Diversity, Equality & Inclusion

written by Alistair Turner

In a year that has seen few positives in and around the events industry, one of the more encouraging news stories is how it has embraced the subject of Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DE&I). Much of the commentary around the issue has highlighted that, broadly, the industry has much work to do around the subject, specifically around race; organisations such as Black in Business and the work done throughout the global trade associations has been quick to identify both the issues and the solutions the industry needs to address.

The Events Industry Council (EIC) is just one of these associations looking to take on the subject head on. Earlier this year the organisation launched the first phase of its Equity Acceleration Plan for the industry. It sees this initial step as researching and benchmarking where the industry is right now, through a far-reaching research project.

In the form or an industry-wide survey, the initiative aims to determine the current state of DE&I within the workplace across the events industry. The results will inform the development recommendations in subsequent phases of the plan. Moving forward, the EIC also aims to produce a series of specially created educational courses, tools, and resources to support the industry in its shared goal of a more diverse and inclusive future.

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This approach from the EIC should be applauded as it shows a sensible approach to the subject including benchmarking and measurement, that allows it to take it on thoroughly and responsibly.  Corporate pressure represents the significant incentive around the subject. Like sustainability, this is a subject that represents a company’s values and ethics; those of which need to be communicated through its events programme.

Equally, for those working in the events industry, the EIC’s research is expected to show a genuine passion for the subject amongst those running events as well as the brands they work alongside. One such business is Wasserman. Predominantly a sports marketing and talent management company, based in Los Angeles, US, the company works with major sporting events and brand activations, working across the NFL, NBA, NHL and Expo 2020 Dubai among others. 

In May 2019, following the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent global movement around Black Lives Matter, the company accelerated its plans around DE&I with events becoming one of its many battlegrounds. The company commented, “Wasserman is partner to the world's most iconic athletes, artists, brands, properties, broadcasters, coaches, sport executives and influencers across sports, entertainment and culture, so we appreciate full well the role these sectors play in defining culture.”

In 2021, Wasserman released a Brand Citizen’s guide to immediate social impact in sports and entertainment – Step Up or Sit Out. The report collated clear data to show the increasing demands from fans and consumers on the businesses they engage with to be present, authentic, and genuine when it comes to social impact; on racial justice, social justice, LBGTQ+ rights, women’s rights, sustainability and more.

This trend towards brands becoming ‘super-citizens of the world’ has been covered in this report in the past, but it continues to grow in visibility, as consumers make purchasing decisions around the ethical qualities of brands they choose.

Wasserman add that, “As an agency, we are seeing an increase in demands from our clients to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion is a key priority. This can come in many forms, such as diversity of thought in teams, inclusion riders, purpose-led sponsorship and partner deals, and diverse supplier chains. Now more than ever, it is clear that accountability and sustainable positive change are going to be the key indicators in 2022 of whether we in the events industry have listened to these expectations and demands.”

One of the predominant hurdles for many businesses, both within and outside of the industry, is how to implement a strategy and plan that effectively addresses DE&I. There is no lack of will but turning this into an action will be a challenge the industry needs to face down quickly in 2022.

An initiative working well for Wasserman is run in partnership with Facebook, involving the creation of talking shops where voices from underrepresented communities across the organisation’s businesses, are heard in front of senior leadership. By hearing from these voices, the businesses look to better understand their perspectives, act on them, and create more inclusive teams.

Wasserman recently received certification in ISO 30415, Human Resource Management - Diversity and Inclusion. The new accreditation was published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in May, covering actions, principles, measures and their associated accountabilities and responsibilities. A large part of achieving the accreditation was the company’s ability to set specific goals. These goals also provide a helpful roadmap for those looking to implement successful business strategies in the area of DE&I. They include:

  1. Develop anti-bias training globally that helps to educate and support employees
  2. Create subcommittees for each of Wasserman's DE&I Council focuses: Training & Development, Women, Recruitment, Wellness, Mentoring and Culture.
  3. Create safe spaces for discussion - town halls, roundtables, forums, and Employee Resource Groups - and opportunities to support initiatives to further progress social and racial justice causes
  4. Diversify recruitment resources for internship and employee hiring.

These activities, and many others like it, should be a source of pride within the meetings and events community. However, while it has been open and honest about the challenges it faces in ensuring a more diverse industry, our community will inevitably be assessed on its ability to demonstrate change. The rewards are writ large and can be a major signal of the industry building back better for the future.