2018 Year in Review: #MeetingsToo

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2018 Year in Review: #MeetingsToo

By Michael Pinchera | Dec 12, 2018

Countless celebrities and public figures have been exposed during the rise of the #MeToo movement, but the uber-social meeting and event industry isn’t free of sexual assault and harassment. With “#MeToo” named in May’s Meetings Outlook survey as the word that most defined the year up to that point, and an eye-opening session at the World Education Congress, it’s clear meeting professionals are hungry for education and discussions on this topic.

Although Courtney Stanley (MPI At Large) has been speaking about sexual harassment in the meeting and event industry for a couple of years, she first teamed up with Sarah Soliman Daudin, DES (MPI Greater Orlando Chapter), to address the issue at this year’s World Education Congress (WEC) in Indianapolis, presenting “#MeetingsToo: How to Prevent & Manage Sexual Harassment at Events.”

“The first MPI chapter that embraced the #MeetingsToo concept was the MPI Toronto Chapter,” Stanley says. “It was actually during Global Meetings Industry Day this past April where I first spoke on #MeetingsToo, specifically.”

Since then, the two have seen a greater interest in their message and solutions, which has led to even more opportunities to educate industry professionals.

“A lot of the connections we made at WEC after that session asked us to come speak to their MPI chapters,” Stanley says. “We spoke with the Northern California Chapter back in August during their education program. I will be speaking to the MPI Minnesota Chapter in December. And we’re currently in talks with other chapters for next spring. So we’ve certainly kept the conversation alive through our presentations. A nice little twist is that we have begun to work with HR departments and with meeting professionals to help them create a code of conduct and a communications strategy to help prevent sexual harassment at their events and within their organizations.”

The pair is also in talks with a university in Florida to provide education to students, Soliman Daudin says—and they’ve been increasingly working with industry media to discuss sexual harassment.

“We recently did a podcast at IMEX America with [Positive Impact Events CEO] Fiona Pelham...and we also did one with Michael Massari from Caesars,” Stanley says. “It seems like this is really a topic that has legs and it’s certainly going to continue into 2019.” (Listen to the podcast with Pelham.)

Stanley and Soliman Daudin have encountered some surprises in taking their message on the road.

“The biggest surprise for me is the lack of initiative over the years—that this hasn’t been thought out or thought of at all. It’s opened up a whole dialogue and has been a learning process,” Soliman Daudin says. “We share common sense solutions that are pretty easy to implement, and I think we’re learning the importance of even starting the conversation—and if you’re talking about it, you can do something about it.”

Those solutions are essential to any attempt at curtailing or eliminating sexual harassment in the industry.

“People have experienced sexual harassment at meetings and events for so long that they consider it to be expected and somewhat normal,” Stanley says. “What’s been surprising is that I’ve learned people really suspect this will never change. I’ve also learned this topic isn’t black and white—there are a lot of different perspectives and people coming from various backgrounds and upbringings that may not see sexual harassment or the #MeToo movement as an issue or something that needs to change.”

Some people may still see this as a gender-specific issue, but as Stanley mentions, it’s not that cut and dry. Considering the variety of human experiences, Soliman Daudin notes, “This is a human problem, not a man-bashing movement.”

In May, a coalition of meeting industry organizations—including MPI, ASAE, the Events Industry Council, PCMA, SITE, PCMA and more—combined forced to help eradicate sexual harassment within the event industry.

If your chapter or organization is interested in learning more, contact Stanley (courtney@courtney-stanley.com) or Soliman Daudin (sarah@solimanproductions.com).

Leadership Education: Women in Meetings

The MPI Academy offers a four-hour course, Women in Leadership: Executive Leadership Skills, that examines the key roles women play in the hospitality and meeting industries and how to overcome career obstacles to executive-level positions. Learn more about the program.

The MPI Foundation has advanced the cause by awarding MPI chapters with grants that enable them to promote the Women in Leadership program.

The 2018 Year in Review is sponsored by Mohegan Sun



Michael Pinchera

Michael Pinchera is an award-winning writer and editor for The Meeting Professional as well as a speaker, technologist and contributor to business, academic and pop culture publications since 1997. Read more of his work at www.whatmemeworry.com.