Mash Media MD Julian Agostini says he is appalled by how women are treated, and calls on the industry to actively push to empower and encourage more women entrepreneurs
Men and women aren’t equal and I’m not sure they ever can be. This isn’t some bigoted male chauvinistic, outdated remark, it’s actually a sad reflection of the world we live in. It’s deeply upsetting and worse still, I am yet to hear of a viable solution.
In 2020 I wrote a blog on International Women’s Day; it was heartfelt and, thankfully, well received. I wasn’t going to add to those sentiments this year, as they all still stand, and I never want to write anything for the sake of it.
However, with recent events surrounding Sarah Everard having been so distressing and demoralising, that I felt compelled to say something. Yet the main emotion I felt when sitting down at my laptop was anger, which can cloud judgement and become a muddled read.
The fact that we have a society where women spend so much time looking over their shoulders, adhering to a safety routine and making sure they have all sorts of alarms, pre-cautions etc. is disgusting but also completely necessary. What an appalling indictment on men.
The world operates on bullying culture; everywhere you look. We serve up various platitudes that it’s unacceptable but, in truth, who of us could truly and completely be exonerated? It’s everywhere around us and we all carry on regardless as long as we are on the right side of the curve. School playground, social media, the workplace, politics, entire countries, international relations, the list of locations where intimidation and bullying are rife, stretches far and wide.
It’s alarming and depressing. This week I heard that Women In Exhibitions can’t even exist in some countries because in some parts of the world it is illegal for a company name to contain the word ‘woman’. Wow: yet we all continue to do business with these countries. That’s a longer argument, perhaps, and maybe we have a chance to change that thinking over time by staying engaged but we have our own problems to solve before that. Let’s make sure our oxygen mask is affixed before starting to help others.
The UK has to be one of the most enlightened countries in the world, so we should be in the right place to create change. Let’s start with our own beloved industry.
Despite the abundance of women in the rank-and-file servicing events, there remains a paucity of women in the top jobs and very few CEOs. How does this equation work?
Here are a couple of suggestions on how this could change: Firstly, role models: we need more women to be given positions of highly visible authority to inspire others. How does any board of directors not include a healthy percentage of women these days? If that means positive discrimination, so be it; there have been decades of negative discrimination; we have got some catching up to do.
This policy will quickly be repaid by how much more talent it brings on. In any case, how badly could it go? There are so many untalented men that have found themselves in privileged positions just because it suited the organisation politically; the worse thing is that those fools believe their own hype, in my experience, women don’t make that mistake.
Secondly, we need to encourage more female entrepreneurs. Our industry is perfect for this as there are no barriers to entry in the sense that anyone can create and run their own event. Historically, in relationships, women have had to be the backbone of the home whilst the man went off to explore. This dynamic is changing in society but will take a little time to filter through completely to business. Women have been, perhaps, naturally more risk averse because of the expectation upon them but what an opportunity we have now.
There is no shortage of experienced women in the events industry who are brimming with talent but have hit a glass ceiling; maybe a scheme could be developed to encourage them to branch out on their own. This will empower, even further advance, the up-and-coming generation.
Mash Media is throwing its hat in the ring, perhaps with the Women In Exhibitions Network, to create a vehicle for female entrepreneurs.
None of this will reduce the pain and anguish highlighted by Sarah Everard’s horrific plight. These are societal problems, as we know, but let’s at least have a goal of making the events industry a shining light of where women can be truly equal.
Pictured: Women In Exhibitions Network, International Confex, 25-26 February 2020, image by Aniseed Photo