Diversity and Inclusion

Breaking the Glass Ceiling in the Business Events Industry


Businesswoman on phone

Skift Take

The meetings industry is dominated by women, but peek into any corporate suite and odds are you’ll find a man. Why is it that so many women having aimed for the upper echelons of management, find themselves up against a glass ceiling?

The glass ceiling, the invisible barrier that blocks women from the top jobs, still exists. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report for 2023, women account for nearly 42% of the global workforce. Yet the share of women in senior leadership positions is 32%.

To try to improve this, Business Events Sydney (BESydney) and the PCMA Foundation have released the final report of Advancing Women in Business Events. This two-part global study focuses on the gender disparity in leadership in the business events industry. This is despite being a female-dominated field. This foundational study will be conducted every two years to benchmark and track progress. 

Industry Leaders Must Walk the Talk

“Gender equity in leadership is not a problem unique to our industry. But the steps we can take to shift the dial are,” says Business Events Sydney (BESydney) CEO, Lyn Lewis-Smith. She also states that everyone within the events industry ecosystem has a role to play, including the individual, employers and the industry as a whole. “Our clients expect us to walk the talk, so it’s important that industry leaders lead the change now that ESG and diversity equity and inclusion (DEI) have moved from a ‘nice to have’ to a business imperative.”

Glass Ceiling a Challenge Faced by Women

The initial report, released during Convening Leaders in January 2024, quantified the size of the problem globally. It identifies the myriad challenges faced by women. It further explores the representation of female leaders in the business events industry. Relative to the global workforce, asking why there are so few women in the C-suite and at the board level. 

PCMA and BESydney believe a diverse and inclusive leadership team is not simply a strategic advantage. It is a fundamental necessity for the industry’s sustained success.

“The global business events industry has an opportunity to be bold. Challenge the status quo and set forth a vision that eliminates barriers. We must be held accountable,” adds Sherrif Karamat, CAE, PCMA and CEMA president and CEO. “While much is being done to support women as a result of DEI across all underrepresented groups, our industry can dismantle unnecessary obstacles to help women advance into leadership roles.”