March is Women’s History Month—an important opportunity to amplify and appreciate the accomplishments of women around the world.
Here at U.S. Travel, we are taking this opportunity to highlight women who have shown immense leadership in the travel and tourism industry.
Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX Group, shared what Women’s History Month means to her and the ways IMEX is working to elevate and retain female leaders in the workforce by introducing flexible work policies for all, aimed to allow their team to manage their whole lives in a healthy and blended way.
IMEX Group is based in the UK.
What does Women’s History Month mean to you and how do you celebrate it?
This year’s theme established by the National Women’s History Alliance: ‘Providing healing, promoting hope,’ really resonates with me. It’s particularly apt when considering the world’s recovery post pandemic and encourages a positive outlook towards the future.
Looking to the future is key when considering diversity, inclusion and women’s empowerment – we need to pave the way for future generations of women to learn, grow and succeed. I have enjoyed being a mentor on industry programmes here in the UK, coaching and offering guidance to women in the midst of building their career paths, as well as learning from them. This taught me the importance of mentorship – a process that delivers enormous benefit to both mentee and mentor.
How have you witnessed or experienced the roles of women change in society over the past decade(s)?
In my sector, the business event industry, plenty of women are event planners, managers and directors but, traditionally, there were few female leaders. Thankfully this is changing with many women now in very senior positions across the business events landscape – from those running tradeshow businesses, to those leading CVBs, as well as many women entrepreneurs who are heading up major event agencies. Whilst we are not there yet in terms of gender parity, I believe that there has been a shift over the past decade and I look forward to seeing greater diversity in all its forms at leadership levels in both our industry and across sectors.
Data shows that women are leaving the workforce at the highest rate in decades. What do you consider the biggest challenges for women in the workforce and what can be done to address them and empower more women?
The Great Resignation has been shown to be impacting women in greater numbers than their male counterparts. Whilst home working during the pandemic may have appeared to be a panacea for some, the reality of working and caring for children for many months, has led to more women leaving the workforce than ever before.
This comes on top of the old challenges inherent in many businesses – both in terms of career progression and career flexibility which have traditionally had an outsized impact on women.
As we come out of the pandemic, we see many organisations changing to remote-first and hybrid ways of working which can benefit all and particularly women. However, these new working practices need to have fairness at their heart to ensure that women working from home are not penalised by a return to ‘presenteeism’ culture. Enlightened companies also understand that staff can have many different kinds of caring commitments and that these are not just limited to women. At IMEX, for example, we’ve introduced fully flexible working for all to allow our team to manage their whole lives in a healthy and blended way.
We need to involve everyone in the discussions around gender equality and continue to have open and honest conversations. The business events industry has been doing just that for a number of years through programs like She Means Business, a conversation for all. IMEX, along with our partner tw magazine and supported by MPI, is inviting everyone to join the debate and take a fresh look at diversity, gender equality and female empowerment via a series of sessions at IMEX in Frankfurt this May.
Can you tell us about a role model who has inspired you? What’s your favorite piece of advice you’ve received or like to give?
My favourite piece of advice that I’ve received and give (especially to my children!) is to not look back with regret, but to look back only to learn from your mistakes and then move forward with confidence.
There are so many inspiring role models to choose from; but given the past two years I would have to choose Dame Sarah Gilbert who has been the face of the Oxford – Astra Zeneca team who developed their vaccine. A scientist, a professor, a mother, a daughter, a wife and a person who has been tireless in helping to keep the world safe, building consensus and communicating with clarity at a time when we were plunged into confusion and chaos. Last summer (July 2021), Dr. Gilbert and her colleagues attended Wimbledon and were given a standing ovation by the crowd – it still gives me goosebumps to think about the impact that she and her team have had on the world and the gratitude that we owe to them.
IMEX in Frankfurt - including She Means Business - takes place 31 May – 2 June 2022 - the business events community can register here. Registration is free.