In our 2019 report, participants get real about career paths, leadership and the skills necessary
to succeed in the industry

Women have long recognized the importance of forming connections and supporting one another. For many women, it comes naturally. But new research published this year places scientific evidence behind its benefits.

According to a study from the National Academy of Sciences entitled, “A Network’s Gender Composition and Communication Pattern Predict Women’s Leadership Success,” women who have a professional tribe are “more likely to land executive positions with greater authority and higher pay.” In other words, to break the glass ceiling, there is strength in numbers.

Other research that caught our attention this year: Data from our annual Event Marketing Compensation Report, which revealed disparities between salaries of women and men in many of the same roles, particularly on the brand side. In vice president roles in brand marketing departments, for example, men made an average of 7.7 percent more than women. In manager roles, men made an average of 22 percent more than women. Women have come a long way in business, but they are not done yet. And that is where our Women in Events program comes in.

This year, eight women join the ranks of more than 100 brand-side women who’ve graced the pages of this annual special report for the last decade, women who accepted our offer to provide candid insights on being a woman in the professional world, the unique struggles women face in events, and best practices they lean on in their careers. You’ll read it all here, in transcripts from our bi-coastal roundtables, as well as in profiles of each of our women.

And since we are fresh off our second annual, bigger and more badass Women in Events Week program, we give you the inside scoop on what went down in 20 cities across the country in October. The program was powered for women by women this year (scroll beyond our WIE profiles for all the highlights). So, pour yourself a cold brew or shake up a cocktail and read on. Introducing our 2019 Women in Events.
–Rachel Boucher


VP-Global Marketing,
Mountain Hardwear

The book, podcast or TED Talk that’s made the most impact on your professional life:

“Bossypants” by Tina Fey. I’m a mother of two small children and have a really busy job and things are crazy from morning until night, but somehow you adapt in a way that makes you able to do more. Knowing that it’s a common situation and not something that I’m experiencing uniquely has been helpful in my professional life.

Best career advice, given or received:

Going into any meeting or interview, your first job is to make whoever is opposite you like you. If you can find a way to connect with them on a personal level within the first 60 seconds, you will have a successful meeting.

Best way to boost confidence before a meeting or event:

I get an adrenaline rush before a big meeting or event and rather than feeling fearful about it, I think of it as a good thing—a positive indicator, and a sign of energy and exciting things to come.

Your No. 1 survival tip for the long nights and travel:

Embrace the hours of 4:30-7:00 a.m. You tend not to get emails and it’s a great time for heads-down work as long as you can survive getting up.

If not at home or at work, where would we find you?

I travel a fair amount with my family. In the winter, we ski and in the summer, fall and spring we try to be as far off the grid as humanly possible. So, ideally, you would not be able to find me.

Something you’d tell your younger self if you could go back to when you started your career:

I started my career as an analyst at a hedge fund, after teaching in China, and every single job felt like a long-term plan, and a career in and of itself. I say to myself now that life is long and everything else is pretty short. So even if something feels set in stone, there will always be deviations from the plan. Embrace it and expect it.




Director, Head of Global Events,

One thing female event marketers should never do:

Undersell yourself. Know your value and don’t be afraid to speak up.

Best way to boost confidence before a meeting or event:

Other than giving a little extra TLC to my hair and makeup that day, I always send out a core team briefing the day of an event, recap important details and make sure everyone is on the same page. I find communication is key for an event to be successful so sending out a briefing gives me a little extra peace of mind.

The book, podcast or TED Talk that’s made the most impact on your professional life:

“The Moth Presents: All These Wonders.” It’s a collection of true stories about risk, courage and facing the unknown.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

For me, and for Reebok as a brand, sustainability is incredibly important, so I would love to see more of a commitment to green thinking, whether it’s recycling or scaling back on printed materials to no single-use plastic in events.

What’s the most important skill an event marketer should have today?

For me it’s less of a skill and more of a mindset—that it’s important to not be complacent and to always push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Often times that is when the best creative ideas come to life.

Something you’d tell your younger self if you could go back to when you started your career:

Nothing goes 100 percent according to plan, so enjoy the moment. The best thing about events is seeing it all come together.

Favorite female role model and why:

Justice Ginsberg, the Notorious RBG. She is fiercely intelligent, brave and full of class and I have such admiration for what she’s done for women’s rights.




