IBTM Event Management Gender Equality Report

IBTM Event Management Gender Equality Report

The average percentage of women in executive committee, director or board roles within the Hospitality, Travel and Leisure FTSE 100 is only in the region of 32%, according to research from PWC carried out in 2020.

Whilst this low number may be surprising to some, this disparity will not surprise anyone who has ever looked below the surface of gender within this workplace.

The event management industry is not one that would appear to succumb to gender inequality at first glance, particularly with women making up more than approximately three quarters of the workforce according to our own research.

However, the percentage of men in the event management industry increases significantly with levels of seniority.

So despite more women working within the event management industry and, therefore, in leadership roles than men as a whole, the premise of gender disparity is still very much evident.

We need to be better when it comes to gender equality.

That’s why IBTM has now conducted research into gender equality within the event management industry.

From a global sample of 2000 people working within the event management industry, we found out that 76.9% are women. A female-dominated industry, you could say.

Women In Leadership Within The Event Management Industry

From our worldwide sample, it appears that the number of men within the industry increases as we climb the seniority ladder.

For example, in junior executive roles, the gender ratio of men to women is 1:5 respectively, with just 17% of the workforce being male.

Yet, as we climb in seniority to manager level, the gender split levels out to men making up 19% of the workforce.

And, as we get to leadership levels with roles such as directors, this percentage jumps right up to 37%.

Seniority LevelFemale – TotalFemale – PercentMale – TotalMale – Percent

So, on the surface, there are still more women in leadership roles, yes. But what if we dig a little deeper?

Well, the interesting thing about this is when we look at the percentage of each gender at the different seniority levels.


The results speak for themselves.

When it comes to gender, men within the event management industry have a greater chance of occupying a directorial position than women. Of the sample, only 16% of the women included were at this seniority level in comparison to 32% of men.

Five Tips For Creating A More Diverse And Gender-Balanced Workplace

Gabrielle Austen Browne, the founder of Diversity Alliance and co-founder of the Diverse Speaker Bureau, has shared her insight and thoughts on how to create a more diverse and gender-balanced workplace. Gabrielle is a multi-award-winning diversity and inclusion expert, delivering consultancy, education, training and impactful initiatives to the events and hospitality sectors. She regularly writes about DEI for a variety of industry publications, is an industry judge and lectures on Diversity and Inclusion in events.

#1 Ensure everyone understands and models inclusive behaviours.

One of the most important aspects of creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace is ensuring that everyone in the company, from employees to board members, understands and models inclusive behaviours.

But we’re human, Gabrielle says, so we’re not expected to know everything right away.

Education is key.

Often, people do require some level of training in the different forms of bias that may exist as well as how they can remove these from the organisational practices and business processes such as recruitment and talent development.

Only when everyone is on the same page can you start to create a truly inclusive and diverse workplace culture, Gabrielle concludes.

At the end of the day, all of these strategies require time, resources and budget to be implemented as well as commitment from those in decision-making positions.

#2 Make sure diversity is reflected at all levels.

There is no point talking the talk if you’re not walking the walk. Diversity should be reflected at all levels, including at the top.

If there is a lack of diversity in leadership positions, you should address this and come up with a plan to change it.

An effective way to do this is by collecting data to benchmark those underrepresented in leadership positions. 

It can also be useful to enlist the help of an external independent consultant or professional to facilitate these conversations and encourage more openness, honesty and a plan of action in the collection and usage of the data.

#3 Reflect on recruitment data and assess the shortcomings.

Who is applying for and/or being shortlisted for leadership roles? Are the applicants on the shortlist balanced in terms of background, gender and other diversity? Does it reflect the sort of workplace culture you’re looking to create, Gabrielle asks?

If not, look at your recruitment practices and data. Ask yourself, could there be bias in the job description? Could there be bias in the interview and selection process?

Are there any patterns between those accepting job offers and those who are not? Was there a salary difference, for example? If the answer is yes, Gabrielle claims that it is best practice to develop an inclusive recruitment practice to address this.

#4 Look at gender gaps and normalise conversations around this.

When it comes to these diversity and inclusion gaps, such as an unbalanced leadership team, biased practices or a gender pay gap, encourage people to speak up about them..

Issues won’t go away if we ignore them and will only contribute to poor productivity, motivation and retention in the long run, according to Gabrielle.

Another way to address this is to monitor carefully exit interview feedback and data for any patterns emerging when it comes to gender issues or potentially underrepresented groups.

