Calling for Gender Equality in the Events Industry

Why We are Showing Only Women on our Website for One Week

11 min read
A call for gender equity in the events industry
We’re making a stand for gender equality. There’s a long way to go before women enjoy the same pay, career opportunities and leadership roles as men.

Together we can make a difference, and to get the conversation started our website will show only women for the week of International Women’s Day, 4th to 11th March.


A call for gender equality in the events industry Share on X

1. Standing Up For Change

A few jaws dropped when our Director Alison Clarke, first raised the idea at a recent WIP meeting.

“We could lose business over this.” said our Marketing Director.

Alison was adamant. “Too bad,” she said. “This is important.”

Granted, it’s a slightly risky move for a leading talent bureau to show only female speakers and entertainers for a whole week. It means more than half our stable of talent – men – will do a disappearing act.

In support of #GenderEquality, more than half our stable of talent - men - will disappear for #IWD2019. Share on X

2. Why We Are Taking a Stand

As a company we pride ourselves on doing the right thing by everyone: employees, clients, suppliers, talent and audiences.

Diversity, gender equality, respect, we were doing it all.

Or so we thought…


Alison recalls the 2016 tweet that had landed us in digital hot water. We’d created a ‘Disruption Speaker Scale’ to help clients find the right disruption expert for their event, sharing it on Twitter.

“The trouble was, it was all white men – a massive oversight on our part,” she explained.

To see our name and gender disparity in the same sentence was a shock to say the least. It launched a phase of deep self-reflection for our team.

2016 was our wake-up call to do much, much better.

A tweet back in 2016 was our wake up call to do more for #GenderEquality Share on X

3. It Starts With Awareness

First, we responded to critics and revised the speaker scale to include more women, and we now consciously keep our eyes peeled for more female experts across all fields, especially those where we fall short of gender balance.

The point here: being aware of gender gaps is the starting point for change. In one way, the Twitter spray was a blessing because we’re now vigilant and actively driving better balance in our business practices.

It started with a tweet.. One company's journey to achieving #GenderEquality. Share on X

4. Equality Policy

We developed our own Diversity Statement to underpin everything we do, and, importantly, how we do it.

For us, diversity is about creating an inclusive, respectful environment that invites participation from people of all races, abilities, genders, ages, ethnicities, creeds and sexual orientations.

The Diversity Statement covers gender equality in our recruitment and workplace practices, as well as the talent we engage and recommend to clients.

Having diversity, equality, inclusion and respected formally documented as policy is a constant reminder to stay aligned with our values.

A Diversity Statement is a constant reminder to stay aligned with values - does your company have one? Share on X

5. Key Learning

Alison pointed out another key learning from the speaker scale experience. Equality doesn’t happen by chance – we can only achieve it through concerted effort and action.

It’s why she was so adamant about using International Women’s Day to draw attention to about gender imbalance in business events, and to start the conversation for change. Inspiring just one person in events to start driving equality in their own circles will make our week of women-only worthwhile.

Lucy Bloom is an author, consultant and conference speaker who is passionate about achieving #BetterBalance, the theme of 2019 International Women’s Day.

She stresses the importance of intention and action:

“…you have to intentionally include women in all aspects of leadership, otherwise they are unintentionally excluded. Gender bias is alive and well. We all have to actively INCLUDE women for better balance.”

– Lucy Bloom, Author, Conference Speaker

Without intention nothing changes, and everyone misses out on a truly balanced perspective. As Bloom says, “Balance is better for business, for policy and for EVERYONE.”

Without intention nothing changes. #GenderBalance Share on X

6. The Stats: Inequality In The Events Industry

You may be wondering what the fuss is about given the Australian events industry is female dominant. Surely, with safety in numbers, the ingrained sexism and gender inequality are behind us?

Unfortunately, statistics tell us there’s work to be done to achieve real equality.

While haven’t found have any specific research on the events sector, across the board workplace statistics show a grim picture and still apply to events:

Source: Gender Indicators Report 2018, Australian Bureau of Statistics

Workplace statistics show a grim picture for #GenderEquality Share on X

7. More Stats: Males Dominate The Speaker Circuit

Globally, almost 70% of speakers are male according to a 2018 analysis:

Source: Gender Inclusion Report, Bizzabo

Check the website of most talent bureaus – including our own – and you’ll see that men dominate. The gap is closing, thankfully, but there’s still work ahead.

As long as one great chunk of our population remains under-represented, everyone misses out on a massive contribution.

