IAEE's Inaugural Women's Leadership Forum Draws Rave Reviews

May 31, 2013

With 52 percent of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events’ membership being women and 24 percent of those in C-level positions, the organization heeded the call from its ranks and launched the IAEE Women’s Leadership Forum May 29-30 in Washington, D.C.

Seventy suppliers and show organizers gathered to hear from CEOs from within the trade show industry, as well as speakers such as Betsy Myers, founding director of the center for Women and Business at Bentley University and author of “Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You."

IAEE President and CEO David Dubois welcomed the audience and told them that, although 24 percent of the IAEE female membership was at the C-level, “It’s not an amazing number, but it’s growing every year.”

He added, “We need to help grow (that number) in our industry across the world.”

IAEE COO Cathy Breden said the event wasn't meant to be about "man-bashing", adding,"I do have very passionate views about women in the industry though."

Hattie Hill, CEO of Hattie Hill Enterprises, facilitated the one-day conference program, opening the event talking about how women often try to do everything and need to prioritize more or “their heads will pop off.”

She also added that women, unlike men, are not natural networkers and need to put themselves out there more in order to get ahead.

When Hill asked the audience why they thought women didn’t network as much as men, some of the responses included women are too busy, there is a fear of rejection and sometimes it simply was not knowing what to say when initial contact was being made.

She also asked women how they defined success, and there were very few that said they wanted the corner office, instead saying they wanted to be financially independent, relate to people who would help they grow, be fearless about moving up without apologizing and be challenged on a daily basis.

The first panel of the day included Hill as moderator, along with Christine Duffy, president and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association, Mary Dolaher, CEO of IDG World Expo, and Tina Wehmeir, executive vice president of AMC Institute, who discussed various topics related to their executive roles.

Dolaher said before she even started her career path, she was told that she should try and be a court stenographer because she could “land a lawyer” as a husband.

She didn’t follow that advice, and moved up the corporate ladder to the C-suite, though, she added, it wasn’t something that she ever set as a concrete goal early on.

Duffy said she felt the key to success was perseverance, adding, it was about “sticking with it, despite the obstacles we face.”

She also advised that it was important to “take time to maintain networks and relationships because it doesn’t happen magically.”

Wehmeir said women shouldn’t be afraid to go for that next position or “you won’t be able to get where you are able to go.”

Myers led the lunch keynote and told several stories about how leaders made a difference in other people’s lives, such as at Southwest Airlines, where an employee’s wife suffered from brain cancer and passed away and the company rallied to help him in many ways.

“Leaders bring out the productive feelings in themselves and other people,” Myers said.

She added sometimes it just takes a few moments to recognize someone, “we can live for two months on one compliment.”

The afternoon session was led by Mary Catherine Sexton, executive vice president of Human Resources and Labor Relations for Global Experience Specialists, and focused on how to develop better negotiating skills in work and life.

Some of the things she advised during a negotiation process were to always have a strategy up front, be willing to give up something, practice beforehand and “successful negotiators ask two times as many questions as unsuccessful negotiators.”

Sexton also added, “You’re more likely to work towards a goal if you write it down.”

Marsha Flanagan, IAEE’s vice president of learning experiences, said their goal when planning the conference was to make it “intimate, personal and relevant” for attendees.

After everything was said and done, she added that she hoped people who took part felt inspired to strive for leadership positions within their own organizations.

“I hope they guide others or want to be a more effective leader in their company,” Flanagan said.

Attendee Elena Grant, vice president of marketing for National Trade Productions, said of the event’s content, “From my perspective, at so many events you hear so much the same thing, and this event is so refreshing.”

Grant said that it was important to have the opportunity to network with like-minded women, adding, “There are so many women in this industry. We need to come together to discuss challenges and future opportunities.”

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