VP-Experiential Marketing,
Empire State Development

Favorite motto or motivational quote:

“If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” It’s a Maya Angelou quote, and it reminds me to show up and be myself. And know that if I’m trying to fit into some kind of status quo, that’s not who I am, and it’s totally fine.

Best way to boost confidence before a meeting or event:

There’s nothing like music to get me inspired to be my best me. I do what I need to do from a prepping standpoint, whether that’s going over the questions or being prepared with the notes that I need for my meeting, but music is always the backdrop to making sure that happens.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

More diversity and inclusive marketing. The events that attendees feel are forever imprinted on their minds are usually the ones that they have found themselves in.

Your No. 1 survival tip for the long nights and travel:

I had a scare a couple years ago where I got really dehydrated, so one of my carry-ons always has snacks—apples, cashews, protein bars and shakes. And then the minute I get off a plane, I find a store where I can buy some water, and it all comes with me.

If not at home or at work, where would we find you?

Traveling the world. When I got into the experiential business I realized how much I loved it but how time-consuming it is and I promised myself that I would stop and take time for myself. So I have a very ambitious goal to travel once a quarter outside of the country.

Favorite female role model and why:

Bozoma Saint John. She is an unapologetic black woman who has been leading some of the world’s most coveted brands. It’s great to see someone like her in the lanes and the realms that she’s been in. And it’s great to see representation of women who look like me in the marketing world.




Global Head of Industry
and Experiential Marketing,

One thing female event marketers should never do:

The worst thing we can do as human beings is succumb to that inner voice that tells us not to do something or tells us that we’re not good enough.

Favorite motto or motivational quote:

If Plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 other letters.

Best career advice, given or received:

Orient things around the best possible work that you can produce. I often challenge folks who are leading an event program or an integrated campaign to really think about how can they create the conditions to succeed and produce great work and really make that the north star.

The book, podcast or TED Talk that’s made the most impact on your professional life:

“The Happiness Lab,” a podcast by Dr. Laurie Santos. She’s a professor who teaches the most popular class at Yale, The Psychology of the Good Life. I observe so much anxiety to succeed, especially from the younger generations, and in people that I manage, and so in many ways people are judging themselves. For me, it’s thinking about how can we pull out of that and about making ourselves happy as a chief goal.

What’s the most important skill an event marketer should have today?

When we’re recruiting or hiring, I often look for people who have a degree in GSD, or “Get Shit Done.” Because that’s so much of what we’re doing in events. People who don’t over think things, and just run toward it.

If not at home or at work, where would we find you?

I’m usually just strolling the streets of my home city, Brooklyn, NY. I’m a huge wanderer. If I’m not wandering, I’m usually in a museum. I’m a visual creature and love getting inspired by art. Especially large-format art.

Favorite female role model and why:

Martha Gellhorn. She was one of the first great female war correspondents in the early 20th Century. She wrote a book called “The Face of War,” and it told very human-centric stories around what was happening, the good and the bad.




Senior Event Producer,

One thing female event marketers should never do:

Regardless of gender, success is not a zero-sum game. There have been times when it felt like my success was somehow contingent on other people not succeeding. Somewhere along the way I learned the power of reframing a competitive mindset to a collaborative one. I know now that others’ accomplishments don’t diminish your potential for success, so be the person who lifts up others, and you will be lifted up with them.  

Best career advice, given or received:

Your career journey does not need to be linear.  

The book, podcast or TED Talk that’s made the most impact on your professional life:

Any book by Tom Kelley, co-founder of IDEO. “Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All” is something I come back to whenever I need a reminder that I have the capacity for great, creative work, even when I don’t feel confident.

Your No. 1 survival tip for the long nights and travel:

Don’t feel bad about using the flight time to relax and unwind. I’ve noticed that sometimes people spend their entire break feeling guilty about taking the break, which entirely negates the point of taking it! Watch the movies, read a book, and take the time to arrive feeling recharged and ready to dive in.  

Something you’d tell your younger self if you could go back to when you started your career:

Hold on to those connections and networks as you move through your career. Take the time to sustain and maintain those professional and personal relationships, and be a connector in your industry.  

