Shepard Women Breaking Barriers in the Industry

Shifting the Balance

When you look around at the events industry, you may not be surprised to know that women make up an overwhelming majority of the workforce – almost 80%. When you look at the number of women in leadership positions in the events industry, that number shrinks to only about 10%  (Source Data USA). When it comes to raising that 10%, Shepard is leading the way by giving women the opportunity to foster their talents and excel to forge new paths for years to come.

We surveyed Shepard’s own female leaders about navigating their careers over the years and what their sources of inspiration were. What we found was a collection of positive, honest, and important messages for the future leaders of the events industry. Below are excerpts from our discussion. 

How have you built confidence and/or resiliency over the course of your career? 

“Self-awareness has given me confidence in recognizing my strengths and being intentional about working through my weaknesses.” -Frances Maestre, VP of Sales

“Not being afraid to ask questions. When I first started my career, I was embarrassed about the number of questions I had… but over the years I have shifted my mindset and attribute a great portion of my knowledge and confidence in my ability to do my job to asking questions. I heard once on a podcast, “The best leaders, ask the best questions” and I wholeheartedly believe that is a true statement.” -Taylor Elliot, Director of Marketing

“Learning new skills, being an early adopter of a new process or technology and always trying to make something better helps me keep my confidence. I try to find something that intimidates me and then conquer it. I also learned to trust my vision and that what I am doing is the right path.” -Kimberly Vess, VP of Resource Development

How do you continue to learn and grow?

“I ask questions, take courses, read, follow other leaders on LinkedIn, use resources like Leadercast & LinkedIn Learning to expand my knowledge base on items that I don’t have experience with and/or want additional insights about.” –Sarah Feske, SVP of Account Production

“I fall, and I get back up. I ask my leaders to allow me to make mistakes, so I learn from them, I continue to learn and grow daily by challenging myself and pulling away from my comfort zone.” -Jessica Dominguez, Director of Customer Service 

“I continue to ask questions daily in order to grow my base of knowledge and understanding. I also try to surround myself with people who push me to broaden my perspective and who encourage and also challenge me to become a better leader.” -Shannon Lockhart, Director of Exhibits

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

“Women face a double standard that men don’t. Men are expected to be assertive and confident, so coworkers welcome their leadership. In contrast, women are expected to be nurturing and collaborative, so when we lead, we go against expectations—and often face pushback from men and women.” -June Vo, Director of Operational Excellence

“Our acceptance that we are second-class citizens. We have all created a society where we believe that women need to do it all, they magically have more hours in the day, and need less sleep, less care, and less accommodation. Then we live in these parameters! I am guilty of it as well. I always want to make sure I am carrying my own weight. The truth is that we settle in the devaluation and give our power right back.” -Leah Polke, Regional Manager of Account Executives

What are your words to live by?

“Treat others as you would like to be treated.” -Shannon Lockhart, Director of Exhibits  

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” –Leah Polke, Regional Manager of Account Executives

“Never be so polite, you forget your power. Never wield such power, you forget to be polite.” –Olivia Eff, Communications Manager

How can women support other women in their organizations?

“First, acknowledge there absolutely is room at the table for more than one woman. Unfortunately at times there seems to be competition to be the first or only woman to do X, Y, Z but we need to help continue to make room to elevate others and increase the equity in any organization – from frontline contributors, to leadership, to the C-Suite.” –Sarah Feske, SVP of Account Production

“Be empathetic and put yourself in their shoes.” –June Vo, Director of Operational Excellence

“Sisterhood has always been a duty. It’s about supporting each other and advocating for each other. It’s about clearing the path for the person behind you. Helping women get to the next step is a proud and satisfying moment.” –Kimberly Vess, VP of Resource Development

What advice would you give to young women entering this profession/organization?

 “The events industry is exciting and fast-paced.  With this comes an inherent level of stress. My advice to anyone entering this profession is to find healthy ways of dealing with stress and always find time to care for their mind, body and spirit.” –Frances Maestre, VP of Sales

“Trust the process. Every single person at one point in life is starting their career. Be a team player, be a good listener, and ask lots of questions. Lastly, surround yourself with people both professionally and personally that make you better.” -Taylor Elliot, Director of Marketing

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

“Be patient. Be kind. Know that you have value, your advice and experiences are important. Speak concisely and with purpose.” –Leah Polke, Regional Manager of Account Executives 

 “Work together to break the narrative of “women can’t”. Women “Can” and “Do” every day. Always reach back down to bring the next woman up” –Kimberly Vess, VP of Resource Development 

 “Fight for it and own it. Take every opportunity that comes your way. Ask questions. Make mistakes. Make friends. Talk to people in every department. No job or role is too “small” when you’re building an empire. Ask for guidance. Don’t let your crown slip.” –Olivia Eff, Communications Manager

 “Find a female mentor – this can be someone you follow on social media as you may not find them within your own workplace immediately – and learn from their experiences.” –Sarah Feske, SVP of Account Production

We hope these conversations will inspire you in your own organization or new journey you embark on.