IAEE represents the interests of trade show and consumer event producers, and promotes the value of exhibitions in generating commerce on a global basis. My focus is on driving the global strategy of the association, including DE&I, sustainability and work force development. 

Cathy Breden
EVP/COO, International Association of Exhibitions and Events

What inspired you to work in the international association sector?  

If one is looking to make a difference in people’s lives, working for an association is a great choice. 

The majority of my career has been with associations. I value working for organisations whose missions I believe in. My inherent nature is servant leadership, demonstrated through my own volunteer activities, and the work I do with IAEE’s own board and committees. 

Can you remember a time when you needed to #BreakTheBias? 

I’ve experienced bias throughout my career. What I have learned from my life experiences is to speak up and out. Support one another, reach down and pull people up. 

When I was a young professional, I would receive inappropriate comments or would be told I was too emotional. There was an attitude of being dismissed for what I had to say. Of course, this bias isn’t unique to just young professionals who are women. The bias I experienced most was primarily through pay inequity. It is just within the past several years I am being paid the salary I should be for the level position I’m in.  

With David DuBois at IAEE, and my role as COO, we have a strong focus on equity and inclusion. Regardless of gender, we are family supportive. In 2013, we launched our Women’s Leadership Initiative and each year it is sold out. The women there inspire me through the challenges they have encountered and through their personal and professional life stories.  

How important are diversity, equity, and inclusion for the future success of associations?  

DE&I – especially the E & I are incredibly important. If everyone had a seat at the table, felt included, were paid equitably and treated equitably, this world would be a better place.  

DE&I starts at the top and needs to be a strong, ongoing cause. Associations have the tremendous opportunity to be a role model by having their own strongly worded DE&I statement and doing what they say. Associations also can make a tremendous difference through the scholarship and grant programs they may have. 

What concrete actions have helped you promote DEI? Any recommendations? 

IAEE has had a non-discrimination policy for years, but what we didn’t have was strong position statement. Three years ago, I drafted such a position statement and it was approved by the board. We are intentional in our internal hiring practices. We are also intentional in selecting speakers and the organisations they represent. We’ve had an LGBTQ meet up at our annual meeting for years. We ensure our boards and committees are diverse. Our DE&I Committee will shortly announce a scholarship program for high school students in under-served communities. We funded a survey to better understand the tools our members need.  

While other associations may have done more, if every association committed to the cause the outcome would be advanced quicker. We know this is a long game and IAEE is committed to DE&I.