One of many highlights across the two days of International Confex 2020, now in its new home at ExCeL London, was the launch of the UK chapter of the Women in Exhibitions Network.
The Women in Exhibitions Network was originally the brainchild of Oana Cipca, Business Development Manager – International Exhibitions at MECC Maastricht, and launched with the aim of supporting the continued professional development of women working in exhibitions and providing opportunities for them to meet and network.
We caught up with Oana to learn more about why she decided to launch the Network.
“As a newcomer in the industry four years ago, I realised at industry meetings how many men were represented on stage, and I wondered at the time where all the powerful women were,” she explains. “I spoke with other women in our industry to see if I was the only one that though women were underrepresented on boards and panels and they agreed with me.
“Our industry is one with men at the top. As I’m a problem-solver, I studied the industry and realised that women are there but are often invisible, even though there is a positive correlation between women in leadership and business performance. Our industry needs to discover the people that drive it.
“I hope to use a platform like the Women in Exhibitions Network, which now has chapters in four countries, to make our industry discover us women, and at the same time create the right environment for women to shift in their attitudes and behaviour, and to support them to change. Topics like personal branding, but also learning from role models, mentors and networks can be used to promote the advancement of women. If we do not empower each other, who will? That is what we do at our events; we empower each other and trigger attention for equality in decision-making.”
The launch of the UK chapter of the Network at International Confex was a fantastic success, with over 120 men and women registering to attend and spending an hour at the show networking and making suggestions for how the Network can provide value in the future.
Soraya Gadelrab, Portfolio Director – Food, Drink & Hospitality at Montgomery Group and one of the founding partners of the UK chapter, told attendees: “We sent out an invite thinking it would be nice to get 30-40 people here and we had 120 RSVPs. Thank you for getting behind this, this will be your network. There are opportunities for women to rise to the top in this industry and we have amazing role models; plenty of women who have fought their way to the top.
“Men are very good at saying how great they are at what they do and perhaps women aren’t as quick to sing their own praises. They’re brilliant at their jobs but they never shout about the things that they’ve done. When there are opportunities to sit on a panel or talk at a university you have to take those opportunities because it will get you known for what you do brilliantly day-to-day.”
You can learn more about the Women in Exhibitions Network at https://womeninexhibitions.wordpress.com/.
Thanks to Nicola Macdonald for taking this interview.