Joanne Taylor, East Wintergardens’ venue and events manager says championing women working in the events industry should occur all year round, not just on International Women’s Day
Throughout the years I have navigated my career through venue and management, I have noticed a sizeable shift in the way companies are making a conscious effort to readdress the gender balance in the events world.
Over the last few years in particular, it has been evident businesses across all sectors are proactively holding more events that are putting women centre-stage, championing their professional successes and selecting inspirational women as keynote speakers – all helping to keep the wider conversation of equality at the forefront of our minds…
At East Wintergarden, we have had the privilege of hosting trailblazing events such as the Women in Leadership Conference and the ‘She Can Be Conference’ run by the Lord Mayor’s Appeal that sought to encourage young women to embark on careers in overwhelmingly male-dominated professions such as law, fintech, investment banking and asset management.
With 64% of young women between the ages of 17-21 believing that, all being equal, employers prefer to hire men over women, it is clear that the live events industry needs to play its part in a wider narrative that educates and leads by example. I feel passionate in playing my small part in eradicating the challenges women still face when deciding upon events management as their career path of choice.
Work life balance is without doubt difficult in this industry with early mornings load-ins, late night de-rigs and irregular event patterns. Flexibility (or the lack of) therefore can be challenging especially for those who wish to balance a successful and fulfilling career with the juggling act of raising a family.
For women who have taken time off to have a baby, the idea of returning to work to such an unpredictable lifestyle can be a headscratcher in regards to how to seamlessly marry the two together.
Equally, many women across the board are having to challenge the frequent assumption that because of their gender it’s inevitable and 100% certain they’ll be requesting maternity leave sooner or later.
For those that either can’t or simply don’t want to take the family route, there is subsequently a negative persona to often shake off. Women who prioritise business successes over family are seen as ‘tough’, ‘doggedly determined’ and ‘ruthless’ as opposed to men who are just being viewed simply as ambitious.
Other common myths I am keen to bust wide open is that a woman’s physical strength is a barrier to getting the job done, that we are constantly just trotting round the City in heels, socialising and sipping Champagne.
Just because a saying suggests women are better at multi-tasking doesn’t mean we pick up the slack and unquestioningly should be expected to do more and finally, that our femininity is synonymous with our professional capability.
With these factors in mind, as Venue Manager of a female-dominated team, I have been proactive in putting specific strategies in place to ensure that each team member gets the best level of career support and equal opportunities.
There is a formal training structure in place that gives each member access to a wide varitery of training, as well as the opportunity to participate in focus groups and regular one to ones, providing a supportive space to raise new ideas, discuss professional development plans or bring up any concerns.
I strongly believe that by creating a tight-knit team spirit through honesty, openness and trust is the reason why our venue team has an average of 12 years’ service – a rarity in today’s environment where people on average move to a new position every three years.
For me personally, being a woman in the events industry is an empowering experience especially being part of such a incredible all-female team at East Wintergarden. Team work is crucial and when you all pull together the results are so rewarding – I’ve been at the venue for 17 years and 2018 was our most successful to date, bringing events in from a wider breadth of industries, repeat clients and expanding the high value service we give to our clients.
I feel strongly that the support of women throughout the entirety of the live events industry should be commonplace and not limited to a flurry of conversation around national dates like the recent International Women’s Day.
The world of live events is a fantastic sector to be in and for any young women thinking of embarking on this career, I’d whole-heartedly say ‘Do It’ and make sure you have fun along the way.
You’ll go far if you have a flexible attitude, a passionate outlook on delivering quality and that your best will be good enough.
Undoubtedly it is a world in which you will get out of events the effort you put in, be mindful to take the highs together with the lows and you’ll need an inner strength of character to pick yourself up from time to time and to stand up for yourself.
For more info on venue hire at East Wintergarden, visit https://canarywharf.com/east-wintergarden/