Favorite female role model and why:

I’ve been really lucky to have strong women in my life who have been bucking the norms since before I was born. My mother kept her last name and was an equal breadwinner. She had her own business, three advanced degrees, and was also the one who fixed the computer when it was broken. Her influence was such that I didn’t even consider gender as a barrier in my early career.




Head of Global Event Marketing,
The Americas,

One thing female event marketers should never do:

Believe you know everything. No matter the level of your experience, it’s important to make a habit of asking questions and seeking out advice from other people.

Favorite motto or motivational quote:

Everything will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.

The book, podcast or TED Talk that’s made the most impact on your professional life:

The podcast, “Mortified.” It’s adults sharing their most embarrassing childhood journals and stories about their lives. It reminds you to step back and have a little perspective that no matter how bad things may seem in the moment, you’ll usually look back and laugh at them someday or at least realize it was never as important as it seemed.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

I would like to find and nurture more diverse talent. Diversity breeds innovation and it really better positions all of us to understand our audiences’ needs and empowers us to connect with and inspire them on a different level. For my team, especially, this includes thinking about accessibility and inclusion in different ways and providing the ability for any person to have access to places and spaces and experiences. I have a person on my team who doesn’t have access to everything that he tries to attend and he has really opened my eyes to how challenging it can be.

Your No. 1 survival tip for the long nights and travel:

I have learned to pack for a five-day trip in carry-on luggage and if I can do it, anyone can do it. It will give you back precious hours of your life. And wherever you are in the world, turn on the TV, and you can probably find a “Law and Order: SVU” marathon, which to me always feels like home.

If not at home or at work, where would we find you?

If I’m not at home or at work, it’s my boyfriend, me and my pup at the dog park.




Head of Entertainment,
Manager-Global Creative Programs,

Best way to boost confidence before a meeting or event:

Preparation. Knowing that I’ve done the walk-through, checked all the boxes, met with the team, and have everything in the best place that I possibly can.

The book, podcast or TED Talk that’s made the most impact on your professional life:

“The Devil Wears Prada.” I got my start in magazines as an assistant to the editor-in-chief and reading that made me realize that I was not alone in the things that I was being asked to do, but it’s also been a good roadmap for how to treat others with respect.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

That everything is seen as experiential these days. It feels like it’s become a catch-all word that’s thrown around in every discussion at every level. The upside is that there’s more investment being made and more thought put into the way you’re introducing a product to the world, but there’s also been a little bit of delusion of what it takes to put on an experiential moment and the creativity and talent and expertise that goes into that.

What’s the most important skill an event marketer should have today?

Adaptability. The ability to work with any budget and be creative. And then being a student of culture. Looking at everything and getting inspired by the unknown because that’s so much of what makes something successful these days.

Your No. 1 survival tip for the long nights and travel:

I coordinate everything with shoes, so I make sure that I’m packing outfits that will match two pairs of shoes no matter how long I’m going for.

Something you’d tell your younger self if you could go back to when you started your career:

Hard work will pay off and it’s going to be a curvy road, but it will be worth it. You don’t have to know right now what you’re going to be at 35, because it’s going to be really different than you think, but all of those steps will be the right steps.




Event and Development Manager,
Ulta Beauty

One thing female event marketers should never do:

Wear a new pair of shoes to an event or a meeting. I make sure I tell people it’s fine to wear cute shoes just make sure you’ve broken them in and you have a change, whatever the case is.

Favorite motto or motivational quote:

“A party without cake is just a meeting,” by Julia Child.

The book, podcast or TED Talk that’s made the most impact on your professional life:

The book, “How To Win Friends and Influence People,” for your professional and personal life. It talks about how to treat people and to really build those relationships. I think it’s an important piece of the meeting and event industry, building those relationships and taking a personal interest in people.

Your No. 1 survival tip for the long nights and travel:

Just to throw a little Ulta in there—the All Nighter long-lasting makeup spray by Urban Decay. It’ll keep your makeup looking great for 24 hours. And some Diet Pepsi. I need my caffeine and I’m not a coffee drinker.

What’s the most important skill an event marketer should have today?

To be forward-thinking and nimble. The industry is continually changing and if you’re not thinking forward or changing with it you’re going to be really behind.

If not at home or at work, where would we find you?

