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The great quota debate rumbles on

Just 7 per cent of global CEOs are women. That stark fact opened the panel discussion about gender equality in the industry at Cvent CONNECT Europe in London (pictured).

And so what should we do about that figure? Should we even do anything? Inevitably, talk turned to the idea of quotas.

On the panel, FIRST director Mark Riches said: “We all know that discrimination takes place every day – but I think that the future does look brighter. Demographics are changing, the work-life balance is changing and in the events world a lot of SMEs are run by women. And I think there will be more opportunities at the heart of corporations.”

And Riches came out in favour of quotas, saying: “In the workplace, leaders must look more carefully for talent in organisations. They should push women and give them more skills.”

IMEX CEO Carina Bauer admitted she was on the fence about the idea.

“I don’t like the idea of quotas for anything,” she said. “If you’re in a leadership position just because of a quota that can be negative. But possibly it’s a short term pain for a long term gain.”

BCD M&E vice president and Fast Forward 15 founder Fay Sharpe was also torn, saying: “Women want to be given a job because they want the job, because they’re good enough.”

But she also cited the example of the Labour Party as an organisation that had used quotas, in the form of all-female shortlists, as a way of propelling women into top-level positions.

And she had this advice for women looking to make it to the top in the industry.

“You’ve got to be yourself, be authentic and engage your colleagues, and if you can do this you’re well on your way to being successful.”

Referring to the tendency for men to only promote men to board level positions, Event Design Collective director Angeles Moreno said: “I don’t believe they do it consciously.”

“We need to change a whole mentality and lead by example, show that there is another way of dealing with gender.

“We need to be less emotional, more strategic and state completely where we want to go,” she said. “If nobody is opening the door for us we have to open the door ourselves.”

Personally, I think that the framing of the discussion needs to move from being about what women need to do differently to focus on what men need to do differently, something Riches touched on during the session. Men are – for the most part – in charge, so it’s men that need to get out of the way for real change to occur. If quotas are going to change men’s behaviour, let’s give quotas a go.

However, it’s your opinions that count most, so please do let us know what you think in the comments.

Paul Harvey, deputy editor M&IT