Looking Ahead: It’s Past Time

Join us in the movement to unleash the power of inclusion and diversity.

Author: Sherrif Karamat       

Sherrif Karamat, CAE

The #MeToo hashtag, which has given hundreds of thousands of people a way to break their silence about experiencing sexual harassment, seemed to have come out of nowhere in the last months of 2017. But, in fact, activist Tarana Burke created the Me Too campaign a decade earlier. Which underscores a truth about almost any discussion about promoting equity and inclusion — none of this is new.

Just as we have long known the real harm that comes from discriminating against people because of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or other factors, we’ve also known for many years that diversity is one of the most powerful drivers of both business innovation and profitability. It’s not just time, it’s past time for us to act from a place that deeply values and supports inclusion and diversity.

Fortunately, like #MeToo, this is a movement with momentum. The CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion initiative (ceoaction.com) is less than a year old, and it has already brought together more than 350 CEOs of the world’s largest companies, each whom have pledged to advance diversity and inclusion in their own workplaces and to share their best ideas and practices with one another. How? By leveraging the power of face-to-face events as well as an active online community.

It is no surprise that the world’s top leaders would use events to move social transformation forward. I believe that business-event strategists have a unique role to play in this movement. At business events, exclusion and discrimination now come with a higher price. Attendees threatened to boycott the Consumer Electronics Show in January, because of the lack of female keynote speakers. Hundreds of men and women have taken the pledge not to appear on all-male panels as part of an initiative by the activist online community, Gender Avenger.

But as business-event strategists, we can lead the leaders, by designing business events that model inclusion and respect in multiple channels, in everything from proposing diverse speaker lineups, to insisting on clearly articulated anti-harassment policies, and other strategies designed to take advantage of the benefits of inclusion.

Diversity is expressed not only in identities such as gender, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation, but in the ideas that grow our companies and move our society forward. Diversity goes hand-in-hand with inclusion.

I am proud to say that promoting inclusion and diversity is part of PCMA’s DNA. It’s more critical than ever that we not only shine a spot-light — but act — on this issue. That’s why PCMA has launched Ascent, an initiative with the sole objective of focusing on including all members of society and ensuring diversity, women, people with disabilities, and those who identify as LGBTQI. Convene began publishing articles under the Ascent umbrella earlier this year, and you can read more about this work at pcma.org/ascent. Our aim is to provide inspiration, research, best practices, and real-life tools that will make diversity and inclusion part of everything that we do.

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