Megan Gell
May 23, 2018

Industry forms coalition to stop sexual harassment

MPI, SITE, PCMA, IMEX and more to stand #StrongerTogether.

Rhonda Brewer, Past President, SITE.
Rhonda Brewer, Past President, SITE.

A new coalition to stop sexual harassment in the meetings and events industry has been formed, comprising leaders and executives from the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), Association for Women in Events (AWE), Events Industry Council (EIC), International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), Worldwide Exhibition for Incentive Travel, Meetings and Events (IMEX), Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC), Meeting professionals International (MPI), Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and the Society for Incentive Travel Executives (SITE).

The coalition was formed to gather everyone behind a common goal: eradicating sexual harassment in the events industry and workplace. Each of these groups has been addressing sexual harassment separately and determined that the issue required policies that span beyond the confines of each individual organisation.

The coalition said in an official statement: “In the wake of movements like #TimesUp and #MeToo, every industry must take action to create positive change and end sexual harassment, once and for all. The coalition recognises that when it comes to these ethical concerns and human rights, we are #StrongerTogether.”

Carrie Abernathy, CMP, CEM, CSEP, past-president and co-founder of AWE, and Kiki J. Fox, president and co-founder of AWE, rallied industry leaders to establish the coalition and then organised regular meetings to determine the group’s strategic direction.

In addition, Fox has taken on the leadership role of managing the task force, organising action items and driving the coalition’s initiatives. “It's imperative that our organisations present a united front against sexual harassment in the industry. Together, we are declaring zero tolerance for behavior that harasses or discriminates," she said.

The coalition will identify tools and developing new resources to assist in educating individuals and the events industry about sexual harassment. The group’s next step is to launch a webinar that introduces sexual harassment prevention subject matter experts in later this year.

The following industry leaders have come forward to join the task force:
• Rhonda Brewer, Past President, SITE
• Susan Robertson, CAE, Executive Vice President, ASAE
• Bob Skelton, Chief Administration Officer, ASAE
• Kiki J. Fox, President & Co-Founder, AWE
• Carrie Abernathy, CMP, CEM, CSEP, Past-President & Co-Founder, AWE
• Johnnie White, MBA, CAE, CMP, Treasurer, AWE
• Julie Sullivan, CMP, CEM, CTA, Vice President, AWE
• Nicole Unger, CMP, Secretary, AWE
• Karen Kotowski, CAE, CMP, CEO, EIC
• Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE, COO, IAEE
• Carina Bauer, CEO, IMEX
• Rod Cameron, Program Management, JMIC
• Amanda Armstrong, Chair, MPI
• Sherrif Karamat, CAE, President & CEO, PCMA

Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX Group, said: “In a year in which we have chosen ‘Legacy’ as our IMEX Talking Point, I’m pleased to be part of an initiative that focuses on a future free of sexual harassment within our industry and within workplaces all over the globe. By showing our unity and alignment on this issue, I genuinely believe we can change attitudes and behaviours and put this issue behind us once and for all.”

Both PCMA and SITE unveiled new initiatives at IMEX focused on creating more inclusive workplaces and events, and empowering women to become stronger business event industry leaders.

Rhonda Brewer, SITE Past President 2015, said: “SITE is deeply committed to providing a supportive professional community where all members are treated with dignity, decency and respect.

“Upon joining SITE, members agree to abide by a Code of Ethics and Conduct built on mutual trust and a fundamental respect for the rights, dignity and value of all persons. Harassment or intimidation of any kind, included but not limited to sexual harassment, is violation of our professional ethics and should be regarded and treated as such by our members.”

MPI updated its Principles of Professionalism in January 2018 to include specific wording stating that MPI will not tolerate harassment of any kind; implementing annual non-harassment training for all staff, board members and chapter volunteer leaders; establishing a confidential, independently serviced harassment hotline for complaints to be raised and investigated; and addressing the issue and prevention advice in MPI’s The Meeting Professional magazine and blog posts.

Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of MPI, said: “MPI is committed to continuing to cultivate a safe, harassment-free environment for our members, staff and the broader MPI community. We must make every effort to prevent harassment of any kind within our global community and look forward to collaborating with the coalition on this very important initiative.”

All nine organisations involved in the new coalition will be posting more details of upcoming education and initiatives around this subject to their respective website homepages. The coalition encourages the events industry to follow along and participate.


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