We are the 80% – Our Picks for the Most Influential Women in the Meetings Industry
April 28, 2012 – Please also read Ode on a Bedbug, our follow-up post. Note that as of April 25, the list included 15 men and the bedbug…so perhaps the ten promised women is down to nine?
April 9, 2012 – Breaking News: Editor-in-Chief of linked list just posted that it will include 10 women out of 25. Just none until May 1. We look forward to seeing the names and to seeing if any of them match our growing list of women admired in the industry. We continue the call for women in our industry to step up, promote themselves and their female colleagues.
UPDATE: In looking over the linked list again, we noticed that it is alphabetical. We are holding out hope for the women in team I-Z, there are many great names on that list. We also recognize that our list is far from perfect, there are many aspects to diversity and geographic range that should be added as well. Nevertheless, we believe strongly that more women should appear in any list of industry influencers.
Elizabeth and I started our company saying that we would measure our success by laugh lines and (triple) bottom lines. We are not laughing right now. This week, I came across a list of the most influential people in the meetings industry. I got to the bottom of the list and it struck me – not a single woman on the list. That said, bed bugs made the cut. I didn’t think it was possible in an industry where there are so many strong and influential women that not a single one was mentioned. (We struggled to find the exact percentage, a somewhat dated source pegs women as 82% of meeting planners, and this seems to match our estimates.) At the same, time, Skype rings, and Joan Eisenstodt comes on the line. I tell Joan the news, and she immediately jumped on this and started the social media #boyzandbugs buzz. It was later brought to our attention that the list is only the first 13 of 25. Even if there are women on the remaining 12, I am somewhat stunned at the editorial choice that didn’t catch the omission and placed a bug in the top cut. Plato once said that “Your silence gives consent.” Elizabeth and I agreed that we could not and would not give our consent to this and decided to co-author a post on the issue. As she sat down to write, she came up with these powerful words:
Women of Influence: The Rant
We are the 80%.
We are inclusive, inventive, innovative, organized.
We are the original social media, the social revolution, the spinners of strategy.
We are the Cassandras, the caretakers of community, the key stakeholders.
We are the people who make the business of creating connections through events come true.
We are the quiet leaders and the not-so-quiet leaders. Our voice may be marginalized and minimized, but we are the majority.
We are not the fairy tale, the handsome prince, or the old boys network.
We are the women in meetings and events. You should honour us, promote us, and recognize our influence. We are the 80%, and we will not be silent.
There are many women that we feel should be on any list of the most influential people in our industry. So here is our counterlist: These are the women we feel should be honored for their true influence on the meetings and events industry (in alphabetical order):
- Terri Breining: Although we would add her to the list for her accomplishments alone, we consider her influence as a mentor to be one of her most powerful contributions to our industry. Terri regularly and selflessly takes time to support others in our industry.
- Joan Eisenstodt: Joan is the conscience of our industry and a voice that should be heard. She raises the tough questions about ethics, social and environmental issues and we are grateful for the conversations that she starts.
- Tyra Hilliard: Tyra brings a much needed focus on risk management to our industry, and combines her legal and academic background to help shape current and future leaders. Her motto “Carpe everything” is both inspired and inspiring.
- Jane McGonigal: From outside our industry perhaps, but this author of Reality is Broken has had a profound influence in the rise of gamification in this industry, including helping to shape the thoughts of our own Elizabeth Henderson.
- Fiona Pelham: Fiona started us down the British Standard down the path to the industry’s first sustainable event standard BS 8901 and has been the Chair of the ISO 20121, the international version of the first standard.
- Christine “Shimo” Shimasaki, DMAI’s Managing Director of empowerMINT.com is revolutionizing how meetings are valued. Her work that is developing metrics for calculating the economic impact of an individual meeting in a destination has the potential to change how negotiations between planners, suppliers and destinations take place.
- Amy Spatrisano and Nancy Zavada: They spearhearted* the sustainability movement in our industry. The founders of MeetGreen and the Green Meetings Industry Council have had a tremendous influence on our industry bringing sustainability issues and the need for measurement to the forefront.
