Standing their ground Image 1


Standing their ground

The meetings industry is female, its senior management is male. Women are assuming an ever-increasing share of leadership functions. New work models and home-office programs make it easier to reconcile career and family – something also to the benefit of (young) fathers as well.

nybody visiting the website of the Austrian parliament and clicking "Parlament Live", will be routed to the Hofburg Vienna. Until 2021, while restoration work on the parliament building is on-going, the plenary sessions will be held at the Redoutensaal. In all other function halls, congress center operations will proceed as usual. Quite a challenge for Alexandra Kaszay, who has been directing operations since 2014. She succeeded to Renate Danler, who had been the first female director of Hofburg Vienna. An appointment which some ten years ago had raised quite a few eyebrows both in Vienna and in a number of other congress cities. "There are a few female senior executives in the Austrian congress industry," Kaszay says today. The fact that there aren't more in her opinion is also a consequence of women being more critical of their own abilities and qualifications than men. She pointed out that female executives must adapt to structures much more than their male counterparts.

Anja Stas doesn't like that at all. "Boardrooms to this day are ruled by male standards. Women have a (limited) access as long as we behave as a man," said the Chief Commercial Officer of Flanders Meeting & Convention Center Antwerp.

"This means you have to give up a large part of your femininity and cultivate your 'male qualities' which is draining in the long run for women." Female qualities need to be appreciated just as much. "Qualities that are becoming more and more important in our conceptual age: empathy, intuition, creativity, holistic visionary thinking, storytelling, caring and love. Our society is desperate for those qualities", said Stas. She attained her position "with a growth mindset: always learning and questioning myself: how can I do this better? How can I serve? What is my purpose? And by asking for help." As single mother she is also very familiar with ambitious women's balancing act between family and career.

At Hofburg Vienna, there are currently 46 employees, eleven percent of these in part-time jobs. Even if compatibility of career and family and the concomitant modern flexitime and home-office programs depend strongly upon the position and scope of assignments, Kaszay is convinced that children and career "are always a good opportunity for businesses to make required adaptions to work processes and to look outside the box." Her Director Marketing & Sales is a good example for how executive functions can also be performed in part-time positions: Monika Scheinost is a mother of two.

"The significance of flexible worktime models is growing in Switzerland as well," said Helena Videtic, Manager Germany/Austria, Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau. "That is demonstrated in our organization Schweiz Tourismus." Videtic referred to the home-office guidelines fresh from the press and to Barbra Steuri-Albrecht. She's been directing the Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau for the past 20 years and since 2016 has sitting on the board of Schweiz Tourismus – and that with an 80-90 percent worktime model.

Standing their ground Image 2
Alexandra Kaszay is at the helm of Hofburg Vienna, Austria’s most exclusive congress center and temporary seat of parliament.

While senior management of the Congress Center Rosengarten and the m:con agency has always been male, nine of the business-unit and team leaders are women. The meetings industry is female, and decision- makers are required to establish a family-friendly corporate culture, said executive director Bastian Fiedler. The industry must take up this challenge and must engage in crosscompany communication. He has therefore joined the corporate initiative "Erfolgsfaktor Familie" launched by the German federal ministry for family affairs, senior citizens, women and youth. Fiedler is not only keen on promoting compatibility of career and family for women and men in senior positions because future leaders might think this is required; he's in that situation himself. "As father of two boys age four years and five months respectively, it is extremely important to me to share in their upbringing and to spend as much quality time as possible with them.So I'm well aware of the double burden on many female staff members." His 115 staffers can apply flexible homeoffice schedules and part-time programs to adapt their jobs to particular family situations. Part-time employment and leadership positions are indeed compatible. Fiedler points to graduated engineer Alessa Forsthoff as Best Practice example: the mother of two younger boys is the facility's fire-protection officer.

"At the project-manager level, the events industry is dominated by women, it's just that this doesn't reflect to the senior management positions," said Ilona Jarabek, GM Musik- und Kongresshalle Lübeck. Following the considerable feedback to the survey "Women in the Events Industry" by tw tagungswirtschaft, m+a report and IMEX Group, the Vice President of the European Association of Event Centres (EVVC) took up on the issue at the Management Convention. Jarabek: "The packed session – incidentally not only women, there were also two men attending – and the very lively discussion on compatibility of career and family underlined the need for action." She will import this to her next office: at the members' assembly in June, she will be the first women to run for EVVC Presidency. President Joachim König was one of the two men at the workshop. For the director of the Hannover Congress Centrum, the compatibility of career and family depends strongly upon the individual person. "I've seen both: there are women who will develop a detailed plan on how they want to reconcile career and family with each other. That's something to start on, and we'll find a solution," he said. "Others won't give adequate thought to the issue, and that's not good for any career."


Die Beteiligung an der Umfrage „Frauen in der Veranstaltungsindustrie 2017“ von tw tagungswirtschaft, m+a report und der IMEX Gruppe war sehr hoch und ergab: Bei Gehalt und Karriereperspektiven fühlt sich jede zweite Frau nicht gleichbehandelt im Vergleich mit ihren männlichen Kollegen.

Standing their ground Image 3
International Women‘s Day 2018: KLCC is celebrating its female staff.

