No matter the level of education, years of industry experience or how well they articulate themselves, women need to continue carving their path in the exhibit and events world. I’ve been in this industry for over 15 years, travelled to dozens of cities, worked for multiple organizations (large and small) and there is still an inequality amongst men and women.
In most companies in this sector, female VPs only represent 20-30%, and even less are CEOs. Unfortunately, this stems from the top, and most of the individuals who started the companies were project managers, installers or contractors, who 30-plus years ago were all males. How do women stand out and ensure that their voices are heard? They need to be their own advocates, essentially, and they need to work harder and smarter and speak louder if they want things to change!
Anything you can do, I can do better.
A little anecdote to start this off focuses on a senior project manager who I had the pleasure of working with and admire to this day. When she started with the company, her title was project manager. Her education and experience were impressive to say the least: operations manager, industrial and product designer, university educated and studio manager. Her attention to detail and efficient communication surpassed that of her male counterparts, and yet with all her knowledge and expertise, she was being paid less.
Sure, they had more industry experience, albeit minimal, their communication style was often unprofessional, they were rougher around the edges and their attention to detail was not as refined. After three years of proving herself, she was promoted the senior project manager by working harder and better than those around her. She earned a new title, more money and more job flexibility. She had to champion for equal acknowledgement through her advanced efforts, but in the end it paid off. This was a few years ago. Now, due to the work of that senior project manager and countless other women, I’m encouraged to do the same.
Ask for what you want more than once.
Women need to speak up and ask for what they want. I believe that once a year it is critical to do a self check-in, determine what your contributions have been or what strides you’ve made over the past year that add value to the organization. Asking for a raise at the end of every year is 100% warranted, but unfortunately, women oftentimes do not ask for a raise as frequently as men.
Women need to check their own careers to ensure they are viewed as an asset to the organization. They need to evaluate their contributions and remind themselves and their direct reports that the events they’ve managed, the projects they’ve worked on or the meetings they’ve led have shown an improvement year over year. Include client accolades and emails that highlight these efforts when asking for a raise. Don’t be shy; most men never are.
Own your voice.
I recently read a study on voice pitch that revealed that the way male CEOs sound, specifically their “vocal masculinity,” is directly correlated to their level of pay. Boards of directors tend to favor deeper sounding voices, which equates to higher salaries and perceived strength. That’s frustrating for a lot of women because what are your options? Deepen your voice à la former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes? Not exactly—we all know how that story ended.
Women need to brag more about their accomplishments, assert themselves and lead the conversation with the intention that they are the only ones in the room. What I’ve learned from interviews with colleagues and conversations with friends is that it is okay to talk about yourself and how amazing you are. My only tip is ensuring you read the room and keep an eye on the time, but other than that, go for it and always speak with confidence.
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