Diversity and women in events are two topics high on our agenda this year. It came to my attention early this year when I attended the Best of Events International in Dortmund and listed to Kerstin Wünsch, editor-in-chief at the German trade publication tw tagungswirtschaft and the co-founder of She Means Business conference that had its debut at IMEX Frankfurt this year.
In Dortmund Kerstin presented the results of a study conducted by tw tagungswirtschaft, m+a report and IMEX Group in 2017 called “Women in the events industry – on eye level with men?” and it was a packed session, clearly showing the interest to address the challenges women are facing across areas including salary, responsibility, freedom of action, career opportunities, training and trust.
After learning about this event, I attended She Means Business in May and it lived up to its expectations. Close to 400 participants attended the conference, out of which 10 percent were men. Kerstin is very involved in the events industry in Germany, where she is based, and when you meet her in person you will be also amazed how passionate, committed and engaged she is and a true leader advocating for more equality for women in the events industry.
Let’s start from the beginning, can you tell us about your career journey?
My journey started with an apprenticeship in hotel business in Frankfurt. I did it to work abroad; as a receptionist in France, England and Spain. Back to Germany, I studied economics with a focus on the convention and exhibition industry. Fascinated by the meetings industry, I worked as junior editor and later as editor-in-chief at the trade magazine cim – Conference & Incentive Management. In 2016 I became the editor-in-chief of tw tagungswirtschaft.
What does your typical day look like?
I have two typical days. First, in the editorial office in Frankfurt or my home office in Berlin I get up at seven AM and a have coffee, I flip through social media, mainly Facebook and Twitter. One hour later I check my emails, talk to my colleagues, research topics and call people, write articles and do interviews, work on different projects until the job is done. Second, I am attending a conference, get up early for breakfast with others, listen to speakers and participants, learn and mingle – often until midnight at the “international bar”.
Let’s talk about She Means Business. What inspired you to launch this conference?
It was less an inspiration than the result of our international survey “Women in the events industry – on eye level with men” with the IMEX Group and the m+a report. Every second woman stated she doesn’t feel equally treated like her male colleague in terms of salary and career opportunities. Eight out of ten wish to have a platform to meet and talk. So Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group, and I felt we had a job to do.
Were you faced with challenges in the process and how did you overcome them?
There were two main challenges: Time and money. All of us, the team of IMEX and tw, went an extra mile – long working days and weekends included. And we had great supporting partners like H-Hotels, the Congress Center Hamburg – CCH, the Cologne Convention Bureau and the Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau. They believed in the idea from the very first moment and they put trust in us.
What was a phrase or idea (or a few) that stuck with you from the speakers and conversations?
- “Mission I’m possible”, our speaker Laura Winterling, astronaut instructor, used it.
- No country in the world has achieved gender quality yet, Karin Nordmeyer from UN Women, told us. It will take another 217 years…
- A 10 percent gender pay gap can lead over a lifetime to a 40 percent wealth gap, Dr. Mara Harvey, UBS, explained.
What advice can you give to women aiming for leadership positions in the events industry?
Love what you do! If you don’t love to be with people, don’t think about a career in the meetings industry. Our industry is incredibly enriching. You will meet amazing people all over the world, but it is very demanding. Be ready to work flexible hours, to travel and to leave your comfort zone. Build an international network. Find an issue that really matters to you and become an expert. And, above all: Trust in yourself!
What do you think the industry needs to do next to create more opportunity and leadership?
Celebrate all the incredibly talented women within the meetings and events industry. However, our industry’s workforce is female, but its c-level is male. We need to create awareness for diversity and gender parity by offering platforms – conferences like She Means Business and the pink hour networking opportunity at IMEX – to discuss, to exchange ideas and to cooperate. We need to empower women, educate women and men, and think about mentoring initiatives – which was by the way the most discussed topic in our round table session.
You are the media, so how do you keep up-to-date with industry trends?
Do I keep up-to-date? I have an eye on what is happening in society and science, economy and politics and think about the possible impact on the meetings industry. Furthermore, I am in continuous exchange with planners in corporations and associations, as well as their suppliers. And lastly, I am attending not only industry events, but new, exciting formats like the TINCON, Teenageinternetwork Convention for Youngsters between 13 and 21 years of age. And of course, I am reading and reading and reading articles, newsletters, blogs, posts, tweets…
What are the current challenges in media?
The main challenge is time. How do we balance our online and offline activities? Which content to provide for which channel? How many hours do we allocate to articles in print and in our digital magazine, to our newsletter and social media, to presentations and new research projects? We just did a readers’ survey and found that they (still) like to read our magazine and spend on average 26 minutes reading it. So, print is not “dead”.
What are the current opportunities in media?
We have the chance to reinvent ourselves. Our readers/users look for valuable content to do their job better, but less and less in the way we are used to.
Work life balance or integration? Why?
Because we want the best talents! We will lose many talented women – and more and more men – if they cannot balance their family and professional life. Remember, what Major Nicola Baumann, Eurofighter pilot and keynote speaker at She Means Business, said: It is a marathon, not a sprint.
What’s your favourite business book?
Right now I am reading “Reinventing Organizations” by Frederic Laloux. He could become my new number one.
If you could change one thing in the events industry, what would that be?
I would like to see diversity and gender parity. This is what I am aiming for. The events industry is female with many women doing the job, but you hardly find them on C-level. This gap is bigger than in many other industries. Research shows that diverse management teams are more innovative. Together we can make a difference.
Further readings and links
- International survey „Women in the events industry“ – view here.
- Digital magazine „Women“ – view here.
- She Means Business Conference – view here.
Photo credit: Header photo: EVVC – Europäischer Verband der Veranstaltungs-Centren e.V., all other photos: IMEX Group, video: The MICE Blog