The global meetings and events industry reunited virtually during IBTM World Online from 14-15 December 2021 for two days of quality business meetings and education. One of the on-demand sessions, which attendees could tune in to, was presented by Stephanie Corker of Wasserman, who focused on how the meetings and events industry can become more inclusive, and why it isn’t already.
To set the scene, Stephanie began by presenting some key statistics highlighting the current state of the industry in terms of diversity, equality, inclusion, and equity: only 3% of the industry is represented by black, African or Caribbean professionals; 83% of industry professionals are Caucasians; out of 145 senior leaders across the largest 20 exhibition organisers globally, there are no CEOs from minority groups; 23% of women hold executive roles, and only 3% of people in the industry identify as having a disability.
Stephanie revealed the three factors that are preventing the global meetings and events industry from being more diverse, and what can be done, both from an organisational and an individual standpoint, to contribute to positive change:
Fear is a contributing factor preventing the industry from engaging more with diversity, equity, and inclusion; Stephanie explained how fear prevents us from having the much needed awkward and uncomfortable conversations at times, and that these conversations are paramount to driving real and sustainable change.
As a solution, Stephanie suggests fears can be overcome by having open and meaningful conversations while looking introspectively and analysing our own behaviour and ways of thinking. Instead of worrying about not knowing the correct terminology to use around certain individuals or groups, we should embrace change and be more open to learning and asking the relevant questions to evolve and keep up with the ever-evolving space of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Stephanie said: “equality is the end goal, but equity is the means to get there. Fairness means treating people equitably, which means treating people differently.” She goes on to explain that when offering opportunities to people from a minority group, opportunities must be tailored to these groups based on their needs and requirements.
Some examples include considering that some people don’t drink alcohol for religious reasons when organising events centred around social drinking; considering that a single mum may not have someone available to watch her child during an evening social event; making sure that a venue has wheelchair access; overall making the necessary adjustments to make all individuals feel included from the early stages of conceptualising an event and throughout implementation.
Stephanie concluded her point by saying “it’s really important that on some occasions, you will have to give more to people who need it and less to those who don’t, and that is in principle being fair. Instead of thinking, we should all be equal, we should all be treated equitably to be equal.”
What’s in it for your company when ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion sit at its core in 2022? While some of the necessary adjustments to be inclusive require time and financial resources, this sets the company up for success in the long term and helps it better engage with generations like Gen Z and Millennials. Stephanie added that, by 2030, these two groups will make up to 75% of the working population.
Furthermore, up to 70% of Millennials globally want brands to demonstrate they are inclusive; 80% require of brands that they address societal issues; 72% consider racial equality as one of the most important issues, closely followed by 64% who deem gender equality as the most important. Belief-driven buyers now represent the majority across all markets, age groups and income levels, therefore companies must review and update their practices to stay relevant.
At Wasserman, Stephanie explains how world-renowned brands they work with such as AMEX, Footlocker, AT&T, Lego, are now asking partners and agencies about their diversity and equality programmes at procurement level and require seeing actual proof of implementation before moving forward to ensure the values of brands they engage are fully aligned with theirs. This means diversity, equity and inclusion not only make business sense commercially but also that they prove good business practice.
To conclude her session, Stephanie encouraged attendees to get ahead of the game and implement diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives as soon as possible. This will help attract innovation and capture new markets with new ideas and perspectives brought by a diverse workforce, as well as to increase employee satisfaction and retention.
You may also be interested in…