Gender Balance for Better Business Events

6 min read
Q&A with Dr Kate Dashper, Leeds Beckett University
In our quest for more balance in business events, we reached out to researcher and consultant Dr Kate Dashper for her thoughts on the current status of gender equality, and what we need to achieve together as an industry for a more balanced future.

About Dr Kate Dashper

Dr Dashper is Reader (Professor) at the School of Events, Tourism and Hospitality Management at Leeds Beckett University, UK.

Her research applies a critical sociological lens to examine practices of work and leisure, with particular focus on gender issues in events, tourism and hospitality.

Kate has conducted research and consultancy projects within both the events and equestrian industries, evaluating gender equality initiatives in organisations and exploring the gendered experiences of women and men within professional and leisure contexts.

Questions for Kate

How to achieve #GenderEquity at business events, with Dr Kate Dashper Click To Tweet

1. Why is equality important in the events industry?

Equality is important on two key levels.

First of all equality is something that we should all want and strive for, as it is just the right thing to do. No group or individual should be disadvantaged because of historical social patterns and stereotypical beliefs, and as a numerically female dominated sector, the events industry has a special obligation to try to ensure that we offer a fair and enabling environment for everyone – including women – to thrive in.

Second, equality is also important from a business perspective. Evidence shows that countries and companies that are more gender-balanced at senior levels perform better.

Having more diversity – be that in terms of gender, ethnicity, age or any other factor – helps drive innovation and so is key for long-term business success, particularly in today’s global and fast-changing environment.

'The #eventsindustry has a special obligation to try to ensure that we offer a fair and enabling environment for everyone – including women – to thrive in.' - Dr Kate Dashper Click To Tweet

2. What has been your experience/observation of inequality in the business events industry?

The business events industry is like most other business sectors and is dominated at the top by white middle class men.

However the sector is increasingly aware of this, and the need to try to diversify, and I have been involved in industry panel discussions and initiatives to try to address the persistent glass ceiling that can be seen at the top of the industry.

Awareness is an important first step to change, but then some concrete actions are needed to actually bring about that change and we do need more investment and commitment to challenge expectations and support people to leadership positions.

An excellent example of one such initiative is the Fast Forward 15 mentor programme in the UK which offers 15 women a year a chance to be mentored and supported by someone in the sector, but outside their own company. I have been involved with evaluating the programme and the outcomes are quite impressive in terms of supporting and empowering individual women.

'Awareness is an important first step to change.' - Dr Kate Dashper #GenderParity Click To Tweet

3. Do you have any statistics on inequality in the industry globally? In Australia?

No, this is an issue, we don’t have reliable figures so it is difficult to quantify the extent of the issue.

At Leeds Beckett University we are just launching a survey to try to gather reliable statistical information on things like the gender pay gap, and issues to do with promotion, seniority and management responsibility in order to address this lack of knowledge.

Currently evidence is rather anecdotal – we all know there is an issue, but we don’t have reliable data to evidence that. Our survey should begin to address this and we will communicate the findings in the next few months.

This will be UK based initially, but we will then look to replicate that in other countries, including Australia.

'We all know there is an issue, but we don’t have reliable data to evidence that' Dr Kate Dashper on #GenderEquality Click To Tweet

4. The events industry in Australia is female-dominant, similar to what we understand about the UK. How can the industry harness this to become a leader for achieving equality in the overall business sector?

In Australia and the UK we see female numerical dominance of the events industry, and this is really evident when we look at the proportion of men and women studying for events degrees and other higher qualifications.

This marks an opportunity for the industry to harness that female talent and lead the way as a sector for offering women exciting and fulfilling career opportunities, but more will be needed to be done for this potential to be realised.

Mentoring and career support programmes can play an important role but we also need to think about how we organise work and careers in the sector, to be open and accessible to more people. How can we make a leadership career in events more compatible with family caring responsibilities? What can we do to encourage investors to believe more in women entrepreneurs and to support them financially in their business ventures?

These things will not change quickly, but it is encouraging that we are having these discussions more regularly now and that the industry seems committed to change and working towards greater equality.

How can we make a #leadership career in #events more compatible with family caring responsibilities? #GenderEquality Click To Tweet

A Shift to Gender Balanced Events

Event management is an exciting, challenging and rewarding field of work. With more gender balance it will only get better.

The groundwork for change lies in further research into gender issues – like the pioneering work of Dr Kate Dashper – and more people speaking up and taking concrete action.

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Gav George

When his school music teacher loaned him a cassette tape (yes, he's that old) of a fusion band, Gav entered the jazz world after years of classical music training. He was lucky enough to play with some of the greatest living jazz musicians and toured key festivals. Then Enhance founder Alison Clarke called on Gav to work on the company's marketing. This led him to his new passion of… marketing! Gav oversees Enhance's marketing initiatives, gets a kick out of connecting with clients and unearthing new talent. Gav still has that cassette tape, so if his music teacher reads this, please get in touch so he can return it.

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