I haven’t written a post here in a while as I wanted to wait until I had something important to say. Today is the day.
Protestors across North America and the world are calling out for justice and equity. Police chiefs and country leaders, such as Canada’s Prime Minister, have joined them with supportive words. Some have even taken the knee. From the CEOs of Ben and Jerry’s to Salesforce to Canadian bank executives, there has been a call for racial equity.
The main focus has been to demand equity and fair treatment in policing and the social justice system, but this is just one VERY large and sharp tip of the iceberg. Let’s hope that this rallying cry is not just “the flavor of the month.” It must be followed by real and meaningful change.
Let’s take a hard look at the meeting and event industry. The lack of equity has been glaring. Black and visible minority professionals are missing from:
- leadership positions
- planning committees
- breakout sessions facilitation
- lists of top industry professionals
By contrast, white professionals with less experience have no problem making those lists and receiving accolades. I addressed this glaring omission four years ago in “The Invisible Minorities of the Meeting and Event Industry.” These lists are important because out of sight is out of mind when it’s time to hire speakers, breakout session facilitators and planners.
It’s interesting that when paid engagements are available, black keynote speakers and breakout session facilitators are invisible. When it’s the time to speak for free, suddenly we glow in the dark.
For example, why is it that, despite the fact that I have blogged for major industry portals since 2011 and managed the largest group for event and meeting industry professionals, I am only ever invited to speak for free at industry conferences and events?
This is nothing personal. That is why organizations such as the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners, founded in 1983, and recognition ceremonies like Best in Black Awards exist.
As a black facilitator, speaker, and, at times, event planner, the temptation is to remain silent. To speak up means being labeled a troublemaker or an angry black woman and reducing one’s opportunities even further.
No matter what the cost, the time for silence is over for those of us who have been at the receiving end of exclusion.
At this juncture, the worst thing that organizations in our industry could do is issue a call for equity. For the most part, it would be hypocritical, and the words would ring hollow. There are, of course, some exceptions. I started to list a few organizations that have been role models but, if I do, I will leave some of them out.
This is a season to keep mouths closed, listen, learn, reflect and strategize. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau role modeled this a few days ago. He paused and reflected before he spoke. His silence was heard around the world and it added potency to his words.
Pause, listen, learn, reflect and strategize in collaboration with black industry professionals, not in a vacuum. These should not be “pick your brain for free” sessions either. Black industry professionals deserve to be compensated properly for any consulting and expertise that they provide.
When mouths are finally opened it should be to apologize and unveil a concrete plan for reparations. Reparations is a heavy word but when individuals have been excluded and their earning potential has been significantly reduced regardless of merit or competence, it’s the appropriate word.
Talk is cheap. Organizations that want to make a meaningful contribution must word their words carefully and then be sure that they are ready to put their money where their mouth is.