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We are the 80% – Our Picks for the Most Influential Women in the Meetings Industry

April 7, 2012

April 28, 2012Please 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.

Our Counterlist

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 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:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?

57 Comments leave one →
  1. April 7, 2012 12:19 pm

    Well done Elizabeth Henderson 🙂 We are the 80%!

    • April 7, 2012 12:27 pm

      The credit for this goes not just to me but to the writing and research talents of Mariela McIlwraith…and to all the powerful, talented women in this industry who deserve our recognition, and who will hopefully start to get it not just here but from all of us, every day. Let’s use our voices!

  2. April 7, 2012 12:25 pm

    An amazingly powerful and inspiring post, Mariela. Thank you for creating this list of influential women in our industry. Looking on it, I see a group of people who are fully engaged on a very human level, in preparing for a better future for the everyone, rather than in building empires for themselves. It makes me very proud.

    We may not be the greatest at using informal networks to promote ourselves, but we are wonderful at promoting our friends. In my opinion, that’s why women do so well as social media marketers.

    After reading this, I feel less bothered by the all-male list of industry influencers. It’s very clear to me where hope for the future lies. Women will be at the forefront, with or without the guys.

    • April 7, 2012 12:32 pm

      Thank you, Jenise – Elizabeth and I really appreciate your comments. I share your hope for social media becoming what I’m calling the new girlz network. One of the linked articles in the post talks about some of the barriers to women becoming part of the informal networks, one of them being that the flexibility in working arrangements that help with work life balance (flex-time, tele-commuting, etc) makes people less available to do the after work activities that shape the informal networks. Social media, and the potential to engage, inform and retweet (something you do exceptionally well) has the potential to change this. Thanks for your comments!

      • April 7, 2012 7:09 pm

        I will check out the articles you mention AND would counter that flexible work arrangements are becoming much more common place with the rise of social networks and virtual meetings. In fact, more and more we are collaborating with people from all over the world without the need for a brick and mortar establishment. The internet has leveled much of the playing field for women from this perspective. I know that I personally have found ways to network with colleagues and potential clients that take advantage of these new tools. Skype, Twitter Chats and Google Hangouts have been invaluable to me for that reason. Maybe things are changing.

      • April 7, 2012 7:21 pm

        Great points, Jenise! Next stop… Ladies virtual golf!

  3. April 7, 2012 1:06 pm

    Terrific article! I have long been concerned that we have so many women, but so many men sit in the upper echelon of our industry (hotels come to mind) and associations. I need some time to get my head around the 118, but I have a few more women I would add to the list. Elizabeth Henderson (yes you), Christine Duffy, Deborah Sexton, Carol Krugman, Carol McKellar, Barb Taylor pop to mind, but I know I am missing many! I was glad to see so many familiar names on your list and privileged to know many and call a number of them friends!

    On another note from when the list was around before, I would go through and circle those I knew and then set a goal to meet at least one new person that year from the list. That is how Joan Eisenstodt went from a name on the list to friend and mentor. So it does have an impact.

    • April 7, 2012 1:18 pm

      Daphne, thank you! I would be honoured to even be in the same room as any of these women (and with you and your Granny, both of you are remarkable!). In fact, to your point, maybe we should get as many of us as possible together and create the ties that bind us, as friends, mentors and colleagues. Mariela and I appreciate your voice.

  4. Claire Smith permalink
    April 7, 2012 1:10 pm

    Now these are real influencers. There are so many amazing women doing remarkable things and you are right, I think they are busy doing good work and helping others to be successful, rather than promoting themselves. Thank you Elizabeth and Mariela for continuing the conversation and Midori for getting it started.

    I am thankful not to be part of an “old boys network” and empowered to lend my voice to celebrate all of the smart, brave, innovative and supportive women who I have the honor of knowing.

