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04 Jun 2019

Diversity starts with conversations that scare us.

Diversity starts with conversations that scare us.

Did you know that highly diverse organisations are proven to be more profitable?

Karen Blackett OBE, who keynoted the AEO Forums earlier this year revealed that organisations with more gender diversity at top level are 21% more likely to outperform those with less. Those with more ethnically diverse workforces are 33% more likely to outperform companies less ethnically diverse.

As the secretariat to our members, it is our duty to continually challenge the status quo and keep things moving and growing in a way that best serves the industry. So, following that very memorable keynote by Karen, I was compelled to ask very serious questions about the diversity landscape in the events industry.

Diversity is, however, such an all-encompassing topic so there is no quick fix and each industry will have different priorities. For want of keeping to a word count, I will, therefore, focus on gender and ethnicity.

Firstly, I truly believe that the industry has come on leaps and bounds in recent years. At the AEO, we made a conscious decision, a couple of years ago, to initially focus on gender diversity.

We’ve transformed the AEO Excellence Awards judging panel, included gender splits in our salary survey and encouraged more women to participate in our working groups and take on leadership positions commensurate with their experience and expertise.

We’ve also tried to make our event programmes as diverse as possible, which at times, has proven challenging when the male to female ratio of speakers is often heavily skewed towards male. Of course, we want to put the best speaker line-up together which means our programmes often reflect the same ratio.

We have been working closely with the talent group on a campaign that looks at our talent pool and asks what more we could be doing to attract and retain great people as well as nurture and cultivate diverse workspaces.

Let’s look at the industry at large – are we benefiting from Karen’s point that ethnically diverse workforces outperform those that aren’t?

I recently learnt about one programme a leading publisher had implemented called ‘’Creative Access for BAME people.’’ It’s a paid internship that opens doors for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities that might not have been open to them before. Most of these interns then go on to land a permanent job, which has been hugely effective in shaping the landscape of this particular company, which results in huge benefits for the employer as well as the intern.

Inclusive hiring is another great initiative. Recruiters are naturally drawn to hiring people like themselves but, if a more diverse mix of people become involved in the interview process, we are likely to improve diversity in the workforce.

After all, if our customers’ backgrounds are like a mosaic, shouldn’t this be reflected in the people marketing and selling to them so we can more closely align with their values?

So yes, lots of great programmes already being implemented that I’m sure many of us could learn from.

It’s a narrative that’s often difficult to confront but one that we must continue to have more open conversations about even if they scare us. 

Are we going to do or say the wrong thing along the way? Maybe. But there are risks attached to every worthy pursuit.