Meeting Mentor Magazine

June 2024

Events Industry Still Has a Way to Go to Achieve DEI

Event professionals, minority groups and women agree that they’re not satisfied with progress being made in making events more diverse, equitable and inclusive.

While diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is on the radar screen of most meeting and event professionals these days, results of a recent benchmarking study indicate that the industry still has a long way to go. The study, the Events Industry Council’s (EIC) 2022 Equity Benchmarking Study, represents the first phase of EIC’s Equity Acceleration Plan. The plan is the work of EIC’s global Equity Task Force, which was created two years ago to address systemic racism and all forms of discrimination in the business events and hospitality industry. But with event professionals, minority groups and women expressing widespread dissatisfaction with DEI efforts to date, it’s clear that current DEI efforts are happening in principal, perhaps, but not so much in practice.

“It’s crucial that we champion inclusivity in our sector as a means to drive economic and social progress,” said Amy Calvert, Events Industry Council CEO. “DEI needs to be embraced by organizational leadership to be effective. Results from our 2022 Equity Benchmarking Study underscore we have a significant way to go, particularly advancing ethnic diversity, gender inclusivity, and equity in leadership and influential positions. EIC’s Equity Acceleration Plan will enable us to measure progress as well as improve our ability to deliver impact and sustain change.”

A few of the survey’s key findings:

• Employed event professionals (83% of all survey respondents) are significantly more dissatisfied with DEI in the industry than those who are self-employed or have alternative employment types.

• 61% of all surveyed event professionals identified as White and are predominant across all job grades, with minimal representation from other ethnicities, especially in senior management (15% Black) and board (6% Black) positions.

• Respondents who identify as Black (16%) rated their DEI experience 11% lower across all four dimensions than respondents who identified as White.

• While the more-than 75% of respondents who identified as female are well represented in managerial and senior roles — six out of 10 (61%) female respondents are in “Senior Management” and “Board” job grades — they still rated their DEI experience significantly lower than male respondents (21%).

The Equity Benchmarking Study included a series of EIC leadership focus group discussions and an AI-based chatbot survey of 1,404 event professionals across the industry. It measured the current DEI experience in the events industry across four dimensions: Ownership, Accountability and Power of Influence, Delivering Change, and Sustaining Change. The global survey was conducted by Tharoor Associates and Culturelytics from September 2021 to January 2022.

“Dismal Black and Brown representation within the events industry presents barriers to diversity and inclusion in leadership and influential positions needed to impact change,” said Jason Dunn, Sr., EIC Equity Task Force Co-Chair and Past Chairman of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals. “Dispersed power and greater ownership of roles at all levels is rooted in an authentic DEI strategy, which in turn strengthens our industry’s infrastructure and positions us to compete on a global scale. Bottom line, the events industry propels the global economy, through thoughtful high impact events. It’s time for us to apply the same commitment, resources and metrics at an accelerated pace to intertwine DEI principles in all that we do. Our task force is committed to addressing these survey findings with actionable and measurable solutions. The journey won’t be easy, but nothing worth having ever is.”

The second phase of the EIC’s Equity Acceleration Plan includes a leadership workshop to review the study and shape resources and deliverables for the benefit of EIC membership. “The next phase of our work will focus on the first two dimensions of the DEI experience: Ownership and Accountability/Power of Influence. To create a sustainable environment of change, we must foster a sense of ownership among everyone,” said Tina Wehmeir, EIC Task Force Co-Chair and AMC Institute President and CEO. “Accountability and Power of Influence is a particularly critical area based on our survey finding that minority groups showed higher levels of dissatisfaction in larger organizations. This further illustrates the need for organizational leadership to connect DEI principals to actual outcomes. It also reaffirms the importance of assembling the men and women of the EIC Task Force. They are change agents.”

To view the full 2022 Equity Benchmarking Study and Key Insights/Recommendations, visit the EIC website.

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