Navigating Male-Dominated Sectors of the Events Industry 

December 16, 2021

Angela Zilm

As an Account Director at Impact XM, Angela Zilm has led new business in the aviation and aerospace industry and had a strong foothold working with clients in luxury retail with one of the top consumer brands. She brings more than 12 years of experience collaborating with clients and managing their experiential marketing and event programs.

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 exactlywe 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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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.