Remember the old Virginia Slims ad with the sexy slogan, “You've come a long way, baby”? Or the '70s TV commercial for Enjoli perfume about bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan?
Back then, career women were so, well, pumped up about doing it all. Today, most of the ones I know are just plain exhausted. They see that, despite all our efforts, too few women have risen in the ranks in the past 30 years — for myriad reasons far too complex to go into here.
The meeting industry is a microcosm of what's going on in corporate America (where only 11 female CEOs are in the Fortune 500): The corporate directors of sales of Marriott, Starwood, and Hilton are all men; the previous CEOs of Meeting Professionals International have all been men (maybe that's about to change?); and this month, as two women (Virginia Lofft, this magazine's former publishing director, and Mickey Schaefer, president, Mickey Scheafer & Associates LLC, and the driving force behind APEX, the Accepted Practices Exchange) are inducted into The Convention Industry Council's Hall of Leaders, women make up not quite 10 percent of the total number of inductees.
“Unfortunately, it's really not that different from what it was like when I joined the industry in the late '70s,” Joan Eisenstodt, chief strategist, Eisenstodt & Associates, Washington, D.C. — a woman who has risen to the top — admitted to me recently. “The only significant change I see is that, on the surface, men are being better about how they act toward women.” She spoke of many situations in which she has seen highly talented and capable women overlooked or pushed out, rather than elevated. Some have risen; many more have not.
Those who have become successful often talk about having sacrificed something to get there — be it having a family, taking time off to raise their children, or creating a healthy work/life balance. Many of these women are part of the growing number of marriages (more than a third) in which the women are the breadwinners but continue to do the majority of the child-rearing and still primarily run the household.
Corporate Meetings & Incentives plans to explore insights and solutions to the many challenges women working in our industry face in a series of articles this fall. Stay tuned.
And it is with deep respect and admiration that I congratulate the two women being inducted into the Hall of Leaders in Boston this month — and I hope that, in the future, there will be many, many more.
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