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New IMEX survey reveals women's meetings industry leadership ambitions

As part of their research into those business performance skills that women feel they most need to develop in order to progress, Susan Sarfati, CEO of High Performance Strategies and Liz Jackson, president of Jackson Consulting Inc, recently conducted a survey of 140 women currently working in the meetings, events and incentive travel industry.

The resulting research and its detailed findings will be used to craft the content of their first-ever Women’s Leadership Forum to be held at IMEX in Frankfurt, May 24-26 this year, as part of the award-winning tradeshow’s New Vision program. The survey also gathered feedback from a small number of men.

The results showed many women still share concerns about how to achieve a sustainable work-life balance, but they are also doing battle with other workplace issues, which are specific to the 21st century.

When asked, “What is the major challenge you currently face in your leadership or management role?” time management, especially in an age of ‘always-on’ social media, was highlighted by many respondents.

Others expressed a desire to understand how to be assertive in the workplace without appearing dominant or aggressive, especially in a tougher economic climate.

Although some of the issues raised by the women polled can clearly be divided along male or female lines, others are fundamental to everyone working in the meetings industry.

These include how to guide clients towards more ethical and fairer business behavior; how best to manage and motivate Generation Y employees; staff retention issues, and how to achieve board level support and understanding of the real value of meetings and events.

When it comes to developing specific skills and new areas of confidence and expertise, these women said their greatest need is for improved time management, better sales and marketing skills, superior financial management, as well as presentation and communication skills. Many respondents also said they would like to improve their negotiation and conflict resolution skills.

When asked which subjects they would most like to discuss during the Women’s Leadership Forum, dealing with conflict was the topic most requested by respondents, closely followed by understanding the differences in male and female leadership types and selling yourself and your ideas.

Other suggestions made by the respondents included multi-tasking, how to avoid losing focus by trying to do everything, and cross-cultural training. It is clear that working in emerging markets, or in them with partners, presents unique challenges to women. Many of whom are aware of cultural and religious differences but are unsure of their impact on working relationships.

“Now it is not so unusual to see women leading countries throughout the world,” said Susan Sarfati, CEO of High Performance Strategies and co-presenter of the IMEX Women’s Leadership Forum. “The meetings industry is reflecting the same dramatic change as it relates to key decision makers and a multitude of new opportunities. The 21st century is indeed the century for women to make a major impact and we need to maximize how we can take advantage of this to move ourselves forward, and the meetings industry overall.”

“By demonstrating how women can overcome barriers and succeed in business – and in life – feel good about themselves and reach beyond their expectations, our new Forum will show that women often have more power and potential than they realize,” Liz Jackson, president of Jackson Consulting, who will also be presenting. “These results make it clear we still have a way to go, but they also demonstrate women’s desire and readiness to improve their skills, and remain focused on career development is an essential component of a healthy international meetings and events industry.”

One hundred forty women from a cross-section of buyers and suppliers answered the survey. They work in a variety of global markets and at different levels of seniority from event planners to CEOs. They also represent markets including Asia, North America, Europe and the Middle East.

Attendance at the Women’s Leadership Forum at IMEX in Frankfurt in May is free of charge, with no need to book. It will take place at 4p.m. on Wednesday, May 25 with a second session also set to take place. All Forum sessions will be highly interactive.

Sarfati and Jackson are both accomplished meetings industry experts with many years experience of the specific challenges presented by the industry. Sarfati is best known for her years as CEO and as the innovative leader and key spokesperson in the association management profession. Jackson says her greatest career achievement is her success in senior management in the airline and hotel industry.

Their jointly presented Forum will feature recent case studies as well as practical tips. More information at www.imex-frankfurt.com/women.html.



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