Spending time with my boys or shopping at Target. Target’s my happy place.

Something you’d tell your younger self if you could go back to when you started your career:

It’s OK to make mistakes, but if you make a mistake don’t try to cover it up or place blame. Just own it. Learn from it and move on.

Favorite female role model and why:

Joanna Gaines. She has built an empire through her creativity and resources—she’s even brought a whole city to life. And I think she stays true to her roots which is family and giving back to the community, which is awesome.




Candid perspectives from this year’s
Bicoastal Women in Events Roundtables

In our Women in Events roundtables, we head East of the Mississippi and into Silicon Valley for perspectives from some of the world’s biggest brands—and the talented women who run their shows. They hail from Boston, Chicago, New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area, and their brands run the gamut from athletic wear to beauty to technology. Yet despite their wildly different verticals, many of their professional experiences are strikingly similar, and might just resonate with you, too.

Co-produced with:


Women from Chicago, Boston and New York City talk leadership, mastering experiential skillsets and fostering diversity

Colleen Cosgrove, Director, Head of Global Events, Reebok
Shenique Coston, Vice President-Experiential Marketing, Empire State Development
Judy Lee, Global Head of Industry and Experiential, Pinterest
Dana Rosenthal, Head of Global Event Marketing, The Americas, Facebook
Emilie Watrob, Event and Development Manager,
Ulta Beauty
Keirsten Hammett, Partner, Executive Producer, Proscenium

EVENT MARKETER: Give us a taste of how this industry is changing and how that’s impacting women in the industry. Is it a different space for women in experiential than it was five to 10 years ago?

JUDY LEE: I don’t know if I look at it specifically through the lens of being a woman, but I do think that the industry overall continues to shift and shape, especially when we think about experiential as a discipline and being around storytelling and interacting with humans. I think inevitably experiential marketing will change because the way humans interact with things around them, and with technology and content, has fundamentally shifted over the past five to 10 years. The consumers are leading that change and experiential being a discipline that’s so close to how people interact with one another and how people interact with content, we naturally shift to stay close to how people receive information.

COLLEEN COSGROVE: I would say that in a very digital world people have really started to understand the value and the impact of shared human experiences. I think there are more budgets, more resources allocated, more of a focus on the importance of experiential in the industry in general and that benefits everyone.

EMILIE WATROB: I think at Ulta especially, but across the board, it’s really about diversity and inclusion. So it doesn’t matter if you’re male or you’re female, black, white, heterosexual, trans—if you’re a good fit for the job, you’re going to get it. So it doesn’t really matter what you look like, as long as you’re qualified. So I think being a woman, yes, maybe 10, 15 years ago it was harder. Now I think we’re getting on the same playing field. And I think a lot of corporations are getting there.

SHENIQUE COSTON: There is definitely still tons of work that needs to be done in that space, but I do like the trajectory, and I’m hopeful about where it’s going. I think to add on to Emilie’s point, seeing more culturally-relevant experiences and activations has been great over the past five or so years. We’re starting to think about the segments that we want to reach and who we want to target and not just coming out with a mass market plan but taking culture into perspective. And it’s super relevant, it reaches them where they are and who they are in a way that I don’t think even a decade ago we were thinking about.

DANA ROSENTHAL: I think there’s a greater focus on authenticity and I think it’s one of the really positive things this generation is doing; they’re really demanding that brands show up authentically. And people are realizing that face-to-face experiences are one of the best ways that brands can do that, to really show you who they are and what they represent.

KEIRSTEN HAMMETT: I think there’s an openness of conversation about inclusion and equality in the workplace now where in the past it’s really only been women talking about it. I agree with Dana that the younger generation is holding companies more accountable in general, and that men are having those conversations. Men are initiating those conversations. Men are a part of those conversations and asking how they can be a part of that. So it’s not just women fighting for themselves, but every sector that has been underrepresented. It gives me hope that we’re on the right track. I don’t think we’re there, but on the right track.

DR: Within our company we have male advocates for our women’s groups. So we make sure that there are men who are raising their hands to stand up and advocate for the women’s rights within our company and within our women’s leadership groups. And they’re not “voluntold,” they’re men who actually stand up and believe in the issues and actively advocate for the rights of women. It’s a really strong and powerful thing to know that there are high-ranking men within our company who truly believe in equality and the rights for women.

