Exceptions to the rule Image 1

NOT REALLY EQUAL

Exceptions to the rule

There are, in fact, women holding leadership positions in the expo industry. However, there are only very few in the first row; they're the exception to the rule.

K
ölnmesse as one of the Top Seven German expo companies has Katharina Hamma sitting on the executive board. She joined the Cologne management floor on October 1, 2011, coming from Messe München. At Kölnmesse, she as Chief Operating Officer (COO) is responsible for all operations related to the international expo organizer's own events. At Messe München, Monika Dech holds position as deputy managing director – and that concludes the short list of female appointees at the Top Seven, which also includes the expo companies in Berlin, Hanover, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Nuremberg. In the category of mid-sized expo organizers, which encompasses Hamburg, Essen, Bremen, Leipzig, Offenbach, Stuttgart, Friedrichshafen, Dortmund and Karlsruhe, only the latter two are genuine exceptions to the male-dominated management rule: Britta Wirtz is at the helm of Messe Karlsruhe und Kongress; Sabine Loos as senior managing director holds the reins at the diverse Westfalenhallen Dortmund affiliates. Before Wirtz changed to Karlsruhe, she was authorized officer and member of the extended executive board at Reed Exhibitions Deutschland in Düsseldorf. At that time, she was responsible for the Aluminium trade fair, which she put on the expo map. Sabine Loos began her career at Kölnmesse; she is the first female senior managing director in the Dortmund Westfalenhallen's history.

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At the WoMenPower- Congress in Hanover: Agnes Heftberger, Vice President, Consumer Industries, IBM.
PHOTO: DEUTSCHE MESSE

Things do look a bit different among smaller-sized and privateenterprise organizers, family-owned operations or those managed like family businesses. Bettina Schall, Stefany Goschmann, Constanze Kreuser and Carola Schwennsen, just to name a few, are doing their job with heart and soul – and they're doing it well. On top of that, Kreuser and Schwennsen are also active in tradeassociation politics and are providing some new impetus to the expo industry. Under Schwennsen's leadership, the trade association for fairs and exhibitions (Fama) opened and further enhanced its association meetings. The Fama-Messefachtagung is today considered the No. 1 industry meeting in the Germanspeaking region. Schwennsen has resigned as the association's chairperson, but she is still active in and for the organization. In regular worklife, Carola Schwennsen stands at the helm of Fachausstellungen Heckmann in Hanover, a Deutsche Messe subsidiary. Heckmann's consumer exhibitions, in particular and foremost the Infa in October, are considered industry benchmarks.

Stefany Goschmann is proprietor of the MAG Mannheimer Ausstellungsgesellschaft, among other things. The MAG's most important product is the Mannheimer Maimarkt, Germany's biggest regional expo. At that show scheduled from April 28 to May 8, more than 1,400 exhibitors will present around 20,000 products and services to the anticipated 350,000 visitors. This event dates back about 400 years. And anybody seeking to visit or exhibit at B2C expos in Thuringia will find it hard to get around Constanze Kreuser. Jointly with her husband Eberhard, she manages the RAM Regio expo company seated in Erfurt. She also imparts her expertise in lectures – or in Fama workgroups.

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Katharina C. Hamma as Chief Operating Officer (COO) is responsible for all operations related to Kölnmesse's own events.
PHOTO: KÖLNMESSE

Motek, Blechexpo, Schweisstec and Control, Bondexpo, Fakuma – these are some of the outstanding trade shows staged by the Schall company in Stuttgart and Friedrichshafen, with the Control also being presented in Parma. The company is headed by Bettina Schall, who learned the art of planning and staging expo projects inside and out and who for many years was responsible for the corporate group's media and public-relations activities. She was appointed CEO two years ago and since then has been managing these highly-specialized trade shows with lots of commitment and a small team of experts.

Expo companies wouldn't go anyplace businesswise if it weren't for all this female energy. They're responsible for (global) major fairs ranging from Bauma to Light + Building, from K to Biofach, from Ambiente to Euroshop and from Agritechnica to Internorga, nevertheless – from Hamburg to Stuttgart – the top echelon is almost exclusively male: the expo industry is a men's club in these spheres. Only very few women have been appointed to the senior management level of expo companies, whose shareholders are usually municipalities and the German federate states – and that even though governmental authorities and public-law institutions ought to play a leading role in the intensive ongoing discussion on women in leadership positions. As a consequence, female power sharing in top-level managerial functions remains an important issue for society, politics and the real world – with lots of room for improvement.



But expo companies are working at it. Messe Berlin last year launched an internal program to advance female leadership with the explicit intention to encourage promotion of women to higher management levels. The company points out that the plan includes a schedule of concrete measures, but management declined to elaborate. Progress has been made: as of June 30, 2017, Messe Berlin according to own statements had actually achieved mathematical equality across the three top management levels: (28 men, 28 women) – i.e. a 50% proportion of women in leadership positions. This encompasses the company's executive board, divisional managers and project supervisors.

While Messe München stated that they had registered a 42% share of women appointed to leadership positions, Kölnmesse gave a more detailed breakdown of female staff assignments: at the end of the year 2015, the share of female leadership personnel on the supervisory board was at 19 percent, at senior executive level I at 33 percent (i.e. Katharina Hamma plus Gerald Böse as spokesperson of the board and Herbert Marner). Statistics aren't really good for Cologne at management level II (divisional managers) with a female share of only six percent and level III (group managers) with 28 percent. The company has promised to disclose new figures at the annual media conference on May 17, 2018. Things don't look a lot different on the other side of the Rhine river: the share of women in the Messe Düsseldorf workforce is approximately 50 percent – which corresponds to the share in population. But anybody assuming that women are also equally represented in management positions is mistaken. Figures show that they still have a long way to go: at middle-management level, women have a share of 34 percent of leadership positions. That rate has improved a bit in the past years by four percentage points from originally 30 percent. Better than nothing. At Messe Stuttgart, only 21 percent of management positions are held by women – a mere fifth.

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At the Art Karlsruhe: expo manager Britta Wirtz and Loth Award winner Christian K. Scheffel.
PHOTO: KMK/JÜRGEN RÖSNER

Things look entirely different in some eastern parts of Germany: approximately 45 percent of leadership staff at Leipziger Messe are female. Hamburg Messe und Congress also has a high share of women in senior positions: as of March 31, 2018, 41 percent of managers in the center on the Elbe river were female. These figures apply cumulative to all levels from top echelon to middle management.

These figures are merely unrepresentative samples, but they show that there still is a lot that needs to be done. To be sure, those in the business do not want to be seen primarily as women, but as human beings. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, is certain that women will have achieved their goal only if there no longer is any distinction between male and female leaders. There will just be leaders.  CHRISTIANE APPEL
 
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