what has — and what has not — supported the professional advancement of women in the industry, the better we can serve current and future generations by providing relevant training and education, access to effective mentorship and tangible strategies to accomplish more.”

Stanley added, “When both men and women have influential seats at the table, our entire industry reaps the benefits."

Crawford said it’s too early to draw conclusions from the responses she received from her study so far, and there isn’t a set deadline to finish the research. Rather, she said, the initiative is part of a larger undertaking to provide long-lasting benefits. 

“This is not a one-and-done study but an investment into the events industry and inquiry for future research,” she said.

To participate in the study, click here.

More Ways to Celebrate Women

The State of Women Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to amplifying the voices of women and girls through programs and initiatives that support the creation of various forms of digital media, is hosting its International Women's Day Summit Agenda: Amplifying Her Voice from March 8-10. More than 200 speakers from 75 countries will cover topics like blockchain, digital assets, fintech, AI, women in space, global women's entrepreneurship and leadership, podcasts and healing and wellness. Register here.

Staffbase is celebrating International Women’s Day 2021 with a webinar on March 8 at 11 a.m. EST titled #ChooseToChallenge Your Internal Comms: Women as a Force for Change in the Workplace. A recording is available if you can’t join live. A main topic will be covering strategies to uplift and amplify the voices of underrepresented groups in an organization. Panelists include: 

UFI, the Global Association for the Exhibitions Industry, is holding a webinar on Tuesday at 9 a.m. EST, featuring a mixed-gender panel discussing the theme: “Choose to Challenge.” The speakers will engage in a conversation about overcoming adversity to advance their careers. Register here.

Play Like a Girl, a nonprofit based in Nashville, is hosting its Inaugural Women's Leadership Summit on March 19 designed to help women in STEM fields. Play Like a Girl CEO and Founder Dr. Kimberly Clay is including an executive auction that will provide mentorship opportunities with women in leadership positions at big companies like Facebook, Amazon, MLB, Fox and more. The summit will be hybrid, with an in-person component in Nashville.


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