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Courageous Conversation with Carol: True Diversity in the Events Industry

  • Jenna Potter
  • Picture of Jenna Potter
  • 23rd May 2019

This is a guest post by Carol Ann Whitehead - FRSA Co-Founder, The Zebra Partnership - Publishing - Events - Communications - Advocacy.

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She is also the Director of External Relations leading on equality and divesity - The Peoples Hub supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Executive Member of the True Diversity, Inclusive Growth pilot team (a ground breaking initiative which seeks to encourage diverse talent to aspire, flourish and progress to the highest levels of public, private and third sector leadership).

Based on the Eventbrite Pulse report of 2018, the UK events industry is worth over £40 billion, with 10,000 venues and a staggering 85 million attendees. Very healthy.

\We all know the events industry has traditionally been predominantly female, but as a career choice are women managing to break the glass ceiling and take on senior positions? The events industry provides great opportunities for women however its a disappointment at awards ceremonies when the company owners or chief executives receiving the awards are generally white men.

The lack of diversity does not just sit with gender, I’ve been an event specialist for 20 years, my involvement with the United Nations Global Goals via The Peoples Hub compared with research and reports closer to home has seen a worrying trend creeping in where the word ‘Diversity’ is being ‘rebranded’ organisations are reporting diversity stats that only look at gender omitting to include ethnicity, age, sex, sexual orientation, disability and social status.

The hospitality industry in the UK is made up of many nationalities, but not at executive level. Although women were dominating at middle manager positions very few women are still achieving director status and sitting on boards and it needs to change. For BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethnics) this is magnified. The Institute of Directors North West have realised there needs to be a change across all sectors and hosted an event in Lancashire on 21 Feb 2019 entitled ‘Diversity in the Boardroom’ it will be interesting to see how that develops.

Some might say the events sector is more diverse than any other, this could be true, however you really need to look more carefully. The people of colour are not the negotiators, deal makers, primary hosts, venue owners, on Boards or in senior management but serving the drinks, door security or ensuring the hospitality areas are clean and tidy.

That’s where some of the elevated stats come from when submiited. Why is that? The usual ‘stock’ comment is “they don’t apply for the jobs” “we don’t get any ethnic minorities with the right qualifications / experience / attitude” The excuses are endless.

I’m a former Business Communications Associate University Lecturer, I’d nip into Event Management degree lectures, I can tell you the ‘hospitality fruit is on the tree’ is truly diverse dynamic and enthusiastic. So what happens? Where do they go? Apprenticeships and internships programmes play a big role in encouraging a wider calibre of applicant into an events career. Another vital issue is the fairness of recruitment and selection processes, as these determine who can break into the industry in the first place.

Recruiting the applicant that is correct for the role and not considering external influences will ensure a truly diverse and thriving working place. “Don’t put too much weight on academic results. Look for the doers and those who can inspire instead. MBAs can drain your resources while someone without so-called ‘academic excellence’ can deliver much more value to the organisation.” - Philip Mordecai, Curzon

The importance of individuals being judged and chosen for their capabilities to do the job – not for anything else. This is vital, as some companies look at filling their quota instead of filling the role with the right person. To be honest, quotas (such as gender and race) can be prejudice in themselves and almost contradict the whole point of diversity. I don’t agree with diversity "quotas" but I do believe in an open hiring policy and 100% inclusion for all genders, ages, races, religions and sexualities.

Diversity can be improved by opening new channels for those coming into the industry. Many skills are transferable into events and ultimately anyone with a creative flair and organised personality can work in our industry.

Feeding fresh, diverse talent into events is what will keep our industry moving forwards and all agencies should be providing paid apprenticeships and internships to equip young talent with the hands-on skills needed to succeed.

I’ll leave you with an extract from Grant Thornton’s Vibrant Economy blog “The UK falls short when it comes to representing the diversity of the country in its workplaces. Just one out of 15 managerial positions are held by black, Asian or minority ethnic people and only 17% of FTSE 100 directorships are held by women. Yet, diverse teams are proven time and time again to deliver better results. Organisations of any size and sector need access to people with different experiences, skills and backgrounds if they want to succeed.”

The decision makers must be diverse, it doesn’t just happen, a conversation about race is difficult, at times uncomfortable; but the reality is, if we don’t talk about it, we’ll never make the progress that’s necessary, there is a global shift be brave and have that courageous conversation.