Dr Katherine Dashper is a researcher at the School Of Events, Tourism And Hospitality Management, Leeds Beckett University (UK).

One of her areas of expertise is gender in the events industry, conducting research and consultancy projects. Dashpar keenly promotes balance and diversity:

“Diversity is good for business; bringing new ideas, challenging established ways of working and appealing to broader customer bases – not to mention the fact that equality of opportunity should be available to all in an open and just society.”
– Dr Katherine Dashper, Leeds Beckett University

Dr Dashper refers to an industry report that suggests ongoing gender inequality in the UK travel, events and hospitality sector:

only 27% of CEOs and MDs are women
20% of female respondents had personally experienced discrimination in their careers
70% stated ‘traditional bias’ is the main barrier for women’s progress

Despite the awareness of gender bias, there is a lack of action. Dashpar says change will take, “uncomfortable conversations, critical reflection and real bravery from everyone – including those in positions of influence.”

'Change on gender bias will take uncomfortable conversations, critical reflection and real bravery from everyone.' - Dr Kate Daspher Share on X

8. Men Happily Shine Light on Women

When we started planning our website’s week of women only, we’re thrilled to say that the men in our midst – employees, suppliers, colleagues and the talent themselves – have been incredibly supportive.

Our men are real men: self-assured and grown-up enough to survive one week without the focus being on them to raise awareness about the gender gap.

“Mao once pointed out that women hold up half the sky. This great initiative should help us move a little closer to the day when women raise half the roofs.”Ben Elton, Author, Playwright

“I believe we need more women in science for the critical role they play in discoveries that shape humanity. We see the gender divide in science when young boys and girls identify with gender specific career paths. We cannot benefit from social cohesion when half the population are not at the table.”Kaushik Ram, PhD, NeuroImaging Specialist, Brain & Mind Centre, University of Sydney

“I strongly believe in gender equality and would like to share my conviction that the world is a better place because of it.”Andy Jiang, Global Strategy Consultant

As a lover of the work of many women, I hope to see more of it in the world.Simon Hall, Tripod

It’s impossible to achieve gender equality without men’s support, because:

  • Men and women need to work together as equals to achieve better balance
  • Gender equality is a business issue and a social issue, not a women’s issue
  • Both men and women need to change mindsets, assumptions and behaviours

Source: Diversity Council of Australia

It’s not men vs women, but men + women collaborating for gender equality.

Our male talent are taking a back seat for #IWD2019 - not men vs women, but men + women working for #GenderEquality Share on X

9. Closing Gaps Between The Genders

Our website’s week of women has the explicit aim to draw attention to gender disparity, and prompt people to keep it top of mind when making decisions.

Closer to home, we expect the initiative will be beneficial to the company in two ways:

  • We’ll identify exactly where we’re short on female talent in the various entertainment categories and fields of speaker expertise we showcase
  • Create an opportunity to reach out to more female talent

Can you make a stand for #GenderEquality in #events? Share on X

10. Times Are Changing

When it comes to gender balance, times are changing fast.

Consumers, employers, employees, suppliers, performers, speakers and audiences are demanding change. Women and men are speaking up.

You don’t need to look far to see the outrage when women are excluded as keynote speakers:

CES, the world’s largest electronics trade show, was torn to shreds for the lack of gender balance and diversity in its line-up of speakers…

The battle to stop discrimination against women and conference gender imbalance in STEM is gaining traction

Calls for the downfall of the ‘manel’ – all white male speaker panels – abound on social media.

Source: Twitter

It pays to plan for gender balance. Not just to avoid negative press, but to ensure your events provide a comprehensive, enriching and representative experience that your audiences will rave about.

Gender balance is essential to event excellence.

Plan for gender balance in your event and avoid negative press. Share on X

11. Gender Equality Is The Way Forward For Events

In a post #MeToo world with unprecedented attention on gender equality and equal opportunity there’s a groundswell for change.

Hosting a week of women only on our website is our stand to promote better balance in the events industry. It’s not enough to sit back and feel that we’re nice people doing nice things. The only way forward for true gender equality is ACTION.

Watch the rise and rise of female talent as as speakers, entertainers, CEOs, managers, employees, suppliers and audience members, and witness the enrichment of the Australian business events industry.

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About the Author

Jo Tilgals

From managing a Tokyo restaurant to establishing a catering business, the customer has always been at the heart of Josephine’s career. Jo’s high-level communication skills, broad experience and caring manner are the perfect match for your event projects. She handles all details of contracts, invoicing and briefing, freeing up your valuable time and assuring your event will be a huge success.

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