Today we’d like to introduce you to Carrie Abernathy.
Carrie, before we jump into specific questions about your organization, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
A global virtual community, the Association for Women in Events (AWE) is a membership association that works to empower, elevate and promote all those who identify as women in the events and hospitality industry.
In 2015 the association was born from a group of women that came together to discuss challenges that women face in business today. The main point of the conversation was that women make up the bulk of employees in the events industry, yet there is a disproportionate amount of men who hold the highest level executive positions and leadership positions on Executive Boards. The initial founders felt that there was a lack of resources and a specific community of people that wanted to elevate women in business. After that initial conversation, I bought the rights to the domain womeninevents.org and started to write out our business plan, not realizing how big the movement would grow in the future.
In 2016 we set up a global board to head the organization’s initiative and have grown to over 700 members. We have a successful annual women’s empowerment conference, ELEVATE!, along with several major industry initiatives in the works. Now, the organization aims to create a flourishing community of engaged members, providing resources and guidance to them so that they may feel empowered in their current positions and reach their full professional potential.
To that end, AWE strives to give women in the events sector a voice and provide accolades to organizations and individuals that support women. We want to create an events industry that supports women at all levels, in all roles. Our recent initiatives include starting the Events Industry Sexual Harassment Task Force to combat sexual harassment and developing a pledge that members and their employers can sign to work together to eradicate harassment in the workplace.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As with any new business, there are fits and starts. We were challenged, in the beginning, to get backing and support when the idea first came out. We’ve struggled with people that don’t understand why there is a need for a women’s business organization separate from regular trade organizations in the hospitality industry.
Since we are a fully volunteer-run organization, we definitely struggle with finding enough volunteers and wo(man)power to get our initiatives and local events off the ground. There is a lot of work developing an organization, its processes, and deliverables from the ground up.
Also, no one tells you that being a leader/entrepreneur is so time-consuming and just really difficult–especially if it acts as your “side hustle” while you also have a full-time job and other life commitments. You act as the web developer, business development manager, marketer, cheerleader, funder, and just about every other role in the beginning until it picks up steam.
We’d love to hear more about your organization.
The current mission of AWE is to be “an inclusive community dedicated to the professional advancement of those that identify as women in all facets of the events industry.”
Most basically, we provide resources for women in business. Specifically, those that want to elevate their careers. We act as a community and safe place for women to share ideas, conversation, and discuss difficult topics such as the recent #metoo movement and how that affects their work. We have local “Meet and Greet” events throughout the world to bring together smaller communities and like-minded people for thoughtful discussion and networking. Our annual conference, ELEVATE! aims to not only develop women as leaders and elevate women in business–but is really different from your standard conference in that we look at all aspects of the whole woman–really pushing the idea of taking care of your mind and whole self so that you can be the best professional and leader.
We are different from any other organization that exists in our space (trade organization in the meetings and events industry) because we are focused solely on advocating for women. Men are welcome.
We are so proud of a lot of our initiatives and outreach and generally growing the community so quickly in the four years since we’ve opened membership but we are definitely known for pushing the envelope and tackling difficult topics. Starting the Events Industry Sexual Harassment Task Force and getting the buy-in of a dozen other major industry organizations is a huge moment for women in the events business.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Random- finding four-leaf clovers. Something I still love to do today.
- Membership (1 year): $195 (Open to anyone in the events & hospitality sector)
- Website: www.womeninevents.org
- Phone: 203-291-9746
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @AWEwomen
- Facebook: @AWEwomen1
- Twitter: @AWEwomen
EPNAC, KB Digital Designs