    • April 7, 2012 1:14 pm

      Thank you so much for your comments, Claire! Your thoughts on this mean so much to us. Elizabeth and I both have great admiration for you and, in particular, your vision on partnership. We’re honored to know you!

  5. April 7, 2012 1:34 pm

    Great response to the ridiculous article that not only included a bed bug, but men who very indirectly influence our industry. This is a shining example of journalism vs. user generated content today! Your article was much more insightful and educated.

    • April 7, 2012 1:43 pm

      Thank you, Elizabeth! We really appreciate your comment. Elizabeth and I wanted to find a balance between expressing our frustration, recognizing amazing women and providing education on the importance of this issue with both numbers and narrative. I have a feeling that this might have to become an annual, if not quarterly list – there are already some amazing women that we need to add to the above!

  6. April 7, 2012 1:54 pm

    Gratitude to you, Mariela, and to Elizabeth for this. Gratitude to you alone for letting us hijack our intended conversation to figure out how this happened (tho’ we didn’t figure it out!) and rage and rant together about this grievous editorial or other error, and gratitude to you and all who toil in this industry while being female.

    At a time when women’s voices – esp. in the Arab Spring – are being heard louder than ever – and here, in the US, women’s rights are being eroded by those who think we should be “barefoot and pregnant” and not in the workplace, your words mean so much.

    For all the young women in the industry: speak up! Stay with us and know we’ve “got your backs”.

    (If this is a second post, sorry. It was not working well.)

    • April 7, 2012 1:59 pm

      Thank you, Joan! Your encouragement certainly gave me the courage to speak up on this. When you and I first talked about it on skype, I admit to being somewhat speechless. Thank you for laying first tracks on this issue, making it easier for Elizabeth and I to follow.

  7. April 7, 2012 2:19 pm

    Fantastic! Precisely why I sparked the conversation with the thousands of people in my networks! This is a huge movement in my industry (AV/event technology, where we are less than 2% female) in kicking off a major mentorship program through the Women in AV organization. I know firsthand how painful and disempowering it can be to fight and clamor for positive change (namely, sustainability) when in a disparate position. The SM list is 10 steps backwards.

    And I would certainly be sure to add Lara McCullough to your list (and the conversation). She is the founder of the eventprofs community and has been working to develop a formal women’s organization for the meetings/events (ROAR) industry.

    Also, I encourage you to explore research by one of my clients, the Impact Center in DC, focusing on Gender Intelligence. It’s brilliant and inspiring to hear the positive changes taking place at enlightened companies.

    Thanks for an elegantly crafted reply to a thoughtless, shameful article.
    Midori Connolly, Chief AVGirl

    • April 7, 2012 2:37 pm

      Thank you, Midori! Elizabeth and I will definitely look at the research you mention. Thanks as well for raising the issue and for your suggestions for other amazing women to add to the list. You raise an important point about gender roles within our industry, and it is really valuable that you are introducing a mentorship program for Women in AV. Thanks for sharing your voice and sparking this with your networks!

  8. Shawna McKinley permalink
    April 7, 2012 2:58 pm

    Props to you both for putting your feet down and giving honour to those who have made great contributions! Female, yes, and most importantly people just like me/us who can teach, connect, cultivate, empathise, support, empower, affirm, risk, mobilise and inspire. Thinking about them all I realise “influence” is really a rich tapestry of talents and skills combined with the courage to exercise them. Much gratitude to those on and beyond this list who show us through their own humanity that we each have a voice and the power to make things better than they are.

    • April 7, 2012 3:19 pm

      Thank you, Shawna, for adding your voice to the conversation. I love the imagery you use to describe your views. Elizabeth and I feel gratitude to you as well for the great innovations and leadership you show on a daily basis in sustainable events.

  9. April 7, 2012 4:57 pm

    Great call to action!

  10. drtyra permalink
    April 7, 2012 5:12 pm

    Great article, Elizabeth and Mariela! I particularly like your proposed action steps. Keep up the good work. And indeed, carpe everything!

