Conference News September 2021 - Page 13

13 Sexism

ROOTING OUT GENDER BIAS

Jill Hawkins casts her eye over the matter of sexism , which still exists in some corners of the events industry .
omen outnumber men in our industry , yet only a small percentage make it into senior positions . Diversity and inclusion ( D & I ) are now hot topics , but is gender equality being overlooked ; is our industry sexist ?
“ Sexism exists everywhere and in all industries in different forms ,” comments Fay Sharpe , founder of Fast Forward 15 , the industry mentoring programme . “ Often it ’ s unconscious ; human nature means that we gravitate towards people who look like us or ‘ mirror ’ us , so if a white male is interviewing at a senior level , often his comfort place is to pick someone that ’ s the same as him . But that said , I do think that this has changed , and people are more consciously aware of selecting with diversity in mind .”
Mark Riches , industry investor and previously co-founder of global experiential agency FIRST , agrees : “ Inequality is sadly very predominant in our sector , for I think a number of reasons ranging from ‘ group think and herd mentality ’, to institutionalised and unwitting prejudice , through to a lack of accountability . If bias isn ’ t challenged and called out , then the chance of positive progress is stifled .”
Acknowledging that a bias exists is the first step in eradicating it ; many people were keen to come forward with specific examples . “ If sexism means women are paid far less than men for doing the same
“ Acknowledging that a bias exists is the first step in eradicating it .”
Fay Sharpe
jobs , then yes , it does exist and it ’ s far more prevalent than people want to know ,” says industry recruitment expert Robert Kenward . “ I can say this from experience rather than guesswork .”
“ I ’ ve experienced sexism several times and observed it too ; in recruitment scenarios , inappropriate behaviour , sexual harassment and general exclusion , comments Kate Disley ,
CEO of Tembo . “ Far too often , men ( and some women ) are blinkered to it .
It ranges from being asked to take the notes in a room full of male peers , to being passed over for roles to less-experienced men because they had more ‘ gravitas ’, to being grabbed very inappropriately at industry events on multiple occasions . Honestly , I have a bucket-load of examples .” www . conference-news . co . uk