One of the things that has constantly amazed me in the meetings and incentive industry is the salary differentials reported in the press. M+IT’s 2017 Salary Revue reported that the men who answered the survey had a mean salary of $82,000 CAN while the women made $65,000. Meetings & Conventions’ 2016 Salary Survey stated that the average male respondent made $94,818 USD while the female respondent made $71,420. Why the difference? I am not sure the reason is as simple as discrimination based on gender bias.
In the 25-plus years I have been involved in our industry, I have usually worked for large corporations that had a well-defined salary range based on job responsibilities. All planners in those organizations had similar salaries with some differences based on seniority, education and performance reviews. I should say here that I certainly recognize that independents who bid for business in a competitive environment do not have that kind of salary structure.
We need to encourage all professionals to maximize their potential in line with their own goals.
In the corporate environment I worked in, the kind of salary variations we see reported are not possible. So, what other factors are coming into play? One of the challenges the M&E industry has is there is no agreement on what “planner” describes. Individuals may classify themselves as a planner in the survey and can either the vice-president of events for a corporation or the administrative assistant who plans the annual sales department retreat. Those salaries will be vastly different based on overall job responsibilities.
There are some things I think we need to discuss and the professionals in the education system need to make their students aware of. As a manager who has hired well over a hundred people in my career, I have experienced a number of work-related characteristics that can be related to gender.
First is confidence. I have said for years that I could post a position with 18 job skill requirements, and some men would apply if they had one of the qualifications and could spell their name, while some women would start the interview by apologizing for the one or two qualifications they had not yet mastered. It’s important to recognize our own limitations, but it’s fundamental to recognize what achievements we bring to the table. (As an aside, both my wife and I spent a lot of time supporting a daughter to give her the confidence that she could achieve whatever she wanted as long as she was willing to work as hard or harder than anyone else. She took those lessons to heart and made her own decisions to follow a dream of helping others rather than following a business career.)
One of the challenges the M&E industry has is there is no agreement on what “planner” describes.
Second is that salary is often tied to the willingness to accept new responsibilities. More than once I had great associates working for me who decline opportunities for advancement because they like being a planner and could not imagine managing others. Having worked for amazing individuals of both sexes, I know gender has nothing to do with management ability. However, some of those same people told me that it was difficult for a woman to advance her career if her spouse did not share the responsibility for the family and home. The M+IT salary survey does show a definite increase in salary depending on job type, but it does not relate job type to gender. I have often thought that would be an interesting statistic.
Finally, the M&IT salary survey shows a definite relationship between industry certification and salary. As a member of the MPI Foundation’s Canadian Council, I encourage all professionals to apply for scholarships and grants to obtain access to education that can give them new skills and help them increase their value to their employers and clients. I know that MPI Foundation grants are certainly not based on gender and the playing field is totally level.
I hope this blog will help generate more discussion about the gender and salary. We need to encourage all professionals to maximize their potential in line with their own goals.
~ Les Selby has been a corporate, independent, and third-party event professional for more than 28 years. He has earned both his Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation and his Global Certification in Meeting Management (CMM). Inducted into Meeting + Incentive Travel Magazine’s Industry Hall of Fame in 2009, Les is an active member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI). He served on the Toronto chapter’s Board, was the 2000-2001 chapter president, and currently serves as a member of the MPI Foundation Canadian Council. In 1997, Les was recognized as Planner of the Year by the MPI Toronto chapter, and received the President’s Award for 2009. He can be reached at email@example.com.