  11. April 7, 2012 7:12 pm

    Thank you soooooooooooo much for your kind comments… as well as the convo on Twitter! So honored!

    • April 7, 2012 7:19 pm

      And thank you for raising awareness about sustainability issues in the promotional products world. I love the videos you’ve been doing!

  12. April 7, 2012 7:57 pm

    It truly is stunning that we were trumped by a bedbug! So looking past that, thank you for looking beyond to both the past and the future and the impact women have had and continue to have in our industry. I too feel so fortunate to know and be positively impacted and have friendships with many of these strong and influential women who deeply care about the people that are part of our meetings – participants, suppliers, planners… those that are making a difference, with or without credit and kudos. Thank you both for your intelligence and ability to so clearly articulate and share relevant, thoughtful and well researched information. We all know that no matter what, we will all (we being those you have noted, many who have commented, and many more as yet “unrecognized) continue to mentor others through work and teaching opportunities, through professional education and informal networking and continue to build community and be the caretakers. As women have done since time began. Thank you ladies. Now to condense this to #118!

    • April 7, 2012 8:07 pm

      Thank you so much for your comments! Elizabeth and I are holding out hope that the bed bug only managed to leap ahead because of alphabet placement! You’re right that there are many people in our industry make a difference, with or without kudos. I really admire the way you reach out and help other women to shine in our industry. You were so deserving of the spotlight at Event Camp Vancouver, but you stood atop a prism to have that light reflect on all the others around. Thank you for all you do to celebrate the many in our industry.

  13. April 7, 2012 8:53 pm

    Elizabeth & Mariela

    Thank you for this eloquently written post. I read the “rant” out loud and it felt great! I felt empowered!

    It was a few years ago when I first heard the words, “Silence is Acceptance”, and the effect on me was jarring. In fact, it changed the course of my career. I became a Green Meeting Planner and with that, came the responsibility to educate and motivate.

    When we sit back and say nothing. When we sit back and do nothing. We are saying that we are accepting the message, the action, the outcome.

    We are definitely not silent 🙂 Thank you for lending your voice and allowing us to lend ours.

    Judy Kucharuk

    • April 7, 2012 9:04 pm

      Thank you, Judy for adding your voice as well and for everything you do to accelerate the movement for sustainability in this industry. Elizabeth and I both value and appreciate the opportunities that we’ve had to collaborate with you over the past couple of years through GMIC. You bring fresh ideas, enthusiasm and creativity with a splash of sass that keeps us on track for laugh line success! Thanks again!

  14. April 8, 2012 4:41 am

    Hope you don’t mind a token male chiming in.

    Successful Meetings made a major bonehead move with this list! It’s really a shame, because a number of the recipients really deserve this recognition.

    A few people that I think they overlooked (A through I) include Kare Anderson, Joan Eisenstodt, and Christie Hicks. These three always make my brain hurt when I get into conversations with them!

    I’m still holding hope that Successful Meetings did a better job on the J through Z’s. There are quite a few more women industry leaders that impact me with last names that are later in the alphabet.

    A few words of advice – Those that impact the industry most, usually have the greatest impact offline. Instead of going on a 118 crusade or ranting, I’d recommend making your difference out on the firing lines, face2face and behind closed doors. That’s where the greatest impact is made. It just gets amplified online.

    • April 8, 2012 6:41 am


      Thank you for joining the conversation. Elizabeth and I are thrilled to have your voice. You’re absolutely right – there are many very deserving men on the list, and this conversation should not detract from their accomplishments. In addition to the industry-specific influencers, I really liked that they included some outside of the industry influences as well, including Jack Dorsey, creator of twitter and Reid G. Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn. These platforms have signaled important changes for the industry. LinkedIn has helped us to better identify those interested in the focus of the meeting, and to provide continuous contact and conversations. Twitter has provided a channel for those of us (I count myself in this group) that are often more comfortable expressing ourselves through the written over the spoken word, and to facilitate dialogue between live and virtual participants of hybrid meetings. To add to this, this article speaks to the benefits of twitter for engaging typically quiet people in the classroom:

