Everything Midas touched turned to gold. Not so for women. Every field they dominate — nursing, teaching, meeting planning — turns to hay. As in, “Hey, why are the salaries in this field falling?” A recent Congressional Report found that in seven of 10 fields employing 71 percent of all women, the pay gap between men and women widened during the boom years of 1995 to 2000. Our cover story (page 16) shows an alarming wage inequity in our industry, with women planners earning on average $21,116 less than their male peers.
Meeting planning didn't start out as “women's work,” but it is today: 81 percent of the Professional Convention Management Association's planner members are women; of Meeting Professionals International's 19,000 members, 76 percent are females, while the large majority of planner members are female as well. Given demographics like these, it's sad that no highly qualified woman could be recruited to head any of the three major industry associations where CEO posts were open in the last two years. Why are women paid less than their peers? Why are so few able to gain leadership positions?
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.
Kudos to Meeting Professionals International, which has funded through its foundation a comprehensive analysis of the barriers to leadership women planners face within their own organizations. It's worthy reading, and it elucidates wage-gap issues as well. (See the executive summary of the study at www.mpiweb.org.) Whether the study will have any impact depends a great deal on how much MPI pushes the organizational changes recommended in the study, and how much the rest of us care. Let's start by putting the wage and leadership gap on the agenda for every major meeting in our industry. Let's get this issue into the limelight, where it belongs.