CC: And I do think with that diversity comes an incredibly strong talent pool. Because when you have diversity of thought, diversity of creativity, what that lends itself, especially to the events industry, is this incredibly eclectic mix of people and talents and mindsets that really creates something exceptional. I think all companies right now are really focused on diversity and inclusion. And I think it’s so important for building well-rounded teams and not hiring people because of their gender or the color of their skin, but really looking at the qualities they bring to the table and the skillsets and how they can strengthen the team as a whole.

EM: What are some of the biggest roadblocks and challenges you’re still seeing and dealing with out there?

DR: I still think that there is a perception of the role being very logistics-focused. My boss always calls it the ‘chip-and-dip’ role. People think what we do is order catering and book party spaces. And I think that there’s a real misconception still in a lot of people’s minds about what this role really entails. And we still have to fight for a seat at the table to have those strategic conversations. It’s been a challenge and a battle at every company that I’ve been at to say, “No, we’re not just planning logistics here.” We are actually ideating with you from the very beginning about how we are going to show up and bring our products and services to life in an experiential way. This isn’t you coming up with an idea and then telling me to execute it. That’s not how we’re going to show up well.

EW: I agree. A lot of things get decided, and then all of the sudden they’re pushed onto you and your team. And then you’re trying to deliver on something that may not be the best fit. You have to have that seat at the table from the beginning and make sure you’re part of those initial conversations.

I think that vulnerability is also really important. We also have to own it when we don’t get it right. And I think the more comfortable you are sharing with your team that you are human, the more they’re going to share with you and the tighter-knit a team you’ll be.
–Dana Rosenthal

SC: They forget that we’re marketers, right? We’re still marketers at the end of the day. What we do is really bring the brands to life in a way that consumers can touch and feel it. And to me that’s way more important because of all the clutter and noise in traditional advertising and marketing channels. Experiential has been one of the few ways in which you can actually break through to consumers and have an authentic conversation. And yet sometimes I still get referred to as the “events team.”

CC: I feel like a lot of marketing teams are referred to as “the events team,” which makes it feel very logistics-based, to your point. And I do think people don’t understand, yes, there is the logistics, but it’s the logistics and the strategic and the creative. And those all come together to really create a very impactful, touch-and-feel experience with the consumer. And those opportunities are few and far between these days. So it’s incredibly important for a brand to have those moments and really understand the value of their marketers.

DR: We’re a b-to-b team so we’re especially in the weeds with needing to understand product and how our products come to life for advertisers, and tools and some really unsexy things that are not consumer-facing. So our team needs to know our business and our products and how they work. If those aren’t marketers, I don’t know what are.

EM: It seems like women are not only fighting for the recognition of the discipline itself, but they’re fighting for themselves as women within the discipline. Does that resonate with you?

SC: It definitely resonates. And even if it wasn’t women who started them, most of these teams were started by an event planner of sorts. And so the evolution of that in our companies hasn’t quite taken shape like other departments have. We’ve had such a huge evolution in not only the importance of experiential marketing within a team, but even what we do. So I think that because of that evolution, it’s been hard for people to understand what we do and our importance.

DR: Totally agree. Event teams usually started as a logistics group within a company. So it’s hard to break out of that mold.

EM: If you could change one thing about the experiential industry, what would that be?

DR: I would love to give my team more time to go out and explore. I am always looking for opportunities for them to just get inspired. And there’s never enough time to do that. I think great ideation and great thinking only comes when you’re staying up to speed on trends and you’re getting inspired by really cool things. And I think a lot of people who consider themselves producers or don’t think of themselves as creative or creators think that they’re never going to be creative. And it’s our job as leaders to say creativity comes from everywhere. You don’t have to love art to be a creative person, you have to find the things that inspire you.

EM: What makes a great experiential leader? A lot of young women are just trying to assess what that means. Does that mean acting more like a man? Does that mean embracing your authentic self? What does that mean for women right now?

JL: It’s really about creating the conditions to produce great work across your teams. Across in-house and across agency partners, and really galvanizing people around a central mission or north star of how do we all collectively produce the best possible thing that we can.

