Oana Cipca is an entrepreneur and leader in the exhibition industry, who founded the international association « Women in Exhibitions ». She is responsible for business development of international exhibitions at MECC Maastricht, and is the founder of the NGO Wanna’Help, investing in the talent development of orphans in Romania.
At « Women in Exhibitions », Oana’s mission is to empower the next generation of women leaders by creating a platform that supports and increases the number of women in decision-making positions in the industry. Today, Women in Exhibitions has a global reach, with chapters in the DACH region, UK, North America and The Netherlands, and upcoming launches in France and Spain.
What inspired you to work in the international association sector? Would you recommend this career to others?
While not working only with international associations, I belive that the exhibition industry shares many of the same qualities. I discovered the industry by mistake and fell in love with it back in 2016! Before getting into exhibitions and events, I worked in education in the maritime sector. What most attracted me to the industry was the great diversity of trade shows – something that allows you to gain insights into so many fields.
I am an ambassador of the industry and recommend it to all people I get the chance to, I love the fact that you can jump from topics like stainless steel to polyurethanes to classic cars to real estate. Witnessing so many industries all brought together is simply wonderful to experience. The exhibitions industry has it all and is at the front of much innovation. I can’t imagine the new generation would not like this. However, it is an industry where change takes time – especially when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Nevertheless, we make great steps.
How does your association #EmbraceEquity? Does giving a voice and a space to diverse groups make for better results? What are the challenges you encounter? Did you solve them?
From the start, we knew that this organization would focus on offering a voice and a space to diverse groups to present themselves, step up, and share the challenges we face as an industry. As women in our industry, we represent 80% of the workforce, yet it is still a men’s world at the top. Simply by speaking about this,we can awaken the industry, and we see already see more diversity on stages and in C-level positions. We need role models to be there for the new generations, and the male leaders of today to support us. Step by step, we will succeed in solving this.
How important are diversity, equity, and inclusion for the future success of associations? What initiatives, projects and ideas can you share that help other understand the real value of DEI?
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are very important for the future success of associations. We must ensure that people don’t feel we are only talking about DEI without taking any action. Mere talk will not bring about change.
Our approach involves engaging branch organizations in our industry in conversations and encouraging them to advocate with us by introducing DEI in their programs. The Women in Exhibitions World Summit, launching on June 13th next year in Maastricht, will feature speakers discussing the topic of ‘Beyond Bias.’ This session aims to break down business barriers by encouraging discussions among new and senior professionals and presenting practical and easy-to-implement actions at the individual and corporate levels. Concrete actions and tools is what helps people, we need to keep it simple as any form of change is challenging enough as it is.