#5 Establish initiatives that will create a more gender-balanced workplace.

But it’s not all data-crunching and discussions. To create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, you need to establish initiatives that will contribute towards this, Gabrielle claims, with examples being mentorships or female leadership programmes or a talent development plan that will directly support those looking to move into leadership positions. 

Similarly, Gabrielle advises that organisations and companies create a feedback process that monitors the team members’ progress and offers frequent feedback.

For example, at RX Global, we have established a ‘Women in Tech’ mentoring scheme and a Gender Equity Committee.

You can see more information about that here.

Gender Pay Gap Within The Event Management Industry

Taking a sample of UK-based event management companies with 250 employees or more, we found that women are paid less than men across the industry on average. 12p less in the pound, in fact.

For every £1 men receive, women are typically paid 88p for the same role.

This drops significantly when looking at bonuses, with women receiving 55p for every £1 received by their male counterparts, according to the figures we have found.

In all companies analysed bar one, the percentage of male employees receiving a bonus was higher than that of women. Typically, those in higher-up positions are more likely to get bonuses, so these statistics underline our finding that men have a greater opportunity of being in a senior role than women.

This is a concerning finding as, according to a report from PWC, 36% of women admitted that they would leave their place of work if they felt there was not a fair balance between how hard they work and the compensation they receive.

Further figures in this research from PWC also highlighted that 43% of female millennials feel employers are too biased towards male employees.

With all of this in mind, it is important to address other wider issues that could be preventing women from stepping into leadership roles and that could be impacting the gender pay gap.

Realistically, it is believed that the biggest reason why women ‘fall out’ of the workplace between manager and director levels is to have and care for children.

This then often leads to part-time work and lower salaries and bonuses as a result.

It can even lead to a loss of job roles altogether, with research highlighting that as many as 54,000 women may actually lose their jobs each year in the UK as a direct result of pregnancy or maternity according to a 2015 study from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

It goes without saying that the gender pay gap widens after women have children, but this could be reduced if men and women were able to share childcare more equally.

For example, initiatives such as ‘Shared Parental Leave and Pay’ allows working parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay in their child’s first year.

Initiatives like these allow women the opportunity to balance family life with a fulfilling career.

The Opportunity For Diversity, Equality and Inclusion To Create A More Innovative Events Industry For The Future

Kim Myhre, one of the world’s leading design thinkers and thought leaders, shares his expertise of over twenty years and insight into how diversity, equality and inclusion offer the chance to create a more innovative industry.

Kim is the founder of Experience Designed, a strategic advisory and creative ideas generator that aims to create more immersive, engaging and transformative brand experience strategies across live and online channels.

The issue of diversity and equality is not new to the meetings and events industry by any means, Kim says. It has long been known as an industry ‘dominated by women and run by men’.

But, over the past few years, the topic seems to have gained a new sense of urgency.

During the global pandemic, many event professionals were forced to leave the industry, and the recruitment of new staff and new skills was put on hold.

And now, as a pandemic-wounded events world sets about to ‘build back better’, the industry finds itself with staff shortages to be filled and new talent with new skills to be found.

It also finds itself needing more diversity and inclusion practices designed to attract and retain a more socially-aware workforce.

But, the real opportunity for DEI in the events industry is not about building back to the past,

it is instead about building forward to the event industry’s future.

Increasingly demanding and more digitally enabled audiences and the emergence of new experience technologies are now compelling us to explore ideas from outside our traditional events ‘comfort zone’.

A more diverse, interdisciplinary mindset and approach requires a reframing of what ‘experience’, ‘ideas’ and ‘expertise’ means, thus creating collision-prone, serendipitous environments and even challenging our own opinions of what works best.

The concept is simple, though.

Just accept that we don’t know what we don’t know and that there are experiences and ideas found in diversity and inclusion that may offer incredible new ideas and, ultimately, even better results.

Inviting DEI into the event design discipline can lead to the discovery of new ways of thinking about what is possible for a more exciting, more inclusive event industry future.

IBTM is delighted that both Gabrielle and Kim will be sharing their insight at the 2022 event in Barcelona from 29th November to 1st December. Register to attend here.

Gabrielle Austen Browne will be speaking on Wednesday 30th November as part of the ‘Hack to the Future: The EDI Hackathon That Could Shape Your Business Goals’ talk.

Kim Myhre will be moderating the ‘Future Proofing: New Skills for a changed event’s industry’ on Thursday 1st December.

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