EW: I think of it as being true to yourself, no matter who that is. But then also tailoring that message to your audience to know that team member or know that third party you’re working with or to your boss. But really still staying to your beliefs and your principles and making sure they’re in line with everything you do.

SC: I think a component of it is being self-aware about both your strengths and your weaknesses and figuring out how to strengthen your weaknesses. I make sure to stack my team with the skillsets that I know I may not directly possess or I’m not the strongest in, because I need someone who is going to be an expert. That person is not competition to me in any way if they are an extension of the larger team. And so while I’m working on my developmental skills personally, I’m going to stack my team with folks who know those components really well and have those specific skillsets so that there is no outage overall. Because to me, we’re individuals, but we represent the team. And everyone is important.

EM: Such a good point, because so many women try to do it all and think they’re failing if they don’t know everything.

SC: They think they have to, otherwise they look weak.

KH: It’s something I admire the most about leaders that I look up to, being willing to say they don’t know something and being willing to not be the smartest person in the room. I think so often they feel like if they’re leading the group, they need to at least have the appearance of that. And often it’s very off-putting for their people who want to contribute to the conversation and who might know pieces of something better than them, even though they’re not at the level that they are. I find it very admirable when a leader in a position of power can say, ‘I don’t know,’ and, ‘This other person in the room is smarter than me in this area, what would you say or suggest?’

CC: I would definitely agree with the self-awareness. And coupled with that, I would also say the professional development of the team. Any strong leader I’ve ever looked up to has always afforded opportunities to me, whether it’s been attending a conference or assigning me a project that’s a little out of my comfort zone, letting me do a rotation in a different department to get a different perspective on things. I hope and I try to do the same with my team and really try to elevate them as much as possible and grow their careers professionally within Reebok and outside.

DR: I’ll stack on top of that. The willingness to ask your team for feedback as well, and being humble enough to know that they can give you some feedback, too. For me it’s really empowering the team to make informed decisions, and having them know unequivocally that I have their back, that I trust them to make the best decisions possible with the information that they have at hand. We’re not always going to get it right, but that I stand behind them one thousand percent.

I think that vulnerability is also really important. We also have to own it when we don’t get it right. And I think the more comfortable you are sharing with your team that you are human, the more they’re going to share with you and the tighter-knit a team you’ll be.

CC: I agree. I think it builds an incredible amount of trust when you show that human side and that we’re not all perfect. And you can’t be. So you learn from your mistakes and you don’t have all the answers.

EM: Let’s dig into the diversity and inclusion conversation a bit deeper. How is everybody navigating this new era?

CC: I think it’s a conversation we should have started a long time ago. And I couldn’t be happier that we’re doing the work that we need to now within our own organization. There’s still a lot more work to be done, but I think just the fact that we’re having the dialogue and the conversation and that self-awareness, I think that’s incredibly important.

KH: A live event is a company on display for people to see. So I think it’s where diversity and inclusion get a lot of stage time. People are going to be taking pictures, it’s going to be webcast, people are going to be commenting, media is going to be there. So the question often is, ‘We have 90 percent men. How do we get women on this stage? How do we get some diversity on the stage?’ I think those conversations are happening but I think the more challenging piece is the authenticity of it within the company and actually leading that change. Because if the change was already there, then you’d have more diverse people to select from to put on stage.

CC: Yes. If you’re going to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.

JL: You can’t be what you can’t see. I think it’s really difficult to imagine what your life could be if you can’t see it and see what success looks like. So for me, it’s really about the lack of leadership or executive presence in the c-suite of women, overall. I also think about it in broader terms than just event marketing because I think we are quite well represented in event marketing as an industry. But what is that next step as you reach the top and the pinnacle—how do you get access to the c-suite and how are events thought of as not only this area that’s mostly women who dominate in that kind of practice of marketing, but that it’s validated as just as an effective channel as all the other marketing channels.

DR: It’s not just the diversity and inclusion team’s challenge to solve anymore either; it’s everyone’s challenge to focus on at the company, which I think has been a positive outcome. It’s also really opened my eyes to some of the other areas that we’re not focusing on, like accessibility. Whether it’s seeing impairment or physical impairment, how are we thinking about how people use our tools?