By Carol Ann Whitehead FRSA Co-Founder, The Zebra Partnership - Publishing - Events - Communications - Advocacy Director of External Relations leading on equality and divesity - The Peoples Hub supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Executive Member of the True Diversity, Inclusive Growth pilot team - a ground breaking initiative which seeks to encourage diverse talent to aspire, flourish and progress to the highest levels of public, private and third sector leadershipCourageous Conversation with Carol: True Diversity in the Events Industry Based on the Eventbrite Pulse report of 2018 the UK events industry is worth over £40 billion, with 10,000 venues and a staggering 85 million attendees. Very healthy. We all know the events industry has traditionally been predominantly female, but as a career choice are women managing to break the glass ceiling and take on senior positions? The events industry provides great opportunities for women however its a disappointment at awards ceremonies when the company owners or chief executives receiving the awards are generally white men. The lack of diversity does not just sit with gender, I’ve been an event specialist for 20 years, my involvement with the United Nations Global Goals via The Peoples Hub compared with research and reports closer to home has seen a worrying trend creeping in where the word ‘Diversity’ is being ‘rebranded’ organisations are reporting diversity stats that only look at gender omitting to include ethnicity, age, sex, sexual orientation, disability and social status. The hospitality industry in the UK is made up of many nationalities, but not at executive level. Although women were dominating at middle manager positions very few women are still achieving director status and sitting on boards and it needs to change. For BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethnics) this is magnified. The Institute of Directors North West have realised there needs to be a change across all sectors and hosted an event in Lancashire on 21 Feb 2019 entitled ‘Diversity in the Boardroom’ it will be interesting to see how that develops. Some might say the events sector is more diverse than any other, this could be true, however you really need to look more carefully. The people of colour are not the negotiators, deal makers, primary hosts, venue owners, on Boards or in senior management but serving the drinks, door security or ensuring the hospitality areas are clean and tidy. That’s where some of the elevated stats come from when submiited. Why is that? The usual ‘stock’ comment is “they don’t apply for the jobs” “we don’t get any ethnic minorities with the right qualifications / experience / attitude” The excuses are endless. I’m a former Business Communications Associate University Lecturer, I’d nip into Event Management degree lectures, I can tell you the ‘hospitality fruit is on the tree’ is truly diverse dynamic and enthusiastic. So what happens? Where do they go? Apprenticeships and internships programmes play a big role in encouraging a wider calibre of applicant into an events career. Another vital issue is the fairness of recruitment and selection processes, as these determine who can break into the industry in the first place. Recruiting the applicant that is correct for the role and not considering external influences will ensure a truly diverse and thriving working place. “Don’t put too much weight on academic results. Look for the doers and those who can inspire instead. MBAs can drain your resources while someone without so-called ‘academic excellence’ can deliver much more value to the organisation.” - Philip Mordecai, Curzon The importance of individuals being judged and chosen for their capabilities to do the job – not for anything else. This is vital, as some companies look at filling their quota instead of filling the role with the right person. To be honest, quotas (such as gender and race) can be prejudice in themselves and almost contradict the whole point of diversity. I don’t agree with diversity "quotas" but I do believe in an open hiring policy and 100% inclusion for all genders, ages, races, religions and sexualities. Diversity can be improved by opening new channels for those coming into the industry. Many skills are transferable into events and ultimately anyone with a creative flair and organised personality can work in our industry. Feeding fresh, diverse talent into events is what will keep our industry moving forwards and all agencies should be providing paid apprenticeships and internships to equip young talent with the hands-on skills needed to succeed I’ll leave you with an extract from Grant Thornton’s Vibrant Economy blog “The UK falls short when it comes to representing the diversity of the country in its workplaces. Just one out of 15 managerial positions are held by black, Asian or minority ethnic people and only 17% of FTSE 100 directorships are held by women. Yet, diverse teams are proven time and time again to deliver better results. Organisations of any size and sector need access to people with different experiences, skills and backgrounds if they want to succeed.” The decision makers must be diverse, it doesn’t just happen, a conversation about race is difficult, at times uncomfortable; but the reality is, if we don’t talk about it, we’ll never make the progress that’s necessary, there is a global shift be brave and have that courageous conversation. By Carol Ann Whitehead FRSA Co-Founder, The Zebra Partnership - Publishing - Events - Communications - Advocacy Director of External Relations leading on equality and divesity - The Peoples Hub supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Executive Member of the True Diversity, Inclusive Growth pilot team - a ground breaking initiative which seeks to encourage diverse talent to aspire, flourish and progress to the highest levels of public, private and third sector leadership

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