Doing the Work: Diversifying the Events Industry
In the wake of the protests after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, more people than ever are committed to making lasting change. One way to make lasting change is to work with more BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) partners in the events industry. You often see lists of BIPOC professionals you should reach out to, but that kind of list has drawbacks: It commodifies the people on it. It leaves out the people not included. It reduces the work of creating a diverse industry to something akin to shopping from a list. And most importantly, readers of the list are not forming their own relationships that will lead to an authentically and sustainably diverse industry.
So what is ‘Doing The Work’ and how do you do it?
Doing The Work means proactively taking steps to build a more inclusive events industry. Doing The Work means challenging your thinking to see where you can do better by BIPOC event professionals. Doing The Work means retraining your brain to actively seek out professionals who are underrepresented. We all have our go-to partners, and that’s great. But surely there are more folks out there who can become go-to partners if you allow yourself to build professional relationships with them.
If you don’t already have BIPOC event professionals in your network, research professional associations or alumni networks from nearby universities that focus on BIPOC membership. And use the easiest resource available: social media. If you’re already following event pros, do some research and see who they’re following. Check out industry-related hashtags.
Doing The Work also means using your professional capital. Next time you do an RFP or need a vendor, hold yourself accountable to hiring BIPOC event pros. Make the effort to meet with your new contacts and learn about them and their professional experience. Keep in mind that experience in events you aren’t familiar with doesn’t mean that experience isn’t valuable. Don’t let their resume or website alone be what makes up your mind. Form a relationship with them, learn what they do best, and hire or recommend them when you learn about opportunities that suit them.
Also: Refrain from asking your existing BIPOC contacts to introduce you to new people. Even if you have good intentions, you’re asking your BIPOC contacts to Do The Work for you. You are the person who needs to have working relationships with a broader network, not your BIPOC friends, so you have to put in the effort to build relationships that broaden your network.
Systems have power. And systems are made up of the people who inhabit them. If you’re in a position to hire someone, you’re in a powerful position to change the system you inhabit. Use the power you have to make real, enduring change.
About the Author
Emily Mauter is an event planner, fundraiser, and spreadsheet whisperer. Emily has over 16 years of nonprofit experience, in both large organizations with national presence and in local grassroots organizations. Emily excels at devising solutions that are nimble, creative, innovative, and able to withstand change. Emily’s professional passion lies at the nexus of strategic planning, logistics, fundraising, and hospitality. Emily is the founder and principal at Emily Mauter Consulting Co., and she currently serves on the board of directors for the International Live Events Association – Minneapolis/St. Paul Chapter.
The International Live Events Association (ILEA) represents and supports more than 5,000 members globally—event professionals who do business together, share knowledge, nurture talent and progress the live events industry. For more information on how an ILEA professional can help you with your event, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.