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The Network of Women in Events (NOWIE) chair Cat Kevern discusses the organisation’s vision of diversity and plans for the coming year.

On the surface, the landscape for women in the events industry looks rosy. With women making up 76.9% of the global pool of events professionals, this sector is unquestionably female-dominated. Or is it?

It is only when we look deeper into the nuance of this industry that an ugly problem becomes apparent. While women make up over three quarters of event professionals, only 22.62% of them occupy roles in the top level of seniority, compared with 46.43% of men. This trend is also seen across pay, promotions and career satisfaction. Women are still experiencing the demonstrable impact of a glass ceiling, preventing them from achieving career success in alignment with their male counterparts.

Perhaps you’re wondering whether men are just better at these jobs? Well, research by MIT found that women were likely to be overlooked for promotions despite outperforming their male colleagues; even with high performance ratings, women were labelled as having ‘low potential’. This is not a skill issue, but a flawed perception that women are less capable of leadership.

So how can we make a difference? That’s exactly what we’re figuring out. NOWIE was established in 2013 with the aim of building a future where women across the industry are recognised for their ability and empowered to succeed. Last year, we took a big step towards that goal with the launch of our mentoring scheme, Level Up. Now in its second year, Level Up matches early to mid-level women in events with a senior-level mentor, to explore topics of confidence, personal branding, self-reflection and more. These pairings are carefully crafted, ensuring that each mentor has in-depth knowledge to offer within the mentee’s specific areas of interest. Due to unprecedented demand, the Level Up cohort has more than doubled in size this year.

My own experiences as both a mentee and mentor have been pivotal in shaping my career, and I firmly believe in its power to challenge gender inequality in the industry; but don’t take my word for it – Leeds Beckett University agrees. They investigated the impact on participants five years after finishing a mentoring programme which was aimed specifically at advancing the careers of women in the events industry. Previous mentees and mentors were found to have experienced long-term changes in their confidence, career outcomes and attitudes towards equality.

Spurred on by the overwhelming response to Level Up, we are more determined than ever. Our plans for this year are already in motion, kicking off with an exciting new committee appointment as Sian Morse steps into a new role as head of commercial and finance.

With our second Galentine’s Day Networking Event selling out in under 48 hours, we are devising many more opportunities to connect with our network in-person.

An improvement in gender equality in top-level roles is the single biggest change I hope to see in this industry. While NOWIE cannot solve the problem of gender discrimination single-handedly, we are determined to remain at the forefront of propelling women towards the success they deserve. What we know for certain is that, when we come together to impart our knowledge, share our insights and uplift one another, real change is inevitable.