As someone who is heavily involved in and committed to the exhibitions and events industry, I have witnessed great strides of change for women in the last 5 years. From the formation of a new association focused on the advancement and advocacy of women in events to the development of networks and support systems encouraging women to raise their hands for leaderships opportunities, women in our industry are making meaningful, positive change happen. While networking has always been a very prominent element of our industry, today’s tight knit communities are even more influential than they were even just a few years ago. Women are truly stepping up to champion individuals and organizations for success. One organization that does all of these things particularly well is AWE.
The Association for Women in Events (AWE) was founded by 5 young women with the belief that everyone should have a seat at the table.
AWE is a global organization made up of women and men focused on the advocacy and professional advancement of women in all facets of the events industry. Members include association executives, government agency planners, suppliers, hoteliers, museum exhibit planners, travel and tourism and hospitality specialists, exhibits professionals, and event entrepreneurs. AWE considers itself to be a support network dedicated to driving positive change for all women in the events industry from their very first role out of college to the C Suite.
I first heard about AWE from one of the founders while at an IAEE DC Chapter meeting back in 2015. She mentioned they were taking applications for the founding board. I immediately became very intrigued by this new group. I sought the advice of some of my industry champions about applying and with resounding support, they all suggested I apply. Out of hundreds of applicants, they nominated me and 24 others to start a new association literally from the ground up. It has been an amazing journey and a tremendous learning opportunity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
The trailblazing women of AWE believe that it’s imperative for men to be at the table and a part of the conversation in order for meaningful change to happen. Everyone’s voice and opinion truly matters. AWE is not a girls’ club or a female led organization. AWE leadership believes that the needs of all ages, genders, and races must be considered. Our focus IS about getting women to raise their hands for opportunities even when they don’t necessarily qualify for every single need. All too often, women hesitate to apply and step up for leadership roles because they believe they haven’t checked every single box. We encourage women to rethink that thought process.
Some of the greatest work AWE does includes global outreach programs and education development. AWE and AAUW have joined forces to examine and discuss some of those difficult conversations such as salary negotiation, dealing with difficult staff and clients and diversity and inclusion. Participants of the courses can walk away with beneficial handouts and are welcome to share their new-found knowledge with others. These courses address the questions that need to be asked and give attendees the tools to effectively promote change and assess what is best for both them and the industry as a whole.
Fern is a proud sponsor of AWE, remains an advocate for women in the industry, and aims to support continual change for all members of the industry. Fern sponsors the 2018 AWE/AAUW Work Smart Educational Programming.
I’m very excited for our future and for AWE. I encourage everyone to join us and get the movement started.
Julie Sullivan also sits on the IAEE DC Chapter Board of Directors, the IAEE CEM Commission, and facilitates CMP Boot camps on behalf of the of the Potomac Chapter of MPI.
Written by: Julie Sullivan, CMP, CEM, CTA
Event Sales Manager at ASIS International
Vice President / Founding Board Member – Association for Women in Events (AWE)
Past Chair, Education & Events Committee