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The State of Inclusion in the Meetings & Events Industry

By: Zoe Moore | Published by MPI Toronto Chapter | Jun 1, 2021

A 2018 MPI Research report titled The State of Inclusion in Meetings & Events revealed five beliefs about the barriers to planning inclusive event experiences. 

13% - Event professionals don’t have enough time to plan inclusive event experiences 20% Event professionals don’t have the budget to plan inclusive event experiences
14% Event professionals don’t have the leadership support needed to plan inclusive event experiences
40% Event professionals do not have all the information knowledge needed to plan inclusive event experiences
39% Event professionals aren’t experiencing any barriers planning inclusive event experiences
7%- Other

No Barriers
I do not know about you but I hope that the 39% that aren’t experiencing any barriers are offering courses to help the rest of us. However, if we're being candid, we believe that their response was influenced by 1 of 3 factors; 

  1. There wasn’t a consensus on the definition of inclusive events
  2. They don’t recognize barriers faced by marginalized groups 
  3. Their response was dishonest. 

Let’s face it, taking surveys is not a favorite pastime of busy professionals. (If you disagree, please visit www.cadazo.net/edi-survey to take one). Having to assess ourselves, someone else, our companies, organizations or our industry, feels time consuming and a bit uncomfortable. Criticism, whether critical or constructive, is often received negatively because it implies that change must occur. Although feedback can lead to growth, we all know the discomfort of orienting to a new path. 

If the survey respondents who stated that they were experiencing no barriers are willing, I invite them to reflect on the three factors above like I invite each person reading this blog to do because they are the key areas to consider when Forging Your Path towards becoming a more Equitable, Diverse and Inclusive leader. 

Inclusive Events
Inclusive event design is often relegated to being in compliance with the American Disability Act & Canadians with Disabilities Act. In most cases event professionals ensure that the venue, vendors and restrooms are accessible without giving much thought into the experience that persons with disabilities must endure. In the same regard, this compliance mindset tends to overlook how accommodations alone fails to normalize inclusion across all social identities. 

Inclusive event design begins when the planning team is hired. Not having a diverse team will lead to the barrier experienced by 40% of respondents. When the planning team is homogenous and attempting to plan for those who are not involved in the decision-making process it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the elements that need to be considered.  

If the planning team is small and unable to hire more teammates that are representative of a diverse people group, they can seek consultants. Advice provided by a consultant can help teams develop a best practices guide that can be used for more than one event. This investment can serve as a professional development opportunity for teams that believe knowledge is their barrier. 

If hiring more teammates or a consultant is not an option then partnering with diverse vendors, suppliers and service providers will not only reduce the barrier of knowledge, it will also address time management. Rather than the responsibility being solely on one team, partners can collaborate on covering all the bases through multiple lenses and lived experiences. 

Incorporating the above practices as more than protocols is what is defined as Inclusive Event Strategy (IES), a methodology rooted in social justice and commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion. Having this strategic approach stems from having applied empathy, actively seeking knowledge and recognizing the barriers faced by marginalized groups. 

Recognizing Barriers 
I read a post on LinkedIn that displayed a sweater which read “If you embrace diversity but ignore disability then you’re doing it wrong.” I am admittedly getting it wrong quite often because I am hyper focused on how racism permeates all institutions, systems and communities. To fully grasp the nuances across all marginalized groups I must humbly lean on advocates that represent each of them to provide guidance. Recognizing barriers faced by those who don’t share your lived experiences requires an evolution of empathy. 

Our raw unfiltered thoughts are riddled with biases that lead to an emotional response. In order to challenge this thinking, we must have social competence to cognitively process and combat singular narratives, stereotypes and the like. Ultimately, we are seeking to achieve applied empathy which manifests itself in how we show up for others in times of injustice and inequality. 

