Karen: There are plenty of wonderful allies out there, but it's just, I think where it lands, when we look at all of these things around the impact of gender roles, whether you're a 20 something and, oh, God forbid, you, how do you get that voice in the room?
Because all the, all the men that are older sitting around the table don't think that you know enough to the other side where, oh my God, you're going to get angry and all those things. So all those sorts of things I think are where there's an opportunity for us to take a look at as we work with each other in how we face those issues and push back on things in the right ways.
Intro: Great events create great brands, and it takes a village to put on an event that engages, excites and connects audiences to your brand. And we're that village. I'm Alyssa. I'm Paulina. And I'm Rachel. And you're listening to great events, the podcast for all people interested in events and marketing,
Alyssa: Hello everyone. What has been going on in this wide world of events? My name is Alyssa and welcome to this week's episode of the podcast. Great Events, a podcast Vice Event. This week we are going to talk about ageism in events. And to do so I'm joined by my fellow co-host, Paulina Giusti and a special guest that we've brought onto the podcast, also a fellow Cventer, Karen Carter.
Before, we have Karen introduce herself. I just wanted to provide just a quick definition of ageism here so that we're all on the same page as we go into the conversation today. Ageism refers to the stereotypes, how we think, and the prejudices, how we feel, and the discrimination, how we act towards each other, or oneself based on our age specifically. Okay. Karen, we would love to have you introduce yourself, give a little bit more background about what you do here at Cvent. Karen is the director of enterprise marketing for Europe, joining us from London today, but she does a lot more than that for not only Cvent, but for the industry at large related to this topic of ageism.
Karen, with that, take it away. Introduce yourself to our listeners.
Karen: Hello. hello. I'm really happy to be here, and talking with both of you on this subject. Again, my name is Karen. I've been working in marketing for my entire career. Which is pushing, dare I say, 30 years now. Hence my passion for this topic in many ways. In the day job right now, it is focusing on reaching our enterprise customers and how we market to them to get them to buy and love Cvent.
But, something that has become very acute through my work journey and engagement with a few different organizations over here in the UK. One, for example, is called Bloom, and another is called the International Advertising Association, is the conversations and the interesting issues that are arising for women, particularly in like the marketing and events industries and how they are seen at all points in that kind of, we'll call it age spectrum.
My focus being someone who's been around for more than five minutes, trends towards the impact of ageism for women who are a bit older in their careers. But increasingly we're starting to see all this really interesting data around the impact of, there's a recent Harvard Business Review report that we were talking about where it's if you're 30, you got a problem.
If you're 40, you got a problem. If you're 50, you got a problem. 'cause you're either. Maybe getting married and or wanting to have children. Having the children then coming back or leaving for a long time, and then trying to get back into a work workforce. And then once you maybe hit your stride again, then perimenopause hits and you have all the fun that goes along with that.
Or you have to, I think, Paulina, you were talking about this yesterday, you have to care for someone who's elderly. All of these things seem to hit women more acutely than they might hit men. And so these are things that I spend time, working on, writing about, shouting from the rooftops when I can.
Alyssa: When I was going to say, even talking about hitting something acutely, the meetings and events industry and I don't know the exact numbers, I didn't actually prepare this data point, but as you were calling this out, Karen, with specificity to the meetings and events industry, I think latest survey results say the industry is comprised of somewhere at its 70 to 80% females.
So the data that Harvard business was providing can be felt even that much more within the meetings and events industry, just based solely off of, the makeup of who's in this industry specifically.
Karen: Yeah, I mean I heard a story in this case. It was more around like the real estate sector from a friend of mine just last night. Her sister went back into the workforce after 15 years working extra hard, working the longer hours, not asking for stuff. Trained up two people who were 20 years younger than her and they both just got promoted over her. So it's the, so there's some of those things that hit in that case, it's a woman who was coming back into the workforce. But, and when you think about the events industry and to your point, 78 to 80% of people, and yet, most of the time when you look around, and I can't remember the stat either, it's 80% are run by men, and this is not all right.
I don't want to make this like the militant feminist standing on my soapbox
Alyssa: Hey, we're here for it. You got three female hosts
Karen: There are plenty of wonderful allies out there, but it's just, I, I think where it lands, when we look at all of these things around the impact of gender roles, whether you're a 20 something and, oh, God forbid, you, how do you get that voice in the room? Because all the, all the men that are older sitting around the table don't think that you know enough to the other side where, oh my God, you're going to get angry and all those things. It's I also am wearing my pink for those who've seen the Barbie movie in America Forever speech and things like that. So all those sorts of things I think are where there's an opportunity for us to take a look at as we work with each other in how we face those issues and push back on things in the right ways.
Alyssa: Let me unpack this Harvard Business Review quote, 'cause I, I do want to make sure that we. Let the listeners know exactly what was stated here in this research. It says, in the recent open-ended survey, research of 913 women leaders from four US industries. So this was specificity to the US.
