I was fortunate to be one of 200+ women who descended on new MGM National Harbor in Maryland to attend the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF). The event is in its fourth year, and focuses on topics that are unique to women in the exhibitions and events industry.
The WLF opened with a pre-forum presentation on Personal Safety by Mark Herrera, director of education for the International Association of Venue Managers. His presentation on situational awareness was full of helpful tips on being more observant of our surroundings, always asking “what if,” and devising a response strategy and actions to take if in a situation that just doesn’t feel right or if an incident were to occur. In our industry, many of us travel alone and arrive to airports, hotels and venues at all hours of the day and night. Mark’s presentation armed us with the tools we need to better protect ourselves.
A panel on Resilience provided a lively discussion on issues that are top of mind for women including the ability for women to have it all and the promotion of women in the workplace. Julie Coker Graham, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau believes that women are doing a better job asking for what they want, which is important since as her grandma taught her, “Closed mouths don't get fed.”
Leadership Facilitator Christine Holton Cashen, kept us laughing while learning how to get what we want. From practical advice about email “Stop checking and start doing,” reminding us that “Email is someone else’s to do list for you,” to encouraging us to “BOOGIE – Be Outstanding Or Get Involved Elsewhere,” and “Don’t take up space in someone else’s dream job.” She used humor to inspire us to be our very best. We also were motivated by Debi Silber to make health a priority. She encouraged us to ask ourselves, “What will life look life in five years if I keep this going?”
Other presentations provided helpful takeaways on personal finances, and communication and presentation skills, but the speaker who really stole the show was Jay Newton-Small, a former Washington correspondent for TIME and author of Broad Influence: How Women Are Changing the Way America Works. The facts she shared reminded us of the work that needs to be done and that it will take time, but we need to continue to push ahead. Insights included, “Things change when you hit critical mass. When women make up 20 to 30 percent, women begin to change an institution.” She shared how women tend to be more collaborative. A key example, and the basis of her book, is two years ago, during the government shut down, 20 women out of the 100 U.S. Senators got together and restarted negotiations to reopen the government when the men wouldn’t talk to each other. An impressive and unknown fact to me is that those 20 women ended up producing more than 75% of the major legislation that passed that session. Jay is one smart woman and I can’t wait to read her book.
The Forum also serves as an opportunity to recognize a Woman of Achievement and the 2017 award was presented to Megan Tanel, senior vice president of exhibitions and events of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), and we are honored that Megan (and AEM) are our client. She was recognized for her extraordinary leadership during her more than 20 year career with AEM and her volunteer roles in the industry. She is a role model and passionate professional whose example leads to the advancement of women in the exhibitions and events industry.
Giving back to the community where an event is held is something attendees are eager to support. More than $1,500 was raised for the Capital Area Food Bank which amounts to more than 3,750 meals for those in need in the Capital area. And, attendees cleaned out their closets and donated 130 pieces of clothing and 35 pairs of shoes for Dress for Success.
It was terrific spending time with other women in our industry and sharing our common goals and challenges. For more insights on this year’s WLF, check out the Twitter feed at #IAEE_WLF.
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