Looking Ahead

The Ascent CEO Promise

Diversity and inclusion is a smart move for the business-events industry — and can only be helped along by our combined resolve.

It’s only been a few short months that I’ve been writing this column as PCMA’s president and CEO, but you can already see that diversity and inclusion is a passion of mine. PCMA’s Ascent initiative is intended to help the events industry make those values part of its DNA. Now I am going one step further and asking that industry leaders join me by signing the Ascent CEO Promise. The promise builds upon the important work already done in the wider business world in a way that resonates with the events community.

To help us work together to mitigate tensions around gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, and disabilities, the promise outlines three goals:

  1. We will make our workplaces and events open and trusting settings.
  2. We will provide education on barriers to inclusivity, including unconscious bias.
  3. We will share what we know, what we learn, and what needs improvement.

The third goal specifically relates to being more intentional about creating diverse and inclusive panels and speaker programs, and adopting a zero-tolerance harassment policy so all participants feel safe and welcome at our events.

As I say in the promise, we believe greater inclusion will foster new voices to strengthen our leadership, our businesses, and our world. By working together, we will cultivate meaningful social change.

I announced the Ascent CEO Promise last month as I moderated a panel during the She Means Business conference — a part of IMEX Frankfurt. She Means Business is a new conference created with the goal of allowing  meeting and event strategists — both men and women — to learn from inspiring women. As captured in images shared on social media, my fellow She Means Business speakers were among the first to sign the promise.

Even before the event, PCMA’s boards were enthusiastic about the Ascent CEO Promise. Every day, there seems to be news about a business under fire for lack of diversity or inclusion, and events are not immune. But as the boards recognize, as an industry we have an incredible opportunity to foster change. We are about bringing people together, at face-to-face events or via digital experiences, and we are not fulfilling our potential if any of those we serve feel less than included.

We must ask ourselves, as events leaders, are we booking panels that reflect the wider world? Are we, as CEOs, doing all that we can to ensure that every employee is able to thrive in our organizations? That every attendee feels welcome in our community?

We know that diversity and inclusion are smart for all businesses; studies show they have a positive impact on the bottom line. And we all want the best and the brightest on our teams. By making our organizations places of trust, we set the groundwork to achieve that. Please sign and/or ask your leaders to sign the promise — and let’s all take it to heart.

Sherrif Karamat

Sherrif Karamat is CEO and president of PCMA.