Diversity Remains a Challenge for Events

By Lisa R. Schoolcraft, March 29, 2018

According to the U.S. Census, the United States will become a minority majority nation by 2044, based on current population projections. That creates challenges and opportunities in the meetings and hospitality industries when it comes to diversity and inclusion programs hoping to mirror the workforce.

“I would say we’ve done a good job of building awareness of the issue, bringing the discussion forward,” says Matthew Marcial, vice president of education and events for MPI. “That is bringing the discussion forward and having conversations we weren’t having before.”

Melvin Tennant, president and CEO of Meet Minneapolis, says many organizations have diversity and inclusion efforts in place. But, he adds, work remains as not all of those efforts have not been sustained.

“Some of those efforts have been in reaction to a situation of some sort, but I would say, in general, we are working to see our industry become more diverse,” Tennant says. “It cannot happen overnight, but clearly, we must set up mechanisms to set up a pipeline of talent from a variety of sources at all levels.”

That talent needs to come from all walks of life, with no regard to gender, race, sexual orientation, or national origin, Tennant says.

Anne Thornley-Brown, president of Executive Oasis International, a Toronto-based company specializing in the design and facilitation of executive retreats and teambuilding, says the industry is not going far enough.

Talented men and women of color are “invisible” to industry leaders, she says.

“When it comes time to selecting thought leaders or voices in our industry, when you look at the list and photos of leaders in our industry, they are usually white, both in Canada and the United States,” Thornley-Brown says. “This is 2018. There is no reason to put out a 25 most influential women’s list and every last one of them is white. How is that even possible?”

She says it’s time to stop being silent about the inequity.

Getting Involved

MPI, where women comprise 80 percent of the community and audience, has been focusing on fostering women leaders, Marcial says.

In early 2017, MPI launched its Diversity & Inclusion Task Force. In June, the organization introduced several new education offerings from its MPI Academy as part of its new Executive Education Series, including the new Women in Leadership Program.

There is an Executive Leadership Skills Certificate Course as part of the Women in Leadership Program, but the academy also offers other diversity education, such as uncovering hidden bias in the workplace and working with transgender and genderfluid communities.

“We want to see more diverse representation in meetings and events,” Marcial says, “and more women in more higher-level leadership, especially in our industry.”

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