- Shawna Suckow: The founder of SPIN (Senior Planners Industry Network), now the world’s largest association comprised strictly of senior-level planners is changing the rules of the game. She recently released a book “Planner Pet Peeves” that provides insight into planner and supplier negotiations.
- Denise Taschereau and Heidi Thorne: These two women (Denise with Fairware and Heidi with Promo with Purpose) are raising awareness about social and environmental issues in the promotional products industry.
- The Bee: If we’re going to add a bug to the list, it really should be the bee. The Queen bee and most workers are female. Their economic impact is estimated as $217 Billion USD and they are responsible for 1/3 of our food.
*Spearhearting is a word that Elizabeth and I use to describe crafting an initiative that precisely targets relevant results with consideration, concern and care for all stakeholders.
Why we care about this
For us, this isn’t about simply an oversight, or a lack of recognition for the influence of women in our industry – it’s a financial bottom line issue as well. Our industry needs women’s voices at the table. Countless studies have shown the importance of a gender balance in financial performance. A small sample include:
- Catalyst Research Women Board Directors (WBD) Align With Strong Performance at Fortune 500 Companies
- McKinsey Research Unlocking the full potential of women in the US economy
- HBR Blog How Women Have Changed Norway’s Boardrooms
Ultimately, in an industry that is vulnerable to economic fluctuations not to mention environmental, social and governance considerations, we need all of our assets working to keep us on track. This industry would be crazy not to leverage the talent, wisdom and influence of the women in the room.
Why didn’t any women make the list and what do we need to do differently?
I have to ask why didn’t any women make the list? I have a few theories:
- Women need to be better self-promoters: This article in Forbes really drills into the issues around this. I really like the “Princess Myth” concept that they discuss where many of us expect that if we’re good enough, people will notice. We need to be better about telling the world that we are fantastic and not feeling uncomfortable about it.
- Assertive women are (too) often viewed negatively: Assertive men are viewed as strong. This post focuses really well on the double standard that exists when it comes to leadership. For women to achieve and be accepted in stronger roles, we need a paradigm shift regarding perceptions of women who demonstrate assertiveness and leadership.
- There is no “Old Girls Network”: Frankly speaking, men are better at developing informal networks and using them to help each other out. This article discusses some of the issues that contribute to why women are not effectively joining these informal networks. More importantly, they do make a difference. I’m hopeful that social media will spur the adoption of asynchronous informal networks that will cross gender boundaries.
- Mommy tracking is alive and well: In a 2010 National Bureau of Economic Research study, it was found that having a child costs the average high skilled woman $230,000 in lost lifetime wages relative to similar women who never gave birth. I believe this extends to promotions even within volunteer structures. I recall being offered an administrative volunteer role once, assuming I wouldn’t be interested in a leadership role with a young child at home. We need to stop making assumptions, and start making opportunities.
- We expect to, and need to, be asked: When it comes to applying for awards, or leadership roles or board positions, I think women wait to be asked. For my MBA research on high-performing association volunteers, I found women rarely say no when asked to volunteer by senior staff, volunteers or industry leaders (between 78-82% were very likely to volunteer when recruited this way), but more than 25% would ignore passive approaches such as an open call for volunteers. If we want women in influential roles, we need to ask, encourage and provide role models and mentors.
Our Challenge To Industry Women
This week, in MPI’s One+ Magazine, David Basler wrote an article titled “What’s your 118”, referring to lessons from Jeffrey Hazlett on fine tuning your elevator pitch (a topic Elizabeth also wrote about) to within 118 seconds. We issue a modified challenge: What’s your 118 – twitter version: come up with your own stake in the ground self-promoting statement in 118 (retweetable length!) characters. Knowing that we as women need to promote ourselves more, let’s start a #my118 campaign and let’s #EIR (engage, inform and retweet) each other to show support for what I know is nerve wracking. As I issue this challenge, I sit here wondering, “What is my 118, and how will I drum up the courage to post it?”
So we ask, what is your 118, and who is on your list?