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Events industry responds to calls for more action on diversity

Calls for more action on diversity and to make the events industry more inclusive are growing louder.

Like many, I was deeply moved by the murder of George Floyd in the United States, which has triggered waves of protests in Britain about racial injustice.

Turning on the TV, I watched thousands of Black Lives Matter supporters gathered in Trafalgar Square on 13 June, marching through central London to raise issues of racism and police brutality.

I watched with horror at the gathering of far-right activists converging on central London, hoping for a counter-protest with a Black Lives Matter march – which was cancelled over security concerns.

There has been a lot of soul searching about Britain’s colonial past. In Bristol, a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down and unceremoniously thrown in the city’s harbour.

In the events industry, it’s good to see some organisations putting their heads above the parapet to make clear their feelings on this incredibly polarising topic. MPI released a no-holds barred statement on racial injustice and the action that needs to be taken.

Racism and exclusion of any kind is unjust, and the acts of violence that have transpired against the black community are unforgivable.

“Meeting Professionals International has always stood for inclusion. More than 20 years ago, we created the MPI Principles of Professionalism, focused on ‘respecting diversity’ – embracing and fostering an inclusive business climate of respect for all people.

“There is much to learn and even more to do. To ensure our way forward is aligned with the needs of all our communities, we recently established our Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee and forged a partnership with the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals. We rely upon these foundational forces and alliances to inform our actions and ensure the advancement of our industry and our community of professionals – of people – through initiatives that offer support to current members and those in our future.

“Racial injustice, revoked freedoms and discriminatory treatments need to be addressed with a commitment to action and justice. While we don’t know the answers, we strive to be part of the solution by serving as an example of positive change everywhere. Because when we meet, we change the world.”

Zoe Moore, co-chair of MPI’s Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Committee gave an impassioned video message: “I come to you with a very heavy heart. Like you, I projected that 2020 would be a year of absolute clarity. Instead it was clouded with Covid-19 and its increased impact on marginalised communities and the murder of George Floyd in the hands of corrupt police officers.

“My pain is deep, but I am optimistic. We are in a unique position to fulfil MPI’s vision to lead and empower the meetings and events community to change the world.”

That sentiment is echoed by many in the industry, and I would like to hear from other event planners and meetings organisations who are catalysts for change – rather than staying quiet about what’s going on in the world.

Deeds, not words, as the suffragettes once said. Going forward, M&IT will be working with Ashanti Bentil-Dhue, Black in Events founder and director. In her work as an inclusion and equity expert, we will be exploring how we can encourage and support more BAME event planners to further their careers as well as working towards the meetings industry becoming more inclusive and diverse.