I have been a member of the Board of AIPC (International Association for Conference and Congress Venues) since 2018 and a member since 2015. I am convinced that any platform that brings together diverse voices from different backgrounds and different sectors – and from public, private, and civil society – is key to a better understanding, learning, business, and ultimately to a better world.
What inspired you to work in the international association sector? Would you recommend this career to others?
My entry into the international association sector was one of pure chance, and I quickly realized how instrumental it could be to my professional growth. The opportunity to learn and share with others in similar businesses faced with similar but often very different challenges, due to market, size, clients, and stakeholders, has been key to my success in building this business in a relatively small venue.
I am grateful for the opportunities to meet and share with those that could be considered competitors but in reality are colleagues. Following my very first experience in 2015, I was keen to contribute and become an advocate for this association, which led to my desire to join the AIPC Board in 2018. Steering our association through the Covid pandemic has been rewarding, and I attribute much of my own team’s ability to persevere to the support that the association provided in terms of information and pro-active initiatives to move forward.
Can you remember a time when you needed to #BreakTheBias?
I have to admit that I have been lucky in my career and I have not faced much bias myself, or at least I have never perceived it. That is not to say that I have not seen unjustified bias in my years in leadership roles. My own approach has always been to ensure that we are bringing on the best people for the job and that they fit into the culture that we have created.
The event business has a certain bias of self-selection: technical specialists tend to be male and event managers tend to be female in this industry. While I have not actively pursued gender balance per se, our culture speaks well for how we have managed to ensure a diverse group of individuals who genuinely like and respect each other’s professional abilities, regardless of their nationality, gender, or other difference, to deliver to our clients the event experiences that they expect.
More than putting in quotas, we have decided to drive away bias through our social contract of the ‘SwissTech Key Behaviours’ which speak to how we get our job done. This has been key for creating a non-bias culture and has served us well. Over my past 7 years as the head of this organization, I have dismissed only two individuals who – despite the fact that they were high performers – violated this cultural contract and, in particular, were unable to make a change in their behaviour to accept the differences of their colleagues and peers.
How important are diversity, equity, and inclusion for the future success of associations? Any tips?
A diverse and inclusive environment based on trust and respect is key to continuity. The ‘SwissTech Key Behaviors’, our social contract of how we perform, not what, is our most important criteria day-to-day and in our evaluation process. And, of course, management must walk the talk. You can verify skill and experience and even train for this, but, at the end of the day, cultural fit wins overall.