These are from higher education, faith-based nonprofits, law and healthcare. We discovered that many women suffered from this, and in quotes, “never right” age bias. Conceptions of young, middle, and old age are often based on perceptions and vary between workplaces and contexts when interpreting our results.
We consider young to be under 40, middle aged to be 40 to 60, and older women to be over 60. And I know in preparation for this particular episode, Paulina and I, while we tend to fall into the young bracket, have felt this “never right” age bias, significantly in our careers as well. Always trying to not be the age that we are to prove something, whatever that thing may be, and present ourselves in a different way than what our age currently is stated. And Paulina, I wanted to give you a chance to speak on this too.
Paulina: Yeah, I think this is also twofold, right? We're obviously looking at this from the lens of a professional, industry perspective. But, if you think about this from your personal life too, a lot of people call this keeping up with the Joneses, right? Like, how am I measuring my personal success to my personal relationships or peers?
And so then, add another layer to what you were just saying on the professional side, it's keeping up with the Joneses, or in my opinion, individuals like myself and Alyssa who are keeping up with the Joneses isn't good enough. We want to take things to the next level at a faster scale. At a faster rate, and I think it's not even balancing those, it's just even understanding what it means, right? And I think there's a lot of people out there who are probably thinking about this in a kind of vacuum. And I'm struggling to think about, okay, how am I keeping up and meeting my personal goals? And then, simultaneously continuing to grow, develop myself, develop my team in my professional goals.
And I just think having to carry that weight, those two weights is something that is worth acknowledging across the board. And something that I think a lot of people tussle with.
Karen: it's, as you said, it's if you're newer in your career or a earlier in the management side of things, you're trying to get the voice and the seat at the table, but you're perceived as one way, or God forbid, you might be what, whatever societal norm norms call pretty, or you are not, or then you're, then you get to a level of middle age and then you get too loud.
So it's like you're damned if you do, you're damned if you don't. And then to your point, it's what pressures do we put on ourselves based on all the different inputs? Business, personal, you're, my mother always taught, said to me, be the doctor, not the nurse. And pushed on those.
So what impact does that have from how you're raised and then when you go into the culture of an organization and how that organization is perceived. And, for me, as I was going back before I joined, Cvent had a host of interviews. Very long story, but the number of times you could just clock, and it was always in like the techie startups and it would be marketing roles.
And they would take one look at me and oh, what could you possibly know about mobile gaming? And I'm like, my CV clearly says, worked in mobile for 10 years. But these perceptions, it's like no matter what you do, it hits on this and brings it back to what HBR was talking about here.
So at what point do we all need to just take a beat and go, you know what, it's okay at all those levels. And more importantly, just take a look at, with internal organizations understanding the value of someone who might be 21. Alongside the five generations in the workforce who might be 60 and everyone's going to bring something different to the table.
Alyssa: Yeah, so in prep for this podcast, one of the things that we were talking about was how we feel like age is somewhat of a neglected factor, I would say in the DEI conversation right now.
And it's something that, while similar to talking about race, religion, gender, we oftentimes don't have this conversation like we're having today about age in the workplace too. And you can even see a slant, like you said, Karen, in technology companies towards, I would say the younger.
In other industries, there might be a slant more towards seniors, where there are younger individuals who feel the ageism. So it's just an interesting commentary that we're seeing that what we're recommending is that this be part of an organization's considerations as they're talking about this DEI groundswell that's certainly taking, corporate America, corporate global corporations, by storm. So certainly, age should be considered in that too.
Karen: There's the age piece and, I'll go to the ageism, I'll go to the slightly older space. When you look at policy, this is not a policy podcast. We won't get into that. But, as you look to your point, if you're going to truly look at inclusion, it tends to be this one that just sits off to the side, and I think when prep, you may have said this yesterday, it's like, how do we just make sure that the water cooler conversations are happening so that it's okay to talk about things and it can be something things like, let's talk about menopause. That's starting to become more comfortable, but organizations and TV shows, whether they're having a poking bit of fun at it and comedians talking about it.
And getting that space then can hopefully start to shift in an organization in a way like, like we have our wonderful Slack channels with our different internal, different organizations. And I'm usually the one posting the, like this Harvard Business Review article and things like that.
And have you ever spoken about what are the percentages of people, both male and female who are older and how do we make sure that there's value in that across an organization? Because particularly in the kind of work that we all do, that age thing I think becomes even more acute. Like it's one thing to be, I'm going to make a general statement. Writing code can sit at home and do that, and frankly might know more about writing code when you're, when you get up in the age than you do when you're just right out of uni. As long as you keep up with the types of code as a marketer or an event professional. Do you actually age out of that? Because how could you possibly, in the same way, you can be keeping up on trends and still be able to run up the side of mountains, but oh, you couldn't possibly.
