By: Mary Tucker, Sr. PR/Communications Manager
Phillip Saims’ goal of “doing well by doing good” is a cornerstone in his life and he shares his story to inspire others to do the same. As an accomplished hospitality professional and gay veteran, he brings more than 30 years of proven sales, solutions, and leadership to whatever he pursues. He creates experiences for his clients so that they can be successful in work or in life. Phil has served in numerous roles during the course of his career, including Director of Sales and Marketing; Regional Director; Vice President of Sales; and Managing Director.
Organizations he has served have ranged from global hotel brands such as The Ritz-Carlton and Hyatt Regency to technology companies, including Knowland Group and SynXis. He was recognized in 2020 with the IAEE Washington D.C. Chapter Chairperson’s Award for his exceptional service to the association. Here, he shares with IAEE his vision for advancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) within the exhibitions and events industry.
IAEE: What inspired you to serve on the IAEE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee?
Phillip: Growing up during a different time period that didn’t have the same support systems and role models that individuals have today, as well as being a gay veteran, has allowed me to have a different lens on life and our industry. IAEE has a culture of support and openness that has allowed me to be myself. Thus, I joined the committee to make a difference in our industry as well as support others. Organizations invest an estimated $8 billion in DE&I according to Workforce Management; however, that does not fully translate into our industry. Our industry is at a crossroads; with in-person and hybrid programs returning, we should take a moment to reflect on how we are doing business.
IAEE: What has been your experience/observations with how the industry addresses DE&I?
Phillip: Over the years our industry has evolved on elements of DE&I. However, we are now focused on a more comprehensive approach of inclusivity. We are making great strides, but we have more work to do to ensure we are bringing out the best in every person.
IAEE: What overall advances would you like to see in the industry regarding DE&I?
Phillip: Having mission and vision statements is a great start. The next critical piece is putting action items and steps in place to achieve those goals. Every person in our industry should reach out to diverse individuals to lift them up as well as engage them. Be a change agent! Having just moderated a DE&I panel at the Cvent Connect Conference demonstrated that this is an important topic, as it was one of the three most-attended sessions during the conference. Our industry is ready, and wanting to move forward and include everyone!
IAEE: How do you think that companies can help advance DE&I?
Phillip: By ensuring when we are in the planning phase of meetings and events that we engage C-Suite, HR and employee resource groups to include everyone in the process. There are many individuals in an organization that planners may not be aware need additional assistance. Create planning checklists that include venue and hotel selections that move beyond the standard ADA requirements and ask questions such as: How does a venue manage multiple groups if a gender-neutral restroom is required? Have we reviewed our marketing content and images to reflect a more inclusive program? Do we have a diverse array of speakers? Review your speaker list to ensure you have a truly diverse group of individuals on stage. We found that, after the recent panel discussion, many individuals came up to one panelist and shared that she was an inspiration to them.
IAEE: What suggestions do you have for individuals who would like to learn more about and/or help increase awareness and advances in DE&I within the industry?
Phillip: I would find a mentor in our industry that is a voice for change and can support you through the process. Change is not an easy thing for people or organizations, so having a resource to both coach and encourage you will be helpful as you move through the process. The most important piece to any change process is to never give up! Our goal of helping others by providing them a voice is a mission that each of us should have in our daily life.
IAEE’s goal is to engage as many members as possible who are willing share their experience to our community on the importance of DE&I. If you have a story to tell, please email Karen Gonzales, CMP, and we will spotlight your experience.