It was two years ago that I described in this space the alarming wage inequity between men and women in both convention and executive management, as detailed in our 2003 salary survey. (“Breaking Through Is Hard to Do,” page 17, AM August 2003.) Back then, I urged “putting the wage and leadership gender gap on the agenda for every major meeting in our industry. Let's get this issue into the limelight, where it belongs.”
Two years later, there's been no sound and no fury over gender wage inequity. Not even a bleep, it would seem, on the industry's interest meter, and certainly no limelight. Perhaps our 2003 findings were a statistical anomaly? Well, the results of our 2005 salary survey corroborate a very significant gender wage gap. Females in convention management in 2005 earned an average salary of $52,343 — that's $16,660 less than males in convention management earned in our 2003 survey. How's that for progress?
And here's something else to ponder: There were too few males in the convention management sample this year for us to come up with a valid statistical mean for their salaries. Leading me to ask: Where have all the guys gone? Perhaps our sample does not reflect the industry demographics as a whole, but I would bet money that the number of males in convention management is shrinking from what is already a minority percentage. This would be a classic flight pattern following the “feminization” of a field, which in turn, results in wage depression for that field. Think nursing, teaching, publishing. The grass is greener, so to speak, where males outnumber women.
Why do wages stagnate in fields dominated by women? Here's my answer from 2003: “The recipe for this situation: residual sex discrimination, work/family conditions that drive women out of the field or to accept less than competitive wages, self-doubt/confidence issues for women, and the fact that many women are promoted from secretarial/administrative positions into meeting planning while men more often move into planning from other managerial positions. Throw in gender differences in leadership and communications styles that may stymie a woman's desire to move up the ladder, and you have quite a combustible brew.”
The question is: Who cares?