Alyssa: What's interesting is my partner is actually a developer, coding developer and would feel completely different to what you're saying, Karen, like where it is really hard to keep up with the pace of technology and the speed and change of those things. But I think all of this comes down to showing respect, showing grace for those that came before. For those that are coming. I think there's a lot of weird stuff going on in this age of social media where we're like pitting generations against each other and like trying to be cooler than one another.
Karen: Filters on everything
Alyssa: I don't recall this before and maybe it is because I am coming of age with this social media. I know we've talked extensively about where we stand, Paulina and myself being millennials, but I think it's odd that we are trying to trash talk each other's generations as opposed to pay homage, pay respect
Karen: Have you heard my first name? Have you heard my first name?
Paulina: I think, going back to what you just said about the water cooler opportunities to bring it back to. Event professional perspective. What I do from the passion side of event design to the professional side of event design, it's, we have an obligation, and we've said this before, we have an obligation to make this part of the experience.
And because events complement so much of what happens at the corporate brand level, at the policy level, there are so many learnings that extend from these community meet up opportunities. And so I think to bring it back to the industry view, we have a responsibility to say, how are we bringing members from different age generations, demographics, and aligning them to feel comfortable talking together.
And I think that's where it gets hard too, because you do need someone to facilitate the conversation. I don't think, and this is an assumption, right? And a generalization, someone who's been in their career for decades and someone who's brand new. How do you create the likeness or how do you create something that they can both resonate to? And the event, is that right? Like we are both here. So what brought you to this event? What brought you to this unique experience? And that's how we're able to create a legacy of bridging the gap.
Alyssa: Commonality and connection, right? Yeah.
Karen: There's so many unique things that I've seen come up like and have come up in these organizations I work with. When you think about these live experiences, and especially now as people want to get back in that room and there's that comfort, how do you facilitate those dialogues? What we've talked about, things like reverse speed networking.
I can learn as much from someone who might have just walked out of the university, whether it's on a specific career path, it's how they think, because that's going to inform how I do a better job as a marketer or as a planner for an event. How do we set up, we talked a little bit about this. What does the panel makeup look like at an event? How are we thinking through these? 'cause it might be, 'cause what are the defaults? And if you look across the diversity spectrum, it could be LGBTQ, it could be color, it could be gender. Age tends to be the last one. Like I actually have a dream of doing a panel about being all being, about being Karen. And everyone on the panel's named Karen. And I already knew who I'm going to get. I already knew who I'm going to get. Like the dream panel. There's two women I know from industry, both of whom we're we'll say a little bit older. One happens to be, what happens to be white, what happens to be black? But then there's a woman.
Do you guys remember Karen Gillen, the actress? Who did the movies, the Jumanji movies. She was the one that was kind of Karen, much younger. I'm like, this is my dream panel. So we get all the ages in the spectrum to talk about these experiences.
Alyssa: Sounds great. I would hundred percent watch that.
Karen: Those are the kind of things when you look at live, particularly in live events or any event, Paulina, where I think we have such an opportunity to bring, tell those stories and make that part of the dialogue.
Alyssa: We spend a lot of time on this podcast now, right now, talking about micro communities, but equally as important is the macro community as well. How do you draw the broad connections? The stuff that transcends generations, how do you bring all of those things together? And I think that is the job and the undertaking and also the really hard thing to do in planning and designing events.
Paulina, I know that's something that you guys are eternally conscious of as you're going and thinking through, like, how do we make this feel special for those that need some micro special things to happen, but what's the sum of the parts mean as well? And you're, so you're, it's this constant juggling and balancing act.
Not trying to get too into the weeds on these smaller things, but really thinking about what is the, what's the big picture? What was all of this worth? What was all of this for? And I think a lot of that does come down to how is it perceived from each of these different age groups or generations that you're supporting.
Karen: And how do we expect our allies to support us if we're not figuring out how to support and have those conversations across, we'll call it generational lines, in a unique way. And I think the kinds of experiences that we curate. With people who are in that events industry, gives us an interesting opportunity to play around with that within the constructs of what we have to do and the messages we have to land.
Whether it's how we curate our speaker lineup or just those offline conversations you have like in the middle of networking. I think that puts us in a unique position that some other people in other industries may not have.
Paulina: I think what you just said too, let's talk to our customer marketing partners, right? Do our customer marketing teams really understand our total customer base and the demographics? Like this is something that I think has significantly changed over the last three years.
Karen, you alluded to this earlier, where you know, people who are returning to the workforce or deciding on career changes, and maybe the goal for some of these people isn't climbing the ranks and getting to the decision making power, but rather it's, I'm into this career because it's a passion of mine and because they feel so deeply about X, Y, Z, right?
