Conference News September 2021 - Page 45

45 Diversity the issue was that I wasn ’ t trained , developed or nurtured within the role . On top of that , the workplace culture was incredibly toxic . Staff training , health and wellbeing were not on the agenda . So I left that role and sought out ones that allowed for more freedom , where I could be my authentic self , not have to code switch and where my creativity and transferable skills would be valued . Once I found my feet in the industry , my interest in diversity and inclusivity resurfaced and I found myself becoming a diversity committee member for the Event Management Apprenticeship Programme . I also took part in a panel discussion about inclusivity in the events industry , organised by Event First Steps , which brought up some interesting issues – issues we are still discussing today .
The world turns upside down
Fast-forward two years and I had been headhunted for a new role at HIX Restaurants as sales and events manager for their five restaurants , a challenge I was incredibly excited about – then the pandemic hit .
Within two weeks of lockdown , the restaurants went into administration . I lost my job and had to go on benefits to keep a roof over my head and pay the bills . As we all know , it was an extremely challenging time , compounded by the fact that three weeks after being made redundant I lost my grandmother to Covid-19 . It was a difficult and traumatic time , but I tried to keep busy using my skills and experience as a dancer and qualified yoga teacher to teach people online and take courses to learn new skills . The thought did cross my mind that I may have to leave the events industry and move to another sector altogether .
A few weeks later came the death of George Floyd , sparking riots and protests about police brutality and systemic racial inequality across the world . I think this particularly affected me because of my grandmother passing . I had a lot of time to think about the challenges that she had gone through in her life coming to the UK when she was 15 in the 1960s , a young black woman , away from home in a country that didn ’ t really want her .
I was also reminded of my mother , who passed away several years ago when I was in my mid-20s , remembering the racial abuse and challenges she suffered in society due to the colour of her skin .
Just thinking about all they went through , what I had been through , the challenges , the discrimination . I ’ ll admit I was hurt , upset and angry .
Diversity Ally is born
I turned to my events community to see what they had to say about these injustices , yet I didn ’ t see anybody from our industry talking about what was going on . There was such a community spirit when it came to supporting each other during the pandemic , but then critics about the protests and racial inequality . I admit it did make me very frustrated and frankly disappointed . So , I messaged some of my contacts within the industry , people that I thought had a strong voice , and asked them directly what their thoughts were on this important topic ? What did they think about the situation within our industry ? Did they think there was enough equality and diversity , and did they think we were inclusive ?
Slowly but surely , discussions started happening , with organisations and associations putting on and facilitating talks and panels about systemic inequality and around the lack of diversity in the events industry . I took part in a number of these panels , which is where I met Ashanti Bentil-Dhue , a fellow events professional and someone who was also already active in the D & I space .
With our knowledge , experience and understanding of event industry-specific challenges when it comes to diversity and inclusion , we decided to join forces and launch an organisation to support the events industry with diversity , equity and inclusion through training , education , and consultancy .
Our goal initially was to highlight that it ’ s not just about representation – though seeing more black and brown faces , particularly in leadership positions and in boardrooms , would be great – it is about creating inclusive environments and equality , where anyone from any background can contribute , thrive and progress in their chosen career .
As an industry , we can and should be leading by example and influencing the sectors we serve by demonstrating how to design accessible and inclusive events , how to create diverse content for a diverse range of audiences and how to diversify our supply chains . It ’ s about making these things second nature , so we no longer have to think about it , and it ’ s considered consistently throughout the whole events life-cycle .
Some progress is being made and we are working with some truly dedicated clients . I look forward to seeing what the future holds .
My aim is to leave a legacy of equality for the next generation of eventprofs . CN www . conference-news . co . uk