      In respect to your very important point – the value of face-to-face: great insight again. I hope to have (or to make) an opportunity to do just as you said and to raise this issue in the offline world. I aspire to be someone who encourages others to grow and that’s where I’d like to continue on this path. Face-to-face opportunities to mentor and be mentored are incredibly valuable and though they can be maintained through online communication, I think that a stronger and more meaningful relationship develops through face-to-face. Earlier in my career, I worked in Albuquerque, NM and was incredibly fortunate to have some amazing men and women from the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce take me under their wing and help me make great business connections and develop my confidence.

      I hope that more of us, men and women, can leverage the prism effect that I mention in the reply to Tahira. When we have a spotlight shining on us, using the opportunity to not only raise our voices, but to stand on a prism and magnify, reflect and share that spotlight.

      Thank you as well for naming some very talented women!

      • April 8, 2012 6:53 am

        Glad you chimed in too, @Dave. And I concur: there are lots of deserving people who can be on any list.

        On FB, Keith Johnston said that he really dislikes lists of “25” or “10” or anything that excludes the many others.

        Having had the initial conversation with Mariela about this, I think that what she and Elizabeth (and I) did in various places was to say “WHOA!” to Successful Meetings: either you made a really amateur editorial mistake (by showing the men first when you could have published the entire list – and we’ll never know if it included women from the start – and featuring one a month with a profile and perhaps a fun Q&A) or you forgot us!

        On another note: I don’t have #118seconds and probl. never will. I do have a willingness to write more letters to editors and think we all should – to use our influence for good (v. evil! .. kidding sorta) and to find ways to talk about our industry beyond GSA’s bad publicity.

        If we want to include the pioneering women of our industry, add Virginia Lofft, Nancy Holder, Suzette Eaddy, Charlotte St. Martin.

  15. April 8, 2012 7:01 am

    Ah .. Judy .. yes, “Silence is Acceptance” and if we all don’t speak up about the list SM published (and we know how many of us in the first part of the alphabet didn’t make it!) list on their web site ( and on twitter and elsewhere, we are not using our voices and influence .. all of us. You too, @Dave, and other men reading this.

  16. Jo-Anne Rockwood permalink
    April 8, 2012 7:50 am

    When reading this article, I did not feel that Mariela and Elizabeth intended to take away the spotlight or accolades from those listed. Rather, they were shocked at those NOT listed, and the stunning omission of any women!

    I am grateful for those women who have gone before me and made an influence in this industry. They have opened doors and opportunities for those to follow. They have been visionaries and game changers, hard workers and innovators, many while balancing a family life. It is indeed a shame we have to have this discussion at all, and that the Top Influencers still resorts back to a gender issue!

    Congratulations Elizabeth, Mariela and Joan for noticing this oversight and breaking the silence.

    • April 8, 2012 8:07 am

      Thank you, Jo-Anne! Elizabeth and I really appreciate you thoughtful comments. It’s been such a pleasure getting to know you through the MPI BC Chapter. One thing I find encouraging is the number of talented and strong women leaders (like you!) working at the chapter level of many of our industry’s associations. I remember being in an undergrad Poli Sci class and hearing that municipal politics is the one that has the most direct impact on our day to day lives, but doesn’t get nearly the attention as the federal (or even provincial) politics and elections. I think the same could be said here – many of the most influential contributions that formidable industry women are making is at the local or even virtual level, and these areas don’t get the same profile as international positions. Let’s get more of our local and virtual champions profiled as well!

      • Jo-Anne Rockwood permalink
        April 8, 2012 9:05 am

        Thanks Mariela! The trick is for all of us to contribute where and when we can. Collaborations and partnerships formed strengthen our industry…..and make our careers that much more enjoyable!

