100 women whose fierce energy inspired the events industry to come back stronger

Smart women know when to stand at the ready and when to pounce on an opportunity. The meetings industry is filled with daring, magnificent leaders who have learned to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals—engaging events that introduce new ways of thinking, behaving and doing business.

We believe in celebrating these fierce leaders so others can learn from their incredible journeys. Now more than ever we need to show the fulfilling lives of the women in this industry, so others can visualize the possibility and join us. That is why, for the seventh year, we are featuring the 100 women who inspire us. With so many worthy candidates in this industry of champions, narrowing down the list is always an adventure of discovery.

First, we put out the call for names of women who inspire our esteemed Smart Meetings community. The testimonials this year were heartfelt and powerful. Some told glowingly of brave women who looked out for their teams and attendees and did whatever it took—including learning how to produce a killer virtual event—to meet their needs.

See our 2022 Smart Women Award Winners!

Many took the time to get certified, and we saw a lot more initials after names or placeholders from those who said they are studying now to take their tests. A number of these ladies pounced on the “opportunity” of being furloughed or laid off to start their own company to solve new problems in creative ways. One woman even transformed herself into a “Safe Travel Ambassador.” We are looking at you, Ashley.

This testimonial sums up a lot of the feelings expressed: “I am where I am in this wonderful industry because of her constant support and push for growth.” Carol, your fan base is deep.

From those nominations, we created a short list and sent three questions to paint a picture of their splendor. First, we asked them to describe how they express their purpose in three words. The descriptions that came up most frequently were inspiration, passion, collaboration, innovation and inclusivity. Those meaningful connector words (as vulnerability researcher Brene Brown would describe them) were visible in their subsequent responses.

We asked them to share what fuels their fierce approach to career and life. You can see their responses below their avatars in these pages. The thoughtfulness was touching and wide-ranging. Everything from family, friends and faith to passion for service and dedication to growth and giving back.

One woman told the story of how she almost lost her life last year and how that helped her put her time on this earth into perspective. We are so happy to be able to celebrate you here, Lakesha.

We also asked some follow-up questions: “How have you pounced on opportunities during challenging times?” and “What are the goals you are stalking for the coming year?” Yes, one respondent commented on the big-cat predator theme reflected in the roaring cover. Those responses are on SmartMeetings.com for you to explore by scanning the QR code with your camera or going to our website.

Finally, we came to the list of 100 inspirational leaders in seven categories. Each is important to the rebuilding of this essential industry. Visionaries paved the way for all of us as groundbreaking leaders. They demonstrated a fearless approach to the craft, and they reached back to clasp the hands of others following their path.

Innovators and Entrepreneurs put something new into the world, created jobs and elevated the industry with fresh approaches and creative solutions.

Industry Leaders and Stellar Performers rise to every new challenge and inspire those around them to bring their best selves. They saw the silver linings and helped others to envision a brighter future.

Rising Stars give us hope for a future led by smart, talented, dedicated professionals. They bring renewed energy and perspectives, and we celebrate their advances in challenging circumstances.

Finally, there are our Hall of Fame recipients. The select few we award with this designation have repeatedly shown themselves as true leaders and role models in our industry. They lead the way for us all.

Winners will be celebrated at a gala dinner at the Smart Woman Summit at Grand Hyatt Nashville in August. This educational day of skill-building and networking will be a reunion of all Smart Women in Meetings Award winners over the last seven years. We look forward to toasting all of you there!