• March 7, 2024

Breaking the Cycle in Events: Creating an industry where success is accessible to everyone

Breaking the Cycle in Events: Creating an industry where success is accessible to everyone

Breaking the Cycle in Events: Creating an industry where success is accessible to everyone 1024 683 micebook.

To mark International Women’s Day 2024, First Event COO Adele Woods, draws from her personal experiences and discusses the crucial role of supportive work cultures and practical measures in empowering women to shape their careers…

As women, we often hit the peaks of our careers at times that coincide with life changing milestones and events, like motherhood, menopause and caring responsibilities. Particularly in events, a demanding industry that doesn’t have a typical 9-5 schedule, this can make it even more challenging for talented women to be the architects of their own careers and build a working life that’s right for them.

In an industry made up of 76-80% women, you’d think that the challenges we face are widely understood and catered for. But if the gender gap in board level roles continues to persist, we’ll never get that wider level conversation across the industry. What I want to see is an industry that supports talented individuals from the very start of their careers in events, all the way through to achieving long term success, but on their own terms.

Looking back, I’m so grateful for the people that shaped those all-important first few years of my career. I started out at M&S during a sandwich year at uni and went back as soon as I graduated. That’s where my love of events started, and I had such brilliant mentors and colleagues who truly embraced my boldness and northernness.

Whilst I had an incredibly supportive culture and team around me, the internal pressures I placed on myself became a real challenge for me at certain points in my career. At one time in particular, I stepped up into a different position in the company, and I was desperate to prove that I deserved it. As a result, I lost my off switch, and at the sacrifice of everything else I made work and my career the most important part of my life. I burnt out completely, having to take three months off work to recover.

Ultimately, it was the people I had around me that got me through that difficult period. Across the whole spectrum of experiences I’ve had in my career, the most important thing I’ve learnt is the quality of the people that are on the journey with you.

It’s my role now to meet the needs of what different people want from their working life and understand the different drivers within the team. I now have a more heightened understanding of what these needs can look like, thanks in part to my own experiences with the perimenopause. When you experience something as impactful as the menopause and perimenopause, you become much more empathetic to others facing the same thing.

As leaders, we must create the environment where people feel comfortable voicing what kind of support they need, and have confidence that their needs will be met, not just listened to. To do this, we need more than just sweeping promises of gender parity and equal access to opportunity. It’s easy to fix things like offering regular one to ones, asking questions about what kind of adjustments we can make to someone’s workload, or giving a team member the time they need to rest and recover after difficult medical appointments.

These might seem like small adjustments, but over the course of just a few months they can enable everyone on our teams, but especially women, to shape their own career, just how they want it. We need that combination of top-down mindset shift, with bottom-up, day-to-day policy change, if we are really going to shake up this industry.

Creating this kind of change will take work from all of us. I don’t have all the answers, but if my career has taught me anything, it’s that we’re going to work it out together.

That’s what I love most about this industry: our team dynamic, and the people at the heart of what we do. Working in events can get pressured, and what we do can be hard at times, but if it wasn’t for the team dynamic we have, it would be a whole lot harder. My own experiences have given me such a clear vision of exactly the kind of culture I want to see shaped across the industry, and I’ve been empowered to do that because of the great leadership and great mentors I’ve worked with along the way. It’s a cycle of inspiration and support that I want to pay forward to our teams as best I can.

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