Diversity and Inclusion

Unpacking the Gender Disparity in Industry Leadership

Business woman holding cup of coffee sitting on sofa in an office

Skift Take

Gender disparity rears its ugly head once more. A new report explores why women seldom occupy leadership roles in an overwhelmingly female industry.

According to a new report, a 61% chasm separates women’s representation in the meetings industry workforce from senior positions. This discrepancy far outstrips the global workforce trend for gender disparity. It also calls for an immediate restructuring of the industry’s landscape. The findings reinforce a recent salary survey that revealed a massive gender pay gap in the UK.

The PCMA Foundation and Business Events Sydney (BESydney) created the gender disparity-focused report titled “Advancing Women in the Business Events Industry Study: Part I.” The research was conducted in collaboration with PwC and launched on Monday at Convening Leaders 2024 in San Diego. 

The focus of the research project is to understand why gender disparity disproportionally impacts the meetings industry. It also aims to identify and engage the business events community in “specific and meaningful actions that will advance women into senior leadership roles — specifically C-suite and board roles — within the business events industry,” the report said.

The report also explores the limited career support and development opportunities for women in the meetings industry. Responding to the underlying survey, women felt “leadership roles at their organization were not available to them, or if they were, that they did not have clear steps on how to advance into them.” 

Overcoming Barriers Thwarting Advancement

Barriers form a labyrinth that women in meetings navigate daily of personal, organizational, and societal barriers. The hindrances that persist include limiting beliefs, pay inequity, inflexible work hours, and limited career advancement opportunities. Add to that a lack of mentorship and professional development support, and the path to the top grows even steeper. 

The industry’s male-dominated upper echelons perpetuate a cycle of exclusion that self-sustains. This often results in women sidelining their ambitions or seeking alternative career pathways altogether. A push to significantly increase the number of females in the highest roles of the business events industry “is our moonshot,” said Lyn Lewis-Smith, CEO of BESydney.

A second part of the report, planned for release later in the first quarter, promises a blueprint for change. It will include actionable strategies for companies and individuals alike. It will also make the case for what makes women ideally suited for leadership roles. Finally, it will explore crucial attributes and skills for successful meetings-industry leadership.

“The business events industry is the ideal platform to demonstrate the value that women make every day, and we need to lead by example. Inclusivity and equity are not just the right thing to do, it leads to greater profitability, successful organizations, and a just society,” said Sherrif Karamat, PCMA and CEMA President & CEO.