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International Women’s Day: Inclusion and female leaders

The International Women’s Day 2024 campaign United Nations theme is Inspire Inclusion. When we inspire others to understand and value women’s inclusion, we are creating a better world for everyone. PA Life is marking International Women’s Day 2024 by featuring outstanding female leaders in their filed. We talked to a number of MICE industry’s managers about inclusion and female leaders, and what the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day mean to them.

What does inclusion mean to you?

With International Women’s Day 2024 centred around ‘Inspiring Inclusion’, we hear from inspiring women from across the industry about what inclusion means to them.

Fostering equality to embrace and empower everyone

Gender inclusivity to me is about recognising, highlighting, and addressing the diverse needs, experiences and contributions of all to foster equality and empower everyone, regardless of their gender.

Our aim at the Meetings Industry Association is to embrace and encourage inclusivity in the business meetings and events sector irrespective of differences such as gender, age, sexual orientation, neurodiversity, culture or race. That’s why one of our new Peer Groups, which are designed to tackle relevant industry issues, is Identity. It’s dedicated to ensuring that everyone in the sector, regardless of their background or identity, feels welcome, respected and valued. – Kerrin MacPhie, Chief Executive, Meetings Industry Association

Diversity an essential catalyst for innovation

I’ve come to appreciate inclusivity not merely as a buzzword, but as a cornerstone for fostering innovation, cultivating career growth, and promoting continuous learning.

Working within an organisation that values a diversity of perspectives is paramount and contributes hugely to our success in the events world.

As a woman in management, I’ve built my career over the past 15 years with the understanding that preconceived ideas must be continually challenged to break down barriers that may hinder growth. It requires a commitment to adapt and evolve based on new information and alternative perspectives. In the ever-evolving events industry, an inclusive mindset is not just an asset, but a necessity. Everyone we welcome through our doors has as much right to be there as the next person. Inclusivity is fundamentally what events are all about. – Jessica Gallagher, venue and hospitality manager at the Royal Society of Chemistry at Burlington House 

Inclusion is not just a concept – it is a commitment

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, the essence of true empowerment lies in fostering a culture of inclusion. For me, inclusion means creating a space where every woman, regardless of background, ethnicity, or circumstance, feels heard, valued, and empowered. It is about dismantling barriers and ensuring equal opportunities for women from all walks of life. Inclusion is not just a concept; it’s a commitment to unity, diversity, and the collective strength of women everywhere. – Angela Maher, Chief Executive, Savoy Educational Trust

Inclusion leads to impactful collaboration

For me, inclusion is about collaboration. Although I’ve spent my career in marketing, storytelling is often at the centre of impactful communications and that requires being inquisitive. Whether agency side or in-house, being able to talk about everything and anything with your team – without the restraints of hierarchy or differences – is key to inclusion.

At Ascot, we’re always developing new working groups and cross-departmental collaboration for this very reason. Bringing together that variety of experience and different views on things is what ensures everyone in the business feels part of our future and can ultimately celebrate in playing their part in the overall success.  – Alexandra Bertram, Brand & Creative Lead, Ascot Racecourse

A seat at the table

Inclusion to me means to be honestly invited to join ‘the table’ and be able to speak, think and feel honestly and freely with no judgement, bias or discrimination. – Rohaise Rose-Bristow, Owner and People Director, The Torridon 

Accepting and celebrating differences

Inclusion for me isn’t a disregard for prejudices but rather accepting and even celebrating our differences and valuing people regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, social background, religion, or disability. We should all feel comfortable in our own skins, but we should also enable others to feel the same way; everyone needs to be proactive in this – not just business and industry leaders or HR Depts.

I always tell my son to be himself: ‘don’t be a sheep’ and stand up for those that may be different and don’t feel strong enough to stand up for themselves, let them know it’s OK to be different because what a boring world it would be if everyone was the same! – Marija Erzen, Board Chair, Event Supplier and Services Association (ESSA). 

Letting all voices be heard

For me, Inclusion is about fostering a culture where everyone feels valued, respected, and empowered to be their authentic selves. It’s far more than just policies and procedures; it requires a concerted effort to nurture a culture of openness, acceptance, and respect where individuals feel confident in their abilities and comfortable expressing their ideas, without fear of judgement.  – Louisa Green, Managing Director, RBH Hospitality Management

Inclusion is embracing a variety of voices

Inclusion, to me, is embracing the variety of identities, voices, cultures, and perspectives represented within our team at Central Hall Venues. As a leader, I am passionate about surrounding myself with a team that can bring experiences from an abundance of backgrounds. Our collective experiences enable us to collaborate with our clients and suppliers, delivering outstanding customer service.

Our venues take pride in offering a warm welcome to everyone while fostering personal growth and development.

Working alongside strong female role models, with a nurturing yet empowering approach is also a source of inspiration as a female leader. – Sarah Franczak, Chief Operating Officer, Central Hall Venues

Encouraging everyone to thrive

Inclusion means to me, that we are able to be unapologetically ourselves, within an environment where we are empowered.

We need to have a sense of belonging, embrace diversity and know we have equal opportunities to develop and feel valued.

The events industry is about creating lasting experiences and therefore we need to encourage ourselves and everyone to thrive not just on IWD2024, but every day. – Leigh Cowlishaw, Managing Partner, Black Box Partnerships, The Meetings Show Advisory Board Member and Tomorrow’s Talent judge

An equal chance to participate

Inclusion to me is creating an environment where everyone, regardless of their background, or gender feels valued. It’s about ensuring there are equal opportunities for everyone and promote a sense of belonging. In an inclusive organisation, every individual has an equal chance to participate, contribute, and achieve their potential. This promotes fairness and equality, allowing everyone to access the same opportunities which boosts productivity levels. In my experience employees who feel included are more likely to be motivated and committed to their work. I’m proud that at Foxhills we fairly represent equality, especially in leadership and decision-making roles. – Georgina Tyson, Director of Leisure and Spa, Foxhills


Hastags to use:

#IWD2024 #InspireInclusion

#WomensDay #InternationalWomensDay #IWD #IWD2024