In 2017, the 339 EVVC members had altogether 93 female managing directors, which amounts to 27 percent. However, the female share shrinks as the size of operations swells: in centers with up to 1,200 seats: 35 pecent women like Ulrike Köppel at the Congress Centrum Neue Weimarhalle; up to 4,000 seats: 21 percent e.g. Kristina Wulf at the Eurogress Aachen, and more than 4,000 seats: only 16 percent, such as Sabine Loos at Westfalenhallen Dortmund. This latter percentage rose slightly in March, Heike Mahmoud took office as Chief Operating Officer of the Congress Center Hamburg. For their "Mixed Leadership", the Hamburgers in 2015 were awarded the Helga-Stödter-Preis, which was an incentive to further intensify their efforts.

Heike Mahmoud is also among the new female members of the Association of International Convention Centers (AIPC). The association's general secretary Marianne de Raay knows that more than one out of four of the altogether 180 member operations is headed by a woman. De Raay names a few: Monica Lee-Müller, Managing Director of Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Julianne Jammers, Managing Director Swiss Tech Convention Centre in Lausanne, Güniz Atıs Azrak, CEO of the Istanbul Lütfi Kirdar and Nina Kressler, President and CEO of the Shaw Centre in Ottawa. And Julie-May Ellingson. The CEO of the Cape Town International Convention Centre is presently the only one woman on the seven-headed AIPC board.

"Women are an assertive force in our industry and there are solid examples where women have risen through the ranks to lead their companies or associations," said AIPC-President Aloysius Arlando. "Such women are role models for everyone as they demonstrate that through hard work, perseverance and self-empowerment, there can be no limit to achieving one’s potential." At the same time, the CEO of Singapore EXPO Convention and Exhibition Centre warned: "We often hear the call for gender equality at different levels of management or boards. This can lead to a sub-optimal situation if it is not based on competency and equal opportunity for all candidates." It should therefore be an outcome of a merit-based process rather than the end itself or a policy of tokenism.


Sarah Sigloch, Vice President Human Resources,

At, every fourth GM is a woman. Are you seeing an increase in female share?
We are in fact observing that the share of women in our leadership ranks is rising. At, we attach great importance to the development of leadership personnel, and for many years we've been investing in an array of educational and qualification activities and are promoting executive staff from within our own personnel pool. The important criteria are employee motivation and performance. A competent management executive must excel both in technical as well as personal skills: in addition to authority, it takes the ability to empathize in order to display good leadership style. Businesses need both rational reasoning and sound intuition.

Do you as VP HR have a tip for (young) women who are seeking to pursue a career in the hotel industry?
Do what you enjoy – Be willing to learn – Look outside the box – Look for new frontiers and be courageous – Focus on the solution, not on the problem – And always be considerate of your feelings and those of others as well!

Is it possible at to hold a managerial position also in parttime or is that not an option?
We have lots of options and numerous examples for female co-workers who can very well reconcile career and family. We as employer consider it important to provide individual arrangements and to make all effort to establish flexitime work models, which we are currently enhancing. Since April 1 of this year, we've had a new VP Human Resources Operations, Kati Kliemann, who will focus on this important issue. She is, by the way, a mother of three.  

Singapore EXPO employs almost as many women as men. Arlando practices equal opportunity for everyone and ensures all employees have ample exposure to training and development opportunities both mandatory and elective which is based on employee’s interest and needs of the company. Arlando: "Progression in the company is performance-based. At management level, we have around 30 percent female and 70 percent male. There is no gender-discrimination where salary and benefits are concerned."

At the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, 52 percent of the managers are female. "Our corporate culture is inclusive and mindful of the need to encourage all team members to advance their career aspirations," said Angeline van den Broecke, Director of Sales & Marketing. “This enables us to retain a high caliber of professional women who are involved and demonstrate mentorship and inspiration, for our younger team members." Take Natalie Ann Xavier, for example. When she in 2005 started as security officer, she was a bit intimidated by her more experienced male colleagues. “This put a lot of pressure on me, which made me persevere and work harder. I was promoted in 2010 and became the center's first female security supervisor." In 2014, Xavier got promoted to Assistant Security Manager, she earned a master's degree in executive management and in 2015 was appointed Security Manager.

Mentoring is the catchword for Helena Videtic with the Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau. It is her conviction that all staffers are responsible for passing on expertise and experience; successful business-mentoring is done per subject and has nothing to do with the hierarchy level or the gender. She has initiated a mentoring project at her organization this year. „I'm certain that this is a personnel development model which we will not get around in the future."

Alexandra Kaszay at the Hofburg Vienna is projecting personnel development and customer acquisition into the next generation. She's delighted to have colleagues with small children in her unit. The team looks forward to celebrating a colleague's beginning maternity leave. Kaszay: "All this according to the motto: "The next generation is hopefully the one to convene and stage events at our facility'."  KERSTIN WÜNSCH



UN Women is committed to equality. The campaign "#HeForShe" calls on all to commit themselves as Agents of Change and engage with gaining 10x10x10 champions: ten corporations, ten universities and ten governments. Tupperware, Twitter and AccorHotels are some of the committed businesses. The French hotel operator will focus on implementation of gender equality in pay and promotion, i.e. to have 35 percent female hotel directors. At, every fourth General Manager is a woman.
„Es gibt keine Geschlechterdiskriminierung, wenn Gehalt und Leistungen betroffen sind.“
Aloysius Arlando, AIPC-Präsident und CEO Singapore EXPO