New Study Launched to Explore Gender Inequality in Meetings and Events

March 8, 2021
New Study Launched to Explore Gender Inequality in Meetings and Events

While a faculty member at East Carolina University, Dr. Alleah Crawford taught courses in event management. She joined the Association for Women in Events as a board member to build connections for her students.

The association may no longer exist, and Crawford is now professor and associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Human Sciences at Auburn University in Alabama, but the work done by both remains of utmost importance to an industry trying to match its talk about diversity and inclusion with action. 

Specifically, there remains a need to elevate women to leadership positions despite studies that show they comprise up to 80% of all event professionals. Men also make, on average, about $4,000 more in annual salary.

Why does such a gap remain?

“Excellent question,” answered Crawford politely.

Alleah Crawford
Dr. Alleah Crawford

Crawford has teamed with popular keynote speaker and emcee Courtney Stanley and Sorcha O’Neill, a hospitality management master’s student at Auburn, to get to the bottom of the long-standing issue.

Step No. 1 is currently underway: the trio has launched a study to gain the perspective of women who have navigated the field. They are seeking experiences of rising the ranks (or not) to identify patterns, behavior and other tell-tale signs that have perhaps hindered advancement.

“If we can identify professional development avenues and barriers for women in this industry, we can then shift our work to focus on closing this gap,” Crawford said.

With a background in academics with limited hands-on experience in events, Crawford is on a fact-finding mission. She knows that factors like environment, support systems and mentors play a major role in other women-dominated fields, and is using them as a starting point for this project.

Stanley is a former board member of AWE, which held its last annual Elevate! Conference in early March 2020 before the pandemic forced the organization to disband. Despite her young age, Stanley, 32, has been an advocate for women in events for years, bringing stories of misconduct to light to help create a better future. When the women’s advancement association succumbed to the pandemic, Stanley co-launched a Facebook community, Meetings Mean Community, to unite event professionals unable to meet in-person.

This project is a natural outgrowth of her mission, Stanley explained.

“The executive leadership gap between men and women in the meetings industry is not simply about gender,” she said. “There are a number of variables and circumstances that can lead to a disparity like this. The more we learn about what has — and what has not — supported the professional advancement of women in the industry, the better we can serve current and future generations by providing relevant training and education, access to effective mentorship and tangible strategies to accomplish more.”

Stanley added, “When both men and women have influential seats at the table, our entire industry reaps the benefits."

Crawford said it’s too early to draw conclusions from the responses she received from her study so far, and there isn’t a set deadline to finish the research. Rather, she said, the initiative is part of a larger undertaking to provide long-lasting benefits. 

“This is not a one-and-done study but an investment into the events industry and inquiry for future research,” she said.

To participate in the study, click here.

More Ways to Celebrate Women

The State of Women Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to amplifying the voices of women and girls through programs and initiatives that support the creation of various forms of digital media, is hosting its International Women's Day Summit Agenda: Amplifying Her Voice from March 8-10. More than 200 speakers from 75 countries will cover topics like blockchain, digital assets, fintech, AI, women in space, global women's entrepreneurship and leadership, podcasts and healing and wellness. Register here.

Staffbase is celebrating International Women’s Day 2021 with a webinar on March 8 at 11 a.m. EST titled #ChooseToChallenge Your Internal Comms: Women as a Force for Change in the Workplace. A recording is available if you can’t join live. A main topic will be covering strategies to uplift and amplify the voices of underrepresented groups in an organization. Panelists include: 

UFI, the Global Association for the Exhibitions Industry, is holding a webinar on Tuesday at 9 a.m. EST, featuring a mixed-gender panel discussing the theme: “Choose to Challenge.” The speakers will engage in a conversation about overcoming adversity to advance their careers. Register here.

Play Like a Girl, a nonprofit based in Nashville, is hosting its Inaugural Women's Leadership Summit on March 19 designed to help women in STEM fields. Play Like a Girl CEO and Founder Dr. Kimberly Clay is including an executive auction that will provide mentorship opportunities with women in leadership positions at big companies like Facebook, Amazon, MLB, Fox and more. The summit will be hybrid, with an in-person component in Nashville.


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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.