        Keep up the good work MeetingChange is doing!

  17. joaneisenstodt permalink
    April 8, 2012 8:09 am

    We need to honor those women who were pioneers and still are active:

    Add Sara Torrence to this list. She was a founder of SGMP, wrote an amazing book on planning technical conferences, was and is a stalwart in our MPI chapter, and has been an unsung heroine for oh-so-many years. Retired (mostly) now, she has never received the recognition she so richly deserves.

    Add Susan Sarfati to this list too – formerly with GWSAE and ASAE, she has been an outspoken women’s advocate and an untiring supporter of innovative conferences – think the ASAE Global Summit on Social Responsibility.

    Add Liz Jackson on the supplier side who didn’t take the crap and sexism put forth – spoke up and was put in some pretty horrible positions and still stayed strong and fought for a new generation of sales people.

    Let’s keep adding. Let’s ensure women’s voices are heard and we are seen.

  18. April 8, 2012 9:38 am

    Thank you for taking this on; however, how sad that this is necessary. I have been in this industry since 1992, and as I worked my way from front desk to meeting planner to executive director of an international association, I have been so honored and so fortunate to have been befriended and mentored by women holding leadership positions with CVBs, convention centers, third parties, hotels, and other associations like my own. My success is only a reflection of the tremendous support of these women, many of whom are highly visible in this industry and clearly acknowledged leaders. I am so saddened to see that the SM staff was so narrow-sighted, necessitating the need, once again, of our addressing the issues of self-promotion, the negative perception of women who are assertive, etc. But bring it on. Let’s learn, let’s teach, and let’s ensure this is a nonissue in the future without losing or compromising what we, as women, bring to our roles as leaders. Our daughters deserve it. We deserve it.

    • April 8, 2012 9:48 am

      Roberta, thank you so much for your thoughtful and profound response. Elizabeth and I agree – it is sad that we are talking about this today. It is great to see examples (like you) of women who thrive in this industry thanks to the support and encouragement of other women and who voice their appreciation for the support, friendship and mentoring that has helped them to achieve their success.

  19. April 8, 2012 9:59 am

    Tho’ not about this .. it is about women influencers in lives — well said by Maureen Dowd:

    There appears to be a “war on women” by too many, eh?

  20. April 8, 2012 10:23 am

    Women will continue to be a major force in this industry. Females outnumber males 3 to 1 or more in college meetings and events programs.

    • April 8, 2012 10:37 am

      Thank you, Patti! Elizabeth and I thank you not only for your comments, but also your leadership in event education. I have noticed more of a gender balance in my sustainable event management course over the last two terms than in other courses, but it is predominantly women.

  21. April 9, 2012 6:43 am

    Your response post is very well thought out and has sparked an interesting discussion. I also am greatly disappointed by the exclusion of women on the list.

    I do not think creating a list of all women is an effective response…not saying this is what you are doing here, but I worry that it will happen. And I do not like a female only list for the same reason I do not like female only industry groups. “Women in nameoforganizationhere” It says, “we can’t compete as part of the whole so we’ll make up our own circle of influence. We’ve essentially given up.” Women only events and groups are also hypocritical.

    My very first job I reported to a female executive. I admired her greatly for many reasons. One that stands out is how she handled the long-standing company executive retreat. (This was back in the 80s). The executive retreat was held at a hunting lodge in Wyoming and only the male executives were invited (the reason given was that the lodge consisted of one large room filled with bunks…there were not separate rooms and they felt it would be inappropriate to have the men and women sleeping in the same room. At the time there were only three female executives at the company. My boss was one of them. The two other executives made their distaste for the event very obvious. They spent two entire weeks fuming and discussing the unfairness of the retreat. My boss said very little on the subject.