… With that diversity comes an incredibly strong talent pool. Because when you have diversity of thought, diversity of creativity, what that lends itself, especially to the events industry, is this incredibly eclectic mix of people and talents and mindsets that really creates something exceptional.
–Colleen Cosgrove

SC: I am hopeful about what this bigger conversation is doing, but some of it is very inauthentic. Companies are doing it because it’s a bandwagon thing. They’re having lots of preliminary conversations around diversity and inclusion. They’re having webinars and meetings internally. And that’s wonderful, but please tell me there’s a plan to move this all along. Are the right people in the room for these conversations to be able to make sure that we aren’t just talking to the same ears who already know and feel this way? Is the HR staff in the room to get other folks through the funnel? If it’s not part of the real leadership’s mandate, it just gets missed and it will be a conversation that keeps cycling through. I also think that, particularly in an industry that is comprised primarily of women, we sometimes forget all the other facets or the nuanced groups or segments that are within it. This is a great industry for women. For the most part we’re doing really well. We’re at the top of a lot of these companies or these organizations. But are those women disabled? Are those women women of color? Are those women trans? How does that really show up? We talk about it, but if we really start to take account of who those women really are, it’s not as diverse as we say we want it to be just yet. And maybe it’s working its way up the funnel.

CC: If anyone’s saying that they have this locked and loaded and they have it a hundred percent figured out, they’re lying. It’s like putting it out there and being open about it, having a conversation and having dialogue, understanding all the different perspectives, I think that’s the most important thing. And committing yourself to putting it into action.

EM: Let’s shift gears and talk about the next generation of event attendees. When you are preparing your teams and thinking about how you are going to meet the needs of these up-and-comers, where do you start?

EW: They are pushing the limits. There is so much thrown at them that you really have to take it to the next level and really look at what is going to hold their attention, what’s going to be that next new trend. Yes, I think that they’re a pain sometimes, but I think they’re pushing everybody’s limits around thinking differently. And having some of those people on your team to help you understand that is a good thing.

KH: I think the really positive thing about the newer generations is that they are using their power for good and really forcing companies to take a look at what choices they’re making, how they’re making those decisions, who they’re working with and what their impact is in a way that I just don’t think companies did in the past.

DR: I think it goes back to authenticity. There’s such a real-time accessibility to companies on social media now. You can’t ignore them if they’re commenting on your Instagram or on your Twitter. You have to decide who you are as a brand. I also think we as leaders have to step back and say when are we not the right people to make these decisions and to make sure we have the diversity of thought. And that includes age on our teams, to be able to step back and say, these are people who grew up in this digital generation and we haven’t all done that. They know better than us sometimes the right way to approach things.

EM: Because you’re arguably closest to your customers, do you think that a significant part of your job now as event marketers is to come back to senior management to say, ‘This is not what our customers want anymore’?

CC: Yes. And I think a way to do that with finesse is through post-event metrics. Rather than using emotion and general feedback, you really need to set some kind of firm parameters on how you’re measuring the success of an event, whether it’s through return on investment or KPIs.

DR: I often just have us hit pause and say, ‘Why are we doing this event again?’ Are we doing this because it’s something that our business partners asked us for? Or are we doing this because it’s something that we think our business partners need? And there’s a big difference between those two things. I believe strongly in our company’s mission, but I can objectively look at something that we’re delivering on stage and know it isn’t resonating because it’s us telling the story when we should have our clients telling our story for us. And I think 99 percent of the time that has to be done through metrics. The metrics will usually prove exactly what you’re feeling, and your audience will tell you, ‘No, this didn’t resonate with me. You’re not hitting the nail on the head this time.’

EM: I want to talk about career boosters—that moment in your career where you made a decision, took a turn, or tried something new that paid off. Any tips to share?

CC: I’ve committed to having a positive mindset. I think that’s incredibly important, especially in the events industry, because it can feel like a roller coaster at times. And you can feel pretty out of control, especially on the stress level. Earlier in my career, I didn’t enjoy those moments where it all came together because I let the stress and anxiety take over. But once I started shifting—and I actually think Reebok really helped me do this, because we have such a culture of positivity—it helped me approach things in a much more collaborative manner, where I felt like I’m not in this alone. It’s not all on my shoulders. So for me, it’s about having that positive mindset and understanding that you can plan this event down to the second and not everything is going go to as planned, and that’s OK. Enjoy those moments and congratulate yourself for when it does all come together. Congratulate the people that you’re working with. Celebrate the little moments and the big moments and make people feel like they’re part of a team and enjoy being part of that team. I think that changes the experience drastically.

