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Empowering Women in Executive Leadership

Marie Browne
IAEE Chairperson Marie Browne celebrates Women’s History Month by examining the progress women have made in executive leadership and calling for continued support in advancing women in senior leadership roles.

Editorial Note: Originally published in the March 2024 issue of Trade Show Executive magazine.

Throughout my career, I have witnessed the role of women in the workforce undergo profound changes. I am proud of the increasing number of females I collaborate with at the executive level and fully expect those numbers to continue growing, especially given the motivated young professional women I have the pleasure of working with every day. I envision our industry as one in which women will hold an even more prominent place in executive leadership in the near future.

For decades, women have bravely shattered the glass ceiling that has held them back in senior leadership roles. Progress has undeniably been made, but we must not overlook the persistent gender disparities that still exist. The underrepresentation of women in executive positions remains an issue, with limited access to opportunities and biases inhibiting their advancement. Organizations still need to prioritize diversity and inclusion, creating environments where women can thrive and fulfill their full potential.

What can executive leaders do to propel women into upper management positions?

Mentoring and sponsorship programs serve as invaluable tools in leveraging women’s progress toward executive-level equity. They not only provide guidance and support, but also help break the cycle of male-dominated networks that can hinder female advancement. I firmly believe in the power of mentorship because by investing in the growth and development of aspiring women leaders, we can foster a pipeline that attracts more talented women into the C-suite.

Two key obstacles women in executive leadership face involve biases and stereotypes. We often face preconceived notions about gender and leadership styles that undervalue women’s capabilities. It is crucial for us to challenge and dismantle these misconceptions by showcasing the unique strengths and qualities that women bring to the boardroom. Successful executive leaders are well aware that embracing diverse perspectives not only creates a more inclusive and dynamic workplace, but also leads to better decision-making and improved organizational outcomes.

It is vital to create a supportive ecosystem that empowers women to thrive in executive leadership roles by removing systemic barriers, fostering inclusive cultures, implementing flexible work policies and ensuring equal pay. Organizations should also prioritize leadership development programs that address the specific challenges faced by women such as IAEE’s Women’s Leadership Forum, which takes place next month as part of Business Events Industry Week in Washington, D.C. For more than a decade, this program has provided professional growth and networking opportunities to countless women throughout our industry.

I can think of many colleagues who have inspired, motivated and represented women as powerhouses within our industry. Just a few months ago, Marsha Flanagan made history as IAEE’s first female president and CEO since the organization was founded in 1928. I am also honored to follow in the steps of several female IAEE chairpersons in recent years. We are experiencing the field leveling as more women break barriers and ascend to leadership positions.

The future holds immense potential for women to contribute, drive innovation and shape a more inclusive industry. It is incumbent upon female executive leaders to continue advocating for gender equity and champion the cause of empowering women in the workplace so as to inspire younger generations and set the stage for continued progress. I welcome our male counterparts to join us in paving the way for a future where women in executive leadership positions become the norm.

Together, let us push for a stronger exhibitions and events industry based on the incredible talent, enthusiasm and creativity we know it possesses by embracing the contributions women leaders bring to the table.

Marie Browne
2024 IAEE Chairperson
Group Vice President

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