    Sometime in the afternoon the day before the retreat my boss told us she was leaving early and would be out of the office the next few days. She told us she would not be available…where was she off to we wondered? She was headed to the airport to catch a flight to Wyoming. She was going to attend the retreat. We asked if they had changed the policy and were allowing the female executives to attend. No, that had not happened but she said something along the lines of “I’m not even entering into that conversation. It’s an executive retreat and I’m an executive so I’m going.” She showed up, they were all surprised to see her, no one told her she had to leave. She refused to acknowledge she was in any way different because she was a female. It was not a male/female issue…it was an executive issue. She did not whine, she took action. That year was the last all male executive retreat.

    I think this is a good place to quote Madeleine Albright, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

    • April 9, 2012 7:44 am

      Thank you, Traci, for sharing your story – Elizabeth and I really appreciate you joining the conversation. I agree that we shouldn’t have a list of only women, it should be about people who have influence. Our list was meant to highlight some of the great women leaders in our industry that could and should be recognized not for their gender but for their contributions.

    • April 9, 2012 9:59 am

      Traci – you’d REALLY love the work at the Impact Center. It’s all about Gender Intelligence…and favors neither male nor female. More about gaining insight into the challenges each gender faces in the workplace and how employers can accomodate those needs individually (ie forced paternity leave for men).

  22. April 9, 2012 7:57 am

    Are we going “off topic” in responding to Traci’s comments re “women only list” and “women only conferences”? Hope not.

    1. Like Patti Shock, I’ve been around this industry for a very long time. At my first CIC Board meeting, representing MPI, around 1990, I was one of 2 total women with 3 representatives from each industry association. At the first break, I was patted on the head by one of the good old industry boys (may he rest in peace) who told me “Honey, just wait awhile and you’ll learn when to speak up and when not.” (I was put on the Board to represent MPI bec. I would speak up.)

    2. Women are still underrepresented in the leadership and CEO positions of this industry. We are viewed very differently — as are people of color. We are viewed as “the help” often and not given respect. Sometimes we let it happen so we don’t make waves. THIS discussion is making waves and we won’t destroy anything by doing so. I do hope we “wet” enough people to have them acknowledge our influence.

    3. Women in this industry are not as willing to take credit for their work – it still an “aw shucks, anyone can do this” attitude and posture. (I”m generalizing of course.)

    4. There is a gender difference that perhaps years ago I would not have acknowledged. Early feminist that I am (“consciousness raising groups” were part of my life!) I believe in equality and I also read enough and experience enough to know differences exist. Neither good nor bad; just how it is.

    5. Having started an all women’s conference 10 years ago, I learn each year that the women want to keep it that way.

    6. If you read the pages of the industry pubs and count photos, you will see a whole bunch o’ men. Thus this list is critical.

    We can start another discussion about influencers in general. In my post at, I added the CEO of United for his influence on travel. We could add lots of people with paragraphs about them.

    For now, I am grateful for the broader discussion.

    • April 10, 2012 3:11 am

      Joan, I think the point may not have been as obvious as I thought in my story. (Or at least I do not see how it veered off topic) What I learned from Kathy is not to sit on the sidelines complaining about what’s happening…just a) start doing something about it and b) do not even accept it’s existence by following their rules. Don’t like the list…make your own. Don’t like the list, write to their advertisers. Don’t like the list, let them know on their site and through posts like these. But even more importantly…if you don’t like the list, help other women become better at what they do so lists without them on it are just simply ridiculous. We should all be doing something to move our industry forward.

      • joaneisenstodt permalink
        April 10, 2012 4:46 am

        Ah, Traci, thank you for clarifying. Somehow I read your post in a nearly opposite way! (Tired brains do that.)

        Let me, thus, add: for years, I worked with orgs that were about women’s issues and were staffed mostly by women. Younger (than I) women do wanted to be interns or staff at these orgs. Over more nearly 30 years I saw both kind and mentoring women help raise others up and the others who wouldn’t; women who kvetched and did nothing more. It taught some of us very good lessons.

