Editorial Note: Originally published in the March 2022 issue of Trade Show Executive magazine.
“We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white. It’s our basic human right.”
– Aretha Franklin
With International Women’s Day approaching on March 8, as well as the IAEE Women’s Leadership Forum on March 23-24, it is a good time to focus on women’s initiatives within the industry. As the “Women to Watch” feature in this issue emphasizes, the contributions made by this segment of our industry are a vital component to our overarching success. Our industry has come a long way, baby. But as noted in McKinsey’s recent Women in the Workplace report, there is still headway to be made (and not just in our industry).
Not surprisingly, a recurring theme among female colleagues is the need for closing the gap that exists in pay and advancement opportunities. The feedback we have received through IAEE’s monthly Women’s Buzz sessions supports the importance of proper acknowledgement of the changing workforce and its evolving needs. This is not news; what is new, is how we may meet those needs.
The McKinsey report details the increasing concern for women regarding burnout, which goes far beyond work/life balance. One of the toughest repercussions of the pandemic has been the increase in workload on staff as companies experienced layoffs and furloughs. The truth of the matter is that women have approached this challenge differently than men. The study states, “A year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, women in corporate America are even more burned out than they were last year – and increasingly more so than men.” It also notes that nearly one in four Americans reports plans of quitting their job within a year.
This hits home for organizational leaders, or at least it should. The last thing we need is a mass exodus amongst our most valuable asset – our teams. As a leader, now is the time to wholeheartedly invest in staff development. We recognize that times are changing, job functions are mutable and upscaling is needed. We must ensure that we meet all aspects of this process, some of which may not have been fully recognized before, such as the mental health needs of our team members. Especially as we inevitably dive deeper into the digital environment, we need to ensure that all voices are heard and we are providing the support and tools needed from a personal perspective.
I would like to take this a step further, though, because it ties into the bigger picture of how we embrace diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). As I noted last month, it is incumbent upon executive leaders to create inclusive environments within our organizations that subsequently ripple out across the entire industry. The McKinsey report cites an additional burden for women of color, who indicated seeing little to no improvement in their experiences with racial equity. Most notably, respondents struggle with the lack of advocacy on their behalf.
There are a lot of things we cannot control right now, but this lack of advocacy is where executive leaders have a golden opportunity to turn things around. We have to be ‘all in’ when it comes to supporting our communities – each and every one! By embracing different perspectives, we not only enrich our personal viewpoints but enrich the aggregate value of our organizations and, ultimately, our overall industry.
We all share the desire to see our industry evolve and grow. How we do that is where executive leaders can step up. I challenge you this month to commit to respecting what each and every member brings to the table by listening to all viewpoints first. Be the last person to speak at your staff meetings. Embrace creativity, ingenuity and collaboration – we’ll all be better for it!
This is what R-E-S-P-E-C-T means to me.
David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA
President & CEO