Last year at this time, Medical Meetings' sister magazine, Association Meetings, published the results of a groundbreaking salary survey that showed a huge wage gap between American men and women in the meeting planning industry. Well, folks, things aren't much better in Europe, according to the results of a recent survey of 254 European male and female planners conducted by Meeting Professionals International's Women's Leadership Initiative.

European companies that are hierarchical in structure and less supportive of women are losing mature, experienced women planners, who are leaving to form their own companies, the survey found.

The majority of women surveyed (52 percent) said they feel forced to make choices between career and family. Most respondents did not say opportunities for leadership were lost as a result of having children, but the research did indicate that they felt that “opportunities were somehow impaired.”

Overall, most of the men felt that employment policies in their companies encouraged women's personal and professional needs; women felt policies were significantly more favorable toward men. Women also strongly disagreed with the statement, “Too much attention is given to differences between leadership opportunities for men vs. women,” while far fewer men disputed that statement.

“What was significant to me was that women described leaders differently than men,” says Cary Broussard, vice president of marketing, Wyndham International, and an MPI Women's Leadership Initiative committee member. “Women described leaders more in terms of building consensus and providing guidance, while the men tended to describe leaders in terms of setting standards and directions for a group to follow. This study will help women and men in both Europe and the U.S. to talk about these different perceptions, with the goal of working together better.”

The men and women in the survey also had different perceptions of salary. Only 8 percent of the women respondents felt they were paid equally to men, while 26 percent of the men believed women received the same pay.