Gender equality in the events industry – are we up to the Pankhurst standard?

Recently i had one of those days were I felt very privileged to do what I do. It’s not very often that I attend an event were I am truly inspired and may I say it star struck. Our speaker for the event was Helen Pankhurst, great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst the head of the suffragette movement in the UK.

It’s not really surprising that she is a women’s rights activist coming from such a pedigree and her passion for the topic certainly shines through. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist by any means and to be honest it’s a topic I often don’t even think about. I have had the privilege of a good education and I work in a job that I love, maybe I have just taken it for granted and didn’t realise that women still struggle all over the world to even get basics rights.
Believe it or not women only received the right to vote in Saudi Arabia in 2015, I know I was shocked to hear that.

It’s thanks to Helen’s family and many other thousands of ladies that risked everything that the social norm changed and girls had a voice. They gave us a place out of the home where we can achieve anything we want, we can buy our own homes, decide if we want a family or what career we want to follow, very little is off limits to us now, except certain golf clubs!

With gender pay gaps the big topic of the day I wondered how the events industry stood in that arena. As someone who has worked in the industry for over 20 years I have been fortunate to never feel that I wasn’t equal to my male colleagues. When I think back now there was a definite lack of woman in the more technical roles such as lighting and sound engineers, never remember a girl crew member when I worked in agency. I don’t think it was a deliberate thing but maybe just a lack of girls moving in that direction.

I feel like we live in a forward moving society but the statistics show that women account for 47 % of the UK workforce more than ever before but men still hold the vast majority of high profile positions with only 6 % of executive positions in the FTSE 100 being held by women.

So how does the events industry look?

The great news I am pleased to report is that it is one of the female dominated business industries.

Women actually outnumber men 5:2 in junior and senior management teams and the number of women leading event management companies has increased by 40% in the past 3 years. This makes me feel proud to be part of an industry where woman can thrive as much as men and achieve whatever level of success.

There is still an issue around sexual harassment in the industry and a recent survey amongst female event professionals showed 61% of respondents had encountered inappropriate behaviour since working in the industry. I don’t think this is a particular problem in the events industry, more a common work related issue and also a norm that some men in certain positions think they have.

Just think back to the Presidents Club charity dinner in London on 18 January 2018. This event has been taking place for over 30 years and the recent reporting of the scandalous behaviour that went on behind the closed doors was surely always part of the event. Clearly girls involved were either too scared or paid off reporting what really happened. Don’t get me wrong I have seen rowdy groups of woman on a night out, but I think it’s the fact that it was organised in the name of charity and it was hidden for so long. These guys were leaders of countries and business, celebrities with high influence over every day people and if they think that it’s appropriate to behave in such a way then maybe they are not the right people for the job.

Another article i read recently on BBC news reported that nearly half of female festival goers (43%) under 40 say they have faced unwanted sexual behaviour at a music festival. Not a good statisic but yet again showing how the social norm needs to change. The study also found that only 2% of incidents were actually reported. Maybe event managers we need to provide a safe space at events where anyone feeling uncomfortable can come to for help or advise. I know its costly but its just a thought!!

Maybe it all just links back to the old saying “Always treat people as you would have them treat you”, SIMPLE!

I hope that the exposure of certain event activities and other campaigns such as #metoo will help in the battle to change social norms.

At least the events industry is already ahead of the game.

Happy Planning xx

The Faulty Planner

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