Association for Women in Events: ‘Female and diverse panels will have an effect on the industry’

President of the Association for Women in Events (AWE), Kiki J Fox (pictured top right) talks to M&IT about the importance of diversity and inclusion in the industry.

What are the main challenges for women in events?
Where do I start? A big challenge in general is women not having access to the resources that help them get ahead in their careers. Women need a community and support. It’s important for women to see other women succeed in top roles.

What do women have to offer the industry?
Passion and drive. We have a lot of ideas, initiatives and goals. The women who are part of the Association of Women in Events are self-motivated and want to work to achieve their goals. There’s also a willingness to help. I’m happy to give up an hour of my time to give advice to other women in the industry.

How has the #Metoo phenomenon affected women in events?
This industry is not exempt from sexual harassment. Carrie Abernathy, the past president of the Association for Women in Events, is really dedicated to this. We formed with other event industry leaders to launch the Events Industry Sexual Harassment Taskforce. The #Metoo movement has put a lot of momentum behind groups all over the world saying sexual harassment is not OK.

We want to provide education and resources. We’ve put out one webinar already and we are working on more in the future.

What are AWE’s goals?
The Association for Women in Events’ mission is to advance the careers of women in the events industry. We have created an online and in-person international community. We provide our community with webinars by amazing speakers who cover a range of topics from salary negotiation to diversity and inclusion to retirement, as well as caring for elderly parents and more.

You were quoted as saying: “Because I couldn’t find any speakers of other genders, age, race, etc., should not be an excuse.”
All male panels definitely still happen. It is not something that should happen. It is really sad in this day and age, although we find it less and less. Or you get one white woman on the panel. We will be launching a speaker directory with our premium membership, so anyone who joins can put themselves in the speaker directory and they can reach out and contact potential speakers.

We want to see diversity in panels and not just in gender. The industry does not look like the panels that we see. We want to see women of all races, religions and ages. Men are also invited to join our organisation and our speaker panel. There may be men who have incredible views and if they are supportive of AWE, we want them to be included because they may have a different viewpoint from other men out there. I feel like sometimes it’s just “let’s grab a token woman” but that is not reflecting the industry.

We want people to say we want the best and the brightest people in this category. Not the first five people that we have heard from 18 times before.

What difference does diversity and inclusion make?
If you start to see there are more people that are different and work together really well, with all these great ideas, then it becomes more natural for you to create a team like that. Different viewpoints are important. A group of scientists doesn’t have to be all men.

What are the key takeaways from 2018?
There has been progress and we have to celebrate that. More female-centred projects and people are taking sexual harassment more seriously. For 2019, the Association for Women in Events is launching our first in-person, full-day event. It’s going to be during March 2019 in Washington D.C. We want people to leave feeling inspired and motivated, as well as leave with tangible tools.

More female and diverse panels will have an effect on the industry. The more that people see that and make it normal, the more it’s going to reflect on the industry as a whole. Have you reached out to women of colour? Make sure your job boards were frequented by people of colour so we can get more diversity in positions of power. The unconscious bias runs very, very deep. We need to bring awareness to this, so people can adjust and pivot.