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Purposeful Planning – Could Sexual Harassment And Male-Dominated Panels Derail Your Next Meeting?

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If meeting professionals didn’t have enough to worry about with natural disasters, violence and terrorism, now there is the double-header of female backlash against sexual harassment and male-dominated agendas at our events.

Like other catastrophes, these issues have the potential to seriously derail your next conference.

Frankly I’m surprised there hasn’t yet been a highly publicized report about a business event where serious sexual misconduct has taken place. In the current climate, it’s probably only a matter of time before a “regular” meeting, with corporate or association attendees, get called out.

Let’s face it, events bring together people who, being out of their element and given alcohol, may be more than a wee bit tempted to cross the line – the meetings industry itself is far from an exception! Recently MPI International Board of Directors member Courtney Stanley contributed an excellent article covering the topic in M&IT Magazine. I read it thinking, “Wow, sounds like so little has changed in 30 years.” (yes, OK, I’m very much dating myself here!)

At the other end of the spectrum, did you know of the organization Meeting Professionals Against Human Trafficking? The organization’s mission is to, “To collaborate, through education and synchronization, to bring awareness to human trafficking happening in our venues, conferences, events, sporting events.” Another industry colleague, Sandy Biback, CMP Emeritus, CMM leads discussions on this horrendous issue, and is active on Twitter and Facebook.

From the inappropriate to the downright criminal, in our collective efforts to produce better business events, we should all be asking ourselves what we are doing to eliminate sexual misconduct and exploitation.

The second storm boiling over is one that has hit a “regular” meeting squarely in the gut. Have you heard of the hashtag #YAMMM? This stands for “Yet Another Mostly Male Meeting.” It’s been around since early 2016, but with the impetus behind sexual harassment shaming, the accusations have extended to “manels” where lack of diversity on panels and in conferences is being called out.

For a sharp perspective on where this is headed, read Imogen Coe’s Op-Ed piece, published on Nov. 12 in The Globe and Mail. It’s an excellent reminder that, “diversity is a fact, while inclusion in a choice.” And if you are working with an association and your conference program committee isn’t coming up with enough gender and cultural diversity, you may be in big trouble…

As always, I’d love to read your comments!

 Article Written By Doreen Ashton Wagner, Host & Community Leader at

Article edited by Rozanne Lyons, CMP, Intertask Conferences