So it, I think it's interesting and there's a lot of onus on our marketing partners, customer marketing partners, to dig in and understand what are the demographics of your customer base perspective, customer base, and how are we appealing to them across our marketing efforts, events being our most important one, for the context of this conversation, but, I think there's a ton of a ton of change that's happened over the last three years.
It's not people coming out of school uni and saying, I'm going to be an event professional, or I'm going to join the hospitality industry. It's, such a big shift has happened
Karen: It gives me joy that the organization aligns to my passions, whether it's around sustainability or accessibility or all the different diversities. And that is an acutely different world. And so for someone like me who is like, come on, you get your job, you earn in your paycheck ,boom, boom boom. And whether or not you liked it was almost secondary. I think again, there's like learnings and things that have a chance to do across those in those ways too. 'cause for me, my father taught me, guess what you get for going to work every day, a paycheck off you go. And that's just not the message that I'm sure both of you got. You're coming up work, nor are people who are even younger.
Alyssa: Yeah, but there's something to be said for taking your lived experience and influencing, or certainly sharing that with a different generation that doesn't necessarily right. And vice versa. And I think that openness is really the important part of this is being not my way is the right way, or that's the way that I did it.
And so I'm right. But there is a willingness to have, like we started this conversation, a dialogue around our differences, but also where those differences allow us each to grow within our age generationally, not to become what the other one was, but for us to see things in a different way that was different from our learned experience growing up.
Karen: And just listening to that, the world today has stopped listening and in all ways. So if we can just take a beat and I'm as guilty of that too, like almost an unconscious bias of if I see someone who's, I'm talking with my best mate's child, I'm like, oh, here we go. 'cause they're of a certain age,
Wait a second. You don't, wouldn't want that the other way. So it, I think that awareness, this a little bit of self-awareness would hurt us as well.
Alyssa: Taking the world on through a lens of curiosity and exploration as opposed to, such, such a stodgy way of thinking. So much rigidity, right? Allow yourself to see things new.
Paulina: I saw a meme, which resonates to what you were just saying. I'm going to butcher it, but also summarize it. Essentially there was a professor who said, go to the grocery store with the mindset you've never been there before and you're curious, not because it's a mundane ritual. And this is only absolutely hilarious to me because I loathe going to the grocery store,
Karen: See, and I love grocery stores.
Paulina: Honestly, there are two types of people in this world.
You love the grocery store, you hate it. And I am on the latter, and my best friend, she's, it's her quiet time. It's her escape. She gets to peruse every aisle, whatever. To me, that sounds like the biggest waste of time, but it is all about reframing the conversation with yourself and reframing your self-awareness and how you go about it. Just to add some humor
Karen: Paulina, next time you come, you're in London. I'm going to take you to like, 'cause my whole thing is when I travel, the first thing I want to do is go into the grocery store. 'cause I'm fascinated by what the different food is like.
Paulina: My hands are sweating thinking about this
Karen: French grocery stores, the cheese selection will just make your life
Paulina: Oh my God, I can't imagine. Don't get me wrong, I'm never going to say no to a cheese section.
Karen: It's about experiences. We're bringing it back to the industry experiences.
Paulina: Yeah, it's just about reframing how you think about it. Before you talk to someone's kid, before you talk to the new hire, before you talk to, maybe your crazy aunt. I had unbelievable conversations with one of my aunts, who talk about career trajectory, she started as a phone operator plugging, I don't know, you plug things in back then, right? That's like
Karen: I could do a really old comedian reference right now, but I won't because you, it won’t land with you guys.
Paulina: And then, fast forward her multi-decade career was an executive at Motorola, but it, hearing her through the context of her lived experience, single mom. And just, it's important to story tell and ask for these stories. And I feel like it's a mutual responsibility of all of us to ask and to tell, right? And I think so much of today's conversation and our priorities are to do that with our listeners, with our peers, and the industry at large. Because you don't ask, you don't know. And I think we're doing ourselves a disservice if we're not the ones sharing.
Karen: The industry we work in enables us to do that within the jobs too, which is cool. It's one of the things, I started my career in events. I always loved it and the experiences I got to have from that, like running an activation at the European Music Awards on the one side all the way through to like doing first developer conferences for the business in Seoul and Tokyo, and doing a global product launch where I was doing keynotes in Malta. Apparently there’s expert developers in Malta and all that, it's like that those lived experiences then can become those stories that you can bring back to things to, which I think is the most fascinating thing about the kind of stuff that we do.
Alyssa: I think that is a perfect note to end this week's podcast on. Karen, once again, thank you so much for joining. As always, Paulina, thanks for co-hosting with me. To our fellow listeners, thank you for joining us this week. If you do have additional things to share on the topic of ageism, or if you have follow-up questions for us for Karen, go ahead and send us a DM on LinkedIn or shoot us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. Once again, thanks for tuning in to great events. We will see you next week.