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Smashing the glass ceiling: First Women in Exhibitions World Summit hosted by city where diversity and inclusion are prioritized

By 24 April 2023May 15th, 2023No Comments

Dutch city of Maastricht stands out as a knowledge hub powered by women

Maastricht, 24 April 2023 – There’s a good reason the first-ever Women in Exhibitions World Summit is about to land in Maastricht. This city in the heart of Europe is the prime location for this meeting as it has gained quite a reputation for female leadership. On 13 and 14 June, the city will welcome members of the worldwide Women in Exhibitions Network including chapters from the UK, Netherlands, North America and DACH region. Exhibition organisers, venues and event industry suppliers whose business is related to the organisation and facilitation of exhibitions or trade fairs will meet in person for the very first international summit since the network was founded in 2018.

Promoting diversity
Female leadership is an important aspect of Maastricht, and Maastricht University has the second highest number of women professors in the Netherlands. This commitment to diversity and inclusion is emblematic of the values of the city and its institutions, and both Maastricht University and the Maastricht UMC+ academic hospital are committed to fostering this. In a recent article in Boardroom magazine, two women in leadership positions in Maastricht, Prof Dr Pamela Habibović (Rector Magnificus of Maastricht University) and Dr Helen Mertens (President of the Executive Board at the Maastricht UMC+ academic hospital) were interviewed on this topic. ‘We have quite a reputation nowadays for the number of female leaders we have in Maastricht,’ says Dr Mertens. ‘My predecessor at Maastricht UMC+ was the first female CEO, and the fact that the mayor of Maastricht is a woman is another excellent example of female leadership. But it’s actually not about gender; it’s about content. Having the right person, in the right spot, at the right time.’

As Dr Habibović concludes: ‘It is crucial to promote a work environment and a city where diversity and inclusion are prioritized and transformation is ongoing, even if a heavy-handed approach is not desired. The glass ceiling is much more than achieving a position; it’s about acceptance. I hope that leading by example will show others that not only is it possible, it’s really just a no brainer.’ Representing two of the largest employers in the city, these leaders are creating a dynamic academic environment with no room for exclusion. Their leadership combined with the international significance of the work being done at their institutions is definitely enhancing Maastricht’s status as a globally impactful destination.

Beyond Bias: Breaking Business Barriers
Founder and initiator of the Women in Exhibitions Network Oana Cipca is excited to host the summit in ‘her’ Maastricht Exhibition and Conference Centre (MECC). ‘We have so many role models in Maastricht. It was an obvious move to choose a city like Maastricht. Our organisation focuses on offering a voice and a space to diverse groups to introduce themselves, step up, and share the challenges we face as an industry. As women in our industry, we represent 80% of the workforce, yet it is still a man’s world at the top. Simply by speaking about this, we can awaken the industry, and we are seeing more diversity on conference stages and in C-level positions.

‘The theme of the conference is Beyond Bias: Breaking Business Barriers. The summit is specifically designed to identify and overcome biases and stereotyping and to maximise the full female potential as professionals and industry leaders. Programming for the event’s debut is robust and includes speakers like Laura Shapiro, Stephanie Selesnick and Martha Donato. Panels will address the path to senior management roles for women, intergenerational discussions about the exhibition industry and diversity presentations, amongst other topics. The summit will precede the UFI European Conference that will be heldfrom 14 to 16 June 2023.’

Empowering women in the industry 
The Women in Exhibitions Network was set up in 2018 to fulfil the mission of empowering women in the industry whilst helping to nurture the next generation of female leaders. The network welcomes as members professionals representing exhibition organisers, venues and event industry suppliers whose business is related to the organisation and facilitation of exhibitions or trade fairs. With chapters in UK, the Netherlands, North America and DACH region, the community is a growing voice forpromoting diversity and inclusion in an innovative industry.

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