Amid the rush of appointments at Sands Expo in Las Vegas during IMEX America, a group of more than 100 women—along with a contingent of supportive men—gathered to celebrate Women in Events. The oasis of community was the Event Tech Tribe booth. The hosts were Leonora Valvo, founder and CEO of Swoogo; and Marie-Claire Andrews, director of operations for the Tribe and former CEO of Show Gizmo; along with IMEX and Association for Women in Events (AWE). The goal was inspiring a better future together.

“I truly believe every woman in our industry, as they climb higher in the ranks, should be looking about her to reach down and pull up the next wave of female leaders,” said Valvo. She added, “I scan the industry and see that women make up the bulk of employees, but there’s a disproportionate amount of men holding the highest-level executive and leadership positions, and that’s got to change.”

Smart Meetings Founder and CEO Marin Bright voiced similar conviction in March when she announced the winners of the 2017 Smart Women awards. “In the female-dominated meetings industry, there are far too few women in leadership and other influential positions.” She added. “Our top goal is to help change this.” The awards are only one part of that mission. Smart Meetings also hosts a Women’s Conference, and publishes educational and inspirational content that will empower people of all genders to take on new challenges. “As a female leader, I have been very lonely at the top, and I’m always excited to see more women join me by stepping up and taking the helm. We salute those on a trajectory to success, and plan to help many more smart women rise up by providing the support they need every step of the way,” she said in her founder’s letter that month.

Power of the Mentor

AWE’s call to arms is a simple question: “What if Women Empowered Women?” The organization, founded by 2017 Top Smart Woman of the Year Carrie Abernathy, is a hub for resources, mentorship and career guidance. It now hosts events, webinars and discussions as part of its mission to start a movement. It also includes an insightful blog article by Andrea Peterson, a lecturer and instructor in the Hospitality, Tourism & Events department at Metropolitan State University of Denver, called “A Great Mentor Is…” It points out that mentoring is about the little things. Her example showed that we can all play a role in the lives of women moving up the ranks of the event industry by doing simple things, such as:

  • Listening—really taking the time to listen and understand the challenges of co-workers, clients, students, friends, that woman on the bus
  • Sharing—leverage the experiences we have had to help others take shortcuts without repeating the same mistakes or searching blindly for solutions we have already discovered
  • Encouraging—sometimes a kind word at the right time, an introduction, another person to repeat our question or applaud our success is all we need to gather the courage and credibility to take on the next challenge.