Trade Show Execs Celebrate International Women’s Day

Andrea Doyle, Senior News Editor
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In celebration of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, TSE reached out to our “Women to Watch” as well as others in the industry about women’s rise to the top, challenges they have faced along the way, and the most useful piece of advice they have ever received.

Here is what they had to say.

Sherry Gendel, CMP, Manager: Exhibition Services, Meetings Department; Radiological Society of North America (RSNA)Sherry Gendel, CMP, Manager: Exhibition Services, Meetings Department; Radiological Society of North America (RSNA)

 Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In, wrote in this important tome, “Many women rise, and stall, on their way to the top.” Why do you feel this is the case? 

I think when a woman stalls in her career it may be because she has stopped looking for new areas and skills to learn. The industry is constantly evolving, and you need to be reading not just purely industry publications but general business and news publications to start to identify trends that are coming. Keep those things you notice in the back of your mind and find ways to apply them to your work.

What is the biggest challenge women in the exhibition industry face?

Balancing work and life can be challenging because many women still want to have a family and traditionally the burden of childcare and home responsibilities fall on the woman. Having a supportive partner who’s willing to share those responsibilities can be the piece that makes all the difference for working moms. The other part of this is when a woman chooses to take a break in her career to focus on her family. Coming back into a full-time career can be so incredibly challenging after a break, but it shouldn’t be a deterrent. I am someone who re-entered the full-time work force after spending time to raise my family and I feel so incredibly fulfilled by the challenges and opportunities I’ve been given in this industry.

What is the most useful piece of advice you ever received?

One of my professors told me, “your age will be viewed as experience so don’t be discouraged starting a second career as an adult.” She could not have been more correct and the boost to my confidence from hearing that propelled me through earning my degree and entering the industry.

Do you have any advice for other women in the exhibition industry?

Never stop learning and never give up…continue to reinvent yourself along your journey.

Melanie Weiner, CEM, Operations Director | CST | FashionMelanie Weiner, CEM

Operations Director | CST | Fashion, Informa Markets

“Many women rise, and stall, on their way to the top.” Why do women feel this is the case?

I think historically women could get to a certain level in a company, but to jump to the top tier of a company was that much harder and for years leadership teams have been predominantly male-dominated.

Are things starting to improve?

Yes, when I look at how Informa has restructured its leadership team, we have seen women breaking the barriers, i.e., Nancy Walsh now leading our North America business and Margaret Ma is leading our Asia business. I work closely with the Fashion group within Informa Markets, and again there I see women leading the charge.

Biggest challenge women in exhibit industry face?

I am grateful that we are moving the needle at Informa, but when you look at the senior management teams across our industry, there is still a long way to go for women to fill even half of those senior roles in many cases.

Most useful piece of advice received?

Be true to yourself, and follow your gut, even if you are in the minority.

Any advice for women in the exhibition industry?

The exhibition industry is a phenomenal industry to be part of; embrace it and do not be afraid to ask for what you want.

Courtney Easton, Director, Event Marketing, National Business Aviation AssociationCourtney Easton, Director, Event Marketing, National Business Aviation Association (NBAA)

“Many women rise, and stall, on their way to the top.” Why do you feel this is the case? 

I think there are many factors that could contribute to this being the case. The first is that across all industries there’s a disparity of females at the top, which makes it challenging for women on the rise to find a female mentor to coach them throughout their career and also find someone whose career they might want to emulate.

Another contributing factor could be that when we are in the beginning of our career it is easier to put in the extra time needed to work our way up the ladder. However as the desire to start a family comes into focus, women get pulled in two opposing directions. Rising female executives have to make hard choices about being there for their family or putting in more time at work. And particularly in the exhibition industry it can be challenging to have a work-life balance given how much travel usually needs to be done throughout the year. In many cases there is no in between and it seems like there is no way to the top unless you sacrifice time with your family. I also think there is a misconception that women have to choose one over the other.

Are things starting to improve? 

We now have our first female vice president of the United States, so I hope this is an indication that it’s improving.

What is the biggest challenge women in the exhibition industry face? 

I think women across all industries face similar challenges. One of the biggest is finding that work-life balance all while navigating and advancing their careers.

What is the most useful piece of advice you ever received?

Treat everyone, no matter their job title or level, like you want to be treated. It’s a small world and you never know when paths may cross again.

Do you have any advice for other women in the exhibition industry? 

It’s okay to push back on a request. If you’ve done the research and the numbers don’t support it, then you should either offer an alternative solution or feel empowered to say no.

Desiree Hanson, Clarion EventsDesiree Hanson, Executive Vice President, Energy North America, Airports and Fashion, Clarion Events

“Many women rise, and stall, on their way to the top.” Why do you feel this is the case?  Are things starting to improve?

I do think there have been patterns and situations where women have been passed over for those top executive roles. I’m seeing less and less of it which is remarkable to witness and to be part of.

What is the biggest challenge women in the exhibition industry face?

Many of the high-ranking roles in exhibitions were filled by men for so many years. And for many of the industries we serve, it was the same case. To change that legacy and behavior has taken quite some time and that can be challenging for women to navigate.

What is the most useful piece of advice you ever received? 

I was told once that I should be an advocate for myself and never to stop advocating for myself. I’ve carried this with me and used it as my north star as I navigated my career path.

Do you have any advice for other women in the exhibition industry? 

Don’t stop believing you can be a catalyst for change, or ultimately be the change. I’ve been witness to an evolution in thinking and behaviors that is only continuing to move in a positive direction. And I will pass on the advice I once received — don’t stop advocating for yourself!

 

In addition to TSE’s “Women to Watch” nominees, Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group, who will be featured in the April issue of the magazine, offered her insights about how the industry can continue to support and grow female leaders.

“Strides are being made,” said Bauer. “Take the Association for Women in Events. It’s fantastic. Sustainability, diversity and inclusion, women’s leadership, it’s about focusing on these things and talking about them openly. What’s also very important is that women don’t speak only to women and exclude men. They shouldn’t think that men can’t be part of the conversation because, at the end of the day, the industry is still heavily dominated by men at the top. Therefore, if we want things to change, we have to involve men in our discussions, and be open to that. I think women and men generally lead in different ways. The key lies in recognizing that and championing those women who can be role models for others.”

Although she feels women have broken the glass ceiling in some sense, she says there is still an imbalance. “That’s the primary issue. This is not a change that’s going to happen overnight. I don’t think there is a deliberate exclusion of women at the top but it takes time to change any norms, and that’s why mentorship and role modeling are so important,” explained Bauer.