An Honest Discussion on Race, Culture and Meetings

By Marc Boisclair, October 2, 2017

Talking about diversity doesn’t necessarily lead to action. What makes you hopeful?

Williams: I love that I’ve seen a number of inclusion efforts from industry groups in recent years. PCMA and MPI created a multicultural education program tool kit for planners; ASAE has numerous diversity and inclusion strategies and initiatives. DMAI has a program I’m particularly passionate about that works to increase the visibility of the hospitality industry to people of diverse backgrounds while they are still in school. Another positive trend is planners are making a conscious effort to understand the makeup of a city and, in turn, embrace that culture and bring it into their meetings.

Lewis: There is an increased number of diverse organizations that represent various industries. I find this shift encouraging, as long as the primary goal remains to be inclusive, and not just to increase attendance. I’ve also noticed an increase of diversity in the meetings/hospitality workforce. I’m hopeful diversity will not stop at entry-level positions, but that it will be reflected in senior management positions as well.

race culture and meetingsWilson: Actions speak louder than words. More companies are actively seeking individuals to groom for positions of leadership, hoping to attract a more diverse membership and audience. I will continue to observe the active attempts to groom leaders, provide learning tracts that are actually meaningful.

What comes across as lip service?

Rutherford: As a business owner, I’m particularly interested in exposing people of color to opportunities within the meeting and hospitality industry. When a convention is held in a city, how much of their budget is spent with diverse suppliers or people of color? It’s important that convention centers, built with taxpayer dollars, be used for the benefit of the attendee, but also for the citizens of the city—and that means opening doors to opportunity.

Wilson: The promise of trying to be more inclusive but, you know, “We just can’t find the ‘right’ people. We’re working hard on it though!”

Rutherford: To that I respond: “Call me. I’ll help you find capable, diverse suppliers.”

What makes you cringe?

De Rozario: I celebrate freedom of speech as long as people are held accountable for what they say. When demeaning jokes and put-down phrases are transmitted without concern for their potential impact, it’s a blatant disregard for others. This is what creates divisiveness.

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