EIC Benchmarking Study: Long Road Ahead for DEI in the Events Industry

October 25, 2022

When it comes to achieving diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), the global events industry has a lot of work to do, according to the Events Industry Council’s (EIC) 2022 Equity Benchmarking Study. Released on Oct. 11 in partnership with EIC’s global Equity Task Force, created in 2020 to address systemic racism and all forms of discrimination in the business events and hospitality industry, the study signifies the critical first phase of EIC’s Equity Acceleration Plan.

While there is an ever-growing awareness and commitment toward equity in the industry, survey scores reveal widespread DEI dissatisfaction among event professionals, minority groups and women, indicating that DEI efforts are largely in principal rather than in practice. This points to an urgent need for organizations to advance their DEI structures, policies and initiatives to deliver measurable change, according to EIC CEO Amy Calvert. 

“It’s crucial that we champion inclusivity in our sector as a means to drive economic and social progress,” Calvert said. “DEI needs to be embraced by organizational leadership to be effective.”

Calvert added that the results from the 2022 Equity Benchmarking Study underscore that the industry has a significant way to go, particularly advancing ethnic diversity, gender inclusivity and equity in leadership and influential positions. 

“EIC’s Equity Acceleration Plan will enable us to measure progress as well as improve our ability to deliver impact and sustain change,” she said. 

The 2022 Equity Benchmarking Study included a series of EIC leadership focus group discussions and an AI-based chatbot survey of 1,404 event professionals across the industry. Conducted by Tharoor Associates and Culturelytics, the global survey was executed from Sept. 2021–Jan. 2022. 

To produce a robust, objective assessment, the event industry’s current DEI experience was measured across four dimensions: Ownership, Accountability and Power of Influence, Delivering Change and Sustaining Change.  

Survey findings include:

  • Employed event professionals (83% of all survey respondents) are significantly more dissatisfied with DEI in the industry than those who are self-employed or have alternative employment types;
  • 61% of all surveyed event professionals identified as white and are predominant across all job grades, with minimal representation from other ethnicities, especially in senior management (15% black) and board (6% black) positions;
  • Respondents who identify as black (16%) rated their DEI experience 11% lower across all four dimensions than respondents who identified as white;
  • More than 75% of respondents identified as female, and they are well represented in managerial and senior roles. Six out of 10 (61%) female respondents are in senior management and board job grades, yet they rated their DEI experience significantly lower than male respondents (21%).

“Dismal black and brown representation within the events industry presents barriers to diversity and inclusion in leadership and influential positions needed to impact change,” said Jason Dunn, Sr., co-chair of the EIC Equity Task Force and past chairman of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals. “Dispersed power and greater ownership of roles at all levels is rooted in an authentic DEI strategy, which in turn strengthens our industry’s infrastructure and positions us to compete on a global scale.” 

Dunn added that ultimately, the events industry propels the global economy through thoughtful high impact events. 

“It’s time for us to apply the same commitment, resources and metrics at an accelerated pace to intertwine DEI principles in all that we do,” he said.

The EIC Equity Task Force is committed to addressing the survey findings with actionable and measurable solutions, according to Dunn. 

“The journey won’t be easy, but nothing worth having ever is,” he said.

With the benchmarking study as phase one of EIC’s Equity Acceleration Plan, next up is phase two, which will include a leadership workshop to review the study and shape resources and deliverables that will benefit of EIC membership. 

“The next phase of our work will focus on the first two dimensions of the DEI experience: Ownership and Accountability and Power of Influence,” explained Tina Wehmeir, EIC Task Force co-chair and AMC Institute president and CEO. “To create a sustainable environment of change, we must foster a sense of ownership among everyone.” 

She added that based on a survey finding that minority groups showed higher levels of dissatisfaction in larger organizations, the Accountability and Power of Influence dimension will be a particularly critical area of focus. 

“This further illustrates the need for organizational leadership to connect DEI principals to actual outcomes,” she said. “It also reaffirms the importance of assembling the men and women of the EIC Task Force–they are change agents.” 

According to EIC officials, the Equity Acceleration Plan will support event professionals in creating more diverse and inclusive environments, developing career pathways and ensuring representation in leadership and supply chains by providing the learning and resources intended to reach and support the industry. 

“On behalf of the Events Industry Council board of directors, I want to thank the DEI Task Force for their work and commitment to a project that is so important for the business events industry and to so many individuals in underserved and minority communities,” said Cathy Breden, EIC board chair and executive vice president and CEO of IAEE. “This project establishes benchmarks to measure progress and establish and develop tools and resources for the global business events industry.”  

To view the full 2022 Equity Benchmarking Study and Key Insights/Recommendations, go here.


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