Women in the event management industry, just as everyone else in the industry, have a lot to worry about day-to-day. However, expecting equal salaries and respect to match shouldn’t be on those virtually endless to-do lists. Unfortunately, securing both remains a persistent issue that requires an unprecedented amount of attention. Three issues are at play when it comes to the gender pay gap.
- Societal Inequality: There is a psychological concept called “emotional labor” that puts undue pressure and expectation on an individual if they are female. In terms of pay, it translates to the expectation for women to do more in order to earn their base salary or invoice payment. Without checks in place, a female event planner could find herself pressured to do for free what a male event planner has no problems charging extra for.
- Salary Inequality: Men, on the whole, have a higher average salary than female peers of the same level of education, job description and experience. This phenomenon is called the gender pay gap—and it’s responsible for women earning less: according to United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, anywhere from 20-25 percent less than male counterparts, simply because of their gender. And female freelancers are paid way less.
- Gender Inequality: Event planning is, by nature and definition, a completely gender-neutral career. Women, however, are often “mentally sorted” into roles like wedding planning, while men are handed the responsibilities of business events.
How Can I Support Gender Equality at My Event?
Employees and Support Staff:
- Highlight the achievements in your field.
- Eliminate expectations of emotional labor.
- Offer ideas for female presenters, experts, and panel-members in your respective field.
- Encourage guests to attend panels and speaking events with female presenters, emphasizing those experts’ portfolios of achievements rather than their gender.
- Eliminate names from proposals for event planners, providing them as “Option A/B/C” and so on, with only pertinent details like experience and capabilities highlighted.
- Suggest that an event budget for a planner be created before selection, rather than selecting a planner based on their projected costs to eliminate consistent undervaluing of services based on gender.
- Support the professional growth of a female event planner by offering a letter of recommendation, positive review or referral to industry peers after the end of a successful event.
CEOs and C-Suite Executives
- Proactively ask and listen to female opinions on both the event planning and event attendee makeup to ensure that everyone has a “seat at the table.”
- Foster and develop gender equality “at home” with periodic audits of your workforce and attitudes.
- If your support staff is revealing the gender of your potential event planner proposals (or employees), ask them to present only achievements and work history/experience.
It is important to neutralize the gender gap not only to be respectful of women but also because inclusiveness builds a stronger, more versatile workforce. Remember, gender bias in conventions isn’t always easy to spot or obvious, but failing to neutralize it will perpetuate a gap in both salary and respect for the hard-working individuals that deserve every dollar they earn, rather than an arbitrary 68 percent of it.
Tim Altbaum, CMP, C SEP, HMCC, CMM, is CEO of San Diego-based event production company Vario.