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03 Sep 2020

Women in Exhibitions

Women in Exhibitions

While the pandemic continues to punctuate our thoughts, our work and the headlines, the fight for gender equality in the workplace remains an important one.

There have been pockets of gender-based conversations happening in the events world for as long as I can remember and while progress felt slow for a long time, there are positive signs of acceleration, with more people stepping up to do their bit to make a change.


The case for mentorship

Five years ago, I joined the AEO on the promise of mentorship. I never looked back.

Since then I have become a more confident businesswoman, unlocking potential I never knew I had! It was a huge catalyst in building my professional network and giving me access to leadership opportunities equal to some of the most established male-run organisers in the country.

I am now a proud AEO council member, with a mission to empower other women to rise through the ranks. The opportunities are there – we just have to be bold and accept them.


The value of your network

Over the years, through AEO mentorship, working groups and a myriad of networking events, I have built and have been surrounded by a network of people who help me grow, who I share ideas with, and who I can call up for a chat when I’ve had a tough day. We’ve all seen a few of those lately!

When things felt particularly challenging just the other week, I called Soraya Gadelrab (a member of the AEO development board and president of Women in Exhibitions Network) and said, ‘Today has been tough’. She responded empathetically but also practically – ‘Completely understand – let’s work through the potential solutions…’

All of the above are the very ingredients, that spurs me on to keep growing, keep pushing.


Paying it forward

Having hugely benefited from various opportunities I put myself forward for, the time is now to pay it forward. There are so many talented women in the industry who simply need mentorship to realise their potential.

Mentorship is something that will be available to all members of the Women in Exhibitions Network.


Opportunities available to support those women

There are a variety of campaigns and initiatives set up to empower women in the industry. One I am proud of is to be a founding partner and vice president of the Women in Exhibitions Network.

This network was launched in 2018, by Oana Cipca from MECC Maastricht, to support the continued professional development of women working in exhibitions, providing opportunities for them to meet and network.


The mission?

To empower women whilst helping to nurture leaders. It’s about positive sustainable change and championing the next generation of female leaders to create a more balanced and effective board room.

There are now Chapters in Germany, UK and the Middle East. Every region might have a slightly different approach, but we all have the same end goal: to promote women in the exhibition industry for career growth, encouraging them to step up and dare greatly.


When one chapter focusses on mentorship programs and other on networking events, we adapt to the needs of the markets, while the focus remains on women’s career growth.

We want to engage as many women in the industry as possible through the Network. It is open to venues, organisers and suppliers across the board, and is accessible by the most junior to the most senior event professionals.


For 2020-2021 the Women in Exhibitions Network plans to focus on the following 4 initiatives:

  • Raising Awareness
  • Networking
  • Mentoring
  • Training & Development


You’ll be able to find more information here:

There is still lots of work to be done to make our industry more equal and inclusive but change is coming and it’s exciting to see.

Aside: On the subject of diversity and inclusion, the AEO is taking an active role in pushing forward conversations about diversity through its relevant working groups.

These conversations will focus on gender, race, disability and LGBT communities. More coming down the line soon.


Emma Barrett - Managing Director - Broadway Events// member of the AEO Council