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Is sexism still rife in our sector?

Charlotte Gentry, CEO and founder at Pure Events, asks the question a lot of people are too nervous to broach.


Sexism is clearly a dicey topic, but I thought - so what?

As most people who know me are will testify, I’m not short of an opinion, not to be antagonistic but rather to get feedback from industry peers and prompt a conversation.

I am curious as to why there aren’t more women who own medium or large events and live communications businesses. Please show yourselves. I’d love to create a forum to discuss the trials and tribulations, ups and down, successes and heartbreaks of bringing your agency to where it is now.

I have met so many wonderful, talented and highly successful women who have reached the directorship level but not enough at C-Suite level, and I am wondering why this is? Can women have it all; a C-Suite position and a family?  Is this why in comparison to the men at this level they are few and far between?

I recently met with the CEO of a highly successful integrated agency and asked him how many women he had on his board and he blustered and blundered before responding that he didn’t have any. He did, though, have a wonderful operations director who he was considering elevating to this level. I bet you are now all wondering who this individual was, I couldn’t possibly comment.

I recently attended an excellent C-Suite event hosted by industry association EVCOM. Again, I was surprised by the ratio of men to women in the room. Less than third of the room were women and the rest were men who were primarily business owners. This is certainly not the responsibility of EVCOM to provide an even split, but perhaps there simply aren’t enough women to invite.

You might all be thinking now ‘Oh dear lord, next she’ll be burning her bra’: no not at all. But I have been subjected to sexism myself in an agency and client arena when strategically discussing the delivery of an international event for a global media network. 

There were seven corporate communication directors in the room and it became immediately apparent that I wasn’t being taken seriously at all. I struggled to get them to understand the importance of some issues and to educate the room on what was necessary and I wondered that if I had been a man in my mid 50s might the dynamic have been different?

I wonder whether the same issues apply from the in-house corporate perspective? Are you mainly dealing with men at the top of the tree, or women?  A large portion of highly trained events professionals in the corporate arena are female and I’d be interested to know what this career pathway looks like to the top and whether there are any obstacles that need to be tackled if you want to reach the top of the tree.

On the flip side (and perhaps rather hypocritically), I have employed a fabulous MD who is male. 

However, I have battled to find an amazing wing-woman who doesn’t want to compete or doesn’t feel threatened in some way. The dynamics of a male/female partnership in my instance works well and we weren’t big enough to recruit the MD from within as the skill set simply wasn’t there.   

However, we have an equal split in our senior management team which creates a balanced view of the decision-making process.

As someone who believes that they have a duty of care to the training programmes of their own staff (and I hasten to add they are mainly female), my message to hardworking females climbing the greasy pole of corporate life, is that nothing is impossible, the only thing that limits you is your own mind and imagination.