Recognizing that barriers are more often psychological than they are physical. Our perception of what someone should be able to do is based on limited information. We are socialized to believe that normal is centered around Eurocentric, Anglo-Saxon, heterosexual, able bodied, English speaking, male standards. Through this lens we unfairly compute a person's value which determines how we decide to engage with them. 

Despite our own identity and being a part of a marginalized group we have to intentionally assess ourselves, information we absorb, people in our circles and behaviors we exude to ensure we are not ensnared by the infighting that occurs when engaging the oppression Olympics. Our common goal is to identify oppressive systems and dismantle them through reconciliation, action and honesty. 

The Power of Honesty 
Calling people to the carpet is as difficult as it is being called. Dishonesty isn’t always malicious and intentional. Many times, it’s an avoidance tactic to deflect uncomfortable conversations. By denying an incident occurred, the hope is that the need to take accountability will be reduced. The uncomfortable truth: It doesn’t. 

Like a dream deferred, an unaddressed concern festers like a sore and runs too. Dishonesty is a temporary fix that will result in compounded consequences. Barriers to designing inclusive event experiences exist and it will take an investment of time, money and resources to properly influence change. For the 14% of respondents not receiving leadership support, making the business case for diversity is not about commodifying people rather it’s about measuring the effectiveness of initiatives, programs and activities. 

The power of honesty is that it leads to sustainable change. We can’t avoid being assessed or assessing circumstances which impact us. Authentically identifying efforts that are not successful is an opportunity for growth. We need benchmarks that reveal when we are lacking in areas such as budget, time, leadership support and knowledge in order to strategically determine why such barriers exist. In that vulnerability, we find strength and willingness to collaborate. There is power in honesty when venturing on an uncharted path. 

Forging Your Path
Research is never straightforward, the number of respondents, their responses and how a survey is designed all play a significant role into the message that data collected will relay. While the participation in surveys is often undervalued, what can be achieved with information is invaluable. Every new journey must begin with an assessment. Like a SWOT analysis that assess strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, CADAZO Consulting Group uses a GROW analysis which identifies desired Growth, projected Risks, Opportunities and recognized Weaknesses. 

This is the first step in forging your path because it provides insights into what objectives are most pertinent to you as a leader and to your organization. Second, focus on no more than five initiatives. I recommend three but realize that some people are ambitious in their pursuit of change. With caution I advise the eager to use the S.M.A.R.T acronym (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timebound), no matter how urgent matters may be, if it lacks in this structure the over commitment may lead to burnout with no measurable progress. Third, have a clear mandate that includes the mission, vision and commitment to the work ahead. Advocating for change requires resilience, without it the emotional labor will take its toll. 

In summary, if you’re interested in Forging Your Path have a M.A.P; Mandate, Assessment and Plan. It provides a tangible guide to which you can always refer to when faced with distractions, detours and obstacles. 

You can register to for World Education Congress 2021 to learn more, and stay tuned for a recap blog about the MPI Toronto session taking place in the Chapter Leaders Lounge at WEC.   

Forging Your Path: a journey to improve diversity, equity and inclusion

The MPI Toronto Chapter has been on a journey to improve diversity, equity and inclusion making it a focal point and have embraced partnerships in order to help them succeed. Join in the conversation and share your Chapters journey.

Speakers:

Mandy Moon, Business Development Account Manager, Explore Edmonton Meetings & Conventions
Zoe Moore, Inclusive Event Strategist, CDP, CADAZO Consulting Group
Dwayne Rutherford, DES, Founder & Managing Director, Debonair Corporate Events & Co-Chair, Toronto Chapter DE&I Taskforce
Moderator: Christina Northcott, CMP, CMM, DES, Senior Manager, Canada Health Infoway & President Elect, Toronto Chapter

About the Author:

zoe moore

Zoe Moore (she/her/hers)
Inclusive Event Strategist, CMO, CADAZO Consulting Group
zoe@cadazo.net  

 

Author

zoe moore
Zoe Moore | Published by MPI Toronto Chapter

 
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