        When MPI started its Women’s Leadership Initiative, I sat with the Chair and asked tough questions and heard the same blah blah blah I had heard around diversity and inclusion initiatives. (The same with ASAE.)

        Bec of MPI, Vanessa Vlay and I said we needed a place where industry women could come together to talk. We created that and it thrives and has for 9 years of gatherings.

        This list and discussion adds to our (women’s) strength. We cannot continue to be passive albeit strong partners in the industry. We have to act and speak out of strength-about our value, our pay and fees, and more.

        We have to support each other differently. We have to take the calls if upcoming leaders – men and women – and mentor.

        We need to broaden this discussion and demand of SM and Vinny, of industry orgs, and elsewhere, that there is something still wrong with what’s been done. (See MPI’s incoming Exec Cmte.)

        And WE have to be inclusive of others and in particular women of color who have had it tougher than many of us.


  23. April 9, 2012 8:00 am

    Thank you Mariela and Elizabeth for being willing to talk about the elephant in the room! I’m so honored to have been included. Reading thru all the posts, I’m inspired by the amount of amazing women that are part of this industry. I too would add at least one more to your list, Shawna McKinley who has added so much to the work around sustainability particularly thru her amazing ability to inspire us to see more opportunities and to articulately and visually tell our stories.

    • April 9, 2012 8:09 am

      Thank you, Amy for your voice and for your leadership – Elizabeth and I are inspired by what you and Nancy have done in transforming our industry and raising awareness. Thank you as well for stepping up and taking on leadership roles in our industry and inspiring others to do the same. On a more personal level, I’m grateful for the genuine way that you are willing to share your expertise in both the sustainability realm and the leadership realm.

      And, agreed – Shawna is an amazing talent! Brilliant, kind and funny!

  24. April 9, 2012 9:06 am

    Elizabeth & Mariela

    GREAT POST extremely right on point! Everyone’s outpour of comments are amazing and right on target! Shame on them for just including men – WE ARE WOMEN HEAR US ROAR!

    • April 9, 2012 9:38 am

      Thank you, Michelle. Elizabeth and I just saw that the Editor in Chief has announced that 10 of the 25 are women, just that they are all at the end of the alphabet. The first will appear on May 1st.

  25. April 13, 2012 10:28 am

    I don’t know where list of additional suggestions for women on the list is, but here are a few for consideration:
    Deborah Sexton, President and CEO, PCMA
    Anna Lee Chabot, I believe the inaugural president of MPI International
    Elizabeth Henderson, Sustainability Strategist at Meeting Change (although is this the same Elizabeth referenced above?
    Joan’s already on the list
    Michelle Russell, Editor in Chief, Convene

    And I’m sure I could go on….

    • April 13, 2012 10:53 am

      Hi Phil,Thank you for adding these great names to the list. Yes, Elizabeth is our very own here at Meeting Change and the author of the rant above!

  26. joaneisenstodt permalink
    April 13, 2012 12:11 pm

    You know .. there are so many women – like Liz Erikson and her grandma — and Sheila Stampfli – and Carol Wallace and so many others who really made waves. Liz is still actively working (w/ Fairmont) and her acceptance speech at the PCMA Foundation dinner a few years ago was amazing. (Am trying to find a link. If others find it first, please post.)

  27. April 14, 2012 1:21 pm

    Great post about a really important issue that has a significant impact on our industry. I have started a discussion in the Event Planning and Management Group to share this and other relevant blogs, pass on information about Monday’s chat and encourage group members to continue the conversation:

    Linkedin Discussion: Reflections from Event Industry Glass Ceiling #eventprofs #eventtable #boyzandbugs

    • April 14, 2012 1:26 pm

      Thank you, Anne! Elizabeth and I appreciate you adding your voice to the discussion and leveraging your influence to help raise awareness.


  1. Hell Hath No Fury… « Dr. Tyra's Thoughts & Anecdotes

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