AEO - Association of event organisers

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


  • "Broadway Events joined the AEO on the Enterprise Membership. We’ve already taken advantage of the many benefits including the excellent FaceTime Masterclasses and training guides for exhibitors."
    Emma Barrett
    Broadway Events
  • "We are a member of the AEO because it is a proactive association for the events industry. As an organiser it provides us with high value ideas, networking, guidance and information."
    David Harrison
    PPMA Group
  • "This year, the association has led working groups to address industry issues and put on some amazing events full of insightful content for both organisers and, through the AEOs FaceTime initiative, exhibitors. In addition, the AEO has represented the industry at a Governmental level to raise awareness of the importance of events to the UK economy."
    Paul Byrom
    Upper Street Events
  • "I genuinely believe that if you’re involved in organising events you should become a member of the AEO."
    Simon Kimble
    Clarion Events
  • "Our membership of the AEO represents real and tangible value for UBM - it provides fantastic networking opportunities, practical training for our team as well as valuable insight into the state of our industry."
    Simon Parker
    Informa Markets
  • "As an Association business, we appreciate the excellent work the secretariat of the AEO do for our community. From the events side of our business, the AEO provides an excellent return on investment, providing thought leadership, fantastic networking, brilliant awards, excellent research and FaceTime, a valuable tool to tell our markets why exhibitions and events should be an essential part of the marketing mix."
    Neil Felton
  • "AEO’s networking and member meetings are valuable for individuals at all levels within our organisation. The promotion of our sector to the outside world, to government, authorities and business at large is another vital aspect of the AEO’s purpose for members, many of whom, like my company, work on events throughout the world."
    Stephen Brooks
    Mack Brooks Exhibitions
  • “Knowledge is power and the AEO dinners are certainly powerful, there is always a wealth of knowledge at the table. Insightful presentations make for a constructive and extremely social way to learn from the experts who’ve done it before. I attended the Japanese evening and gained really valuable insight about the culture and how best to communicate with a local audience.”
    John Whitaker
    Vice President Marketing, Data & Digital , dmg events
  • "We have the opportunity to contribute positively to the industry as well as gaining valuable insight and advice. There’s no need to spend valuable time and money reinventing the wheel when you have so many experienced professionals in AEO membership to learn from”
    Emma Cartmell
    CHS Group
  • "JOINING THE AEO HAS BEEN FANTASTIC! Being able to gift our customers with free places at the FaceTime masterclasses, learn alongside industry peers and seek advice to common challenges is invaluable”
    Sharon Azam
    GovNet Communications
  • I just wanted to send my most sincere thanks for everything that you and the AEO team are doing to help navigate the events industry through the pandemic. The working groups and communication from the AEO have been excellent and I’m really appreciative of being part of such a wonderful organisation.
    Simon Burns
    ICHF Events
  • I think what the AEO has been doing during this tough time has been exceptional.
    Greg Cherry
    QD Events LTD
  • It is so useful to hear from your peers at this time. Please pass my thanks to Ruth and the BTIG panel
    Dan Assor
    CloserStill Media
  • Just wanted to thank you and Ruth this morning for the Zoom meeting - it was really interesting to hear how things are moving along in the virtual/hybrid meeting/exhibitions. All very new to me, so a lot to digest.
    Maureen Wright
    Optic UK
  • The session this morning was fantastic. We are right in the midst of this and the information was so useful. We can apply it immediately
    Claire Adams
  • The AEO provides an opportunity to make a difference, to work with other companies for the good of the industry as a whole, but beyond that, it provides it’s members with valuable insight and tangible benefits to grow your business, upskill and engage your teams. For those reasons, our membership is in indelible ink on the each annual budget. In short, if you aren’t a member, you are missing out.
    Ed Tranter
    73 Media




AEO news