SC: I would say career boosters have actually come in some odd ways for me. But I think the overall theme has been really owning my career in a way that has made me very uncomfortable. And by that, I mean I have quit jobs where I have loved what I was doing, but hated my boss or hated who I was working for. And I knew it was not going to be a good situation for much longer, and so I had to choose me. And in choosing me, I got out of those situations. And what came after I didn’t see coming, but was so much bigger and better for me that it worked out beautifully.

DR: For me it was really focusing on communication and building relationships. So really thinking about the way I communicate with people and what drives the way people communicate with me. And thinking about this idea of perception as reality. How people perceive you and how you communicate with people are not always the same thing. And you have to think about what your intention is, how it comes across and how you solve for those things, and really coming from a place of empathy with people. Communication and relationships are really the foundation of anything that you’re doing in your career. And I think the more that I focus on it, the more I’ve grown in my career.

JL: I often find that having an intention of vision and setting that goal and then bringing in others to help, almost like your personal board of directors, is so important—that you have someone in your life that is going to be brutally honest with you, good or bad. Someone who’s just going to tell you the tough things as well as also help you find the answers within yourself. I had a call with a former colleague of mine who made a mistake in one of her career choices and I pulled her aside and said, ‘Why didn’t you call me? I could have helped you with this.’ She called me recently and I think it was a wonderful time to reconnect with her and just to show her different perspectives on the situations she’s currently going through. It’s nice to be that for someone else but then also to have that for yourself, to figure out who your mentors are and people you can rely on who will jump in and take that call on the weekend to help you sort through some issues you’re having.

I often find that having an intention of vision and setting that goal and then bringing in others to help, almost like your personal board of directors, is so important—that you have someone in your life that is going to be brutally honest with you, good or bad. Someone who’s just going to tell you the tough things as well as help you find the answers within yourself.
-Judy Lee

EW: One thing I started doing the last three or four years is advocating for myself and telling people what I want or where I want to go. Because they don’t always know. And they don’t know what your next step is. They don’t know you want to work on a particular project, or whatever it may be. If you don’t express yourself or tell your boss, they don’t know. I think it’s really important to be that advocate for yourself.

EM: What are the killer skills that a really great experiential marketer needs to have today?

CC: I would say you have to be able to anticipate. You have to be able to put yourself in the shoes of the consumer and what they want to experience. And you can’t freak out. You cannot freak out.

KH: I’d say adaptability. Knowing how to read a room seems like such an old concept and a very obvious thing, but knowing when to insert yourself into a conversation, when to opt out, when to say the right thing—those are skills that are hard to teach but are so crucial to people’s success as they grow. And especially in this business where you’re dealing with so many people. If you think about an event landscape, you have your direct clients, you have the c-suite who is on the stage, guest speakers who could be anybody. You’re just dealing with so many different players at the same time. So that adaptability and knowing how to shift to get what you need from everybody to execute is really crucial.

SC: It’s probably similar to what you’re describing, but I’d say being scrappy. Not only being able to read a room, but knowing when things are about to go haywire and when to jump in. It’s a level of anticipation where you see it coming and you jump in and not only figure it out, but figure it out using whatever solution is available to you and not relegating yourself to a certain level of solutions. For a hard skill, I’d say digital is not going away. So people have to find their niche in this digital landscape and really understand and have a firm foundation in it, whether it’s social channels or digital tools or suites of tools. You’ve got to know something in this space to be able to navigate and to keep moving on. Because again, it’s not going anywhere, and it’s only going to continue to evolve. And when it evolves, our industry changes or it transforms very substantially.

DR: For me it’s really creative problem solving. Someone who is really willing to ideate to that place of, ‘I have this crazy idea,’ and then take it all the way out there, even if we have no budget and we’re not sure how we’re going to make it come together. I want to hear your crazy, immoral, irrational ideas. And then let’s reel it in and figure out how we’re going to build it. I want the no-holds-barred kind of thinking. I also rarely hire people with a production background. I can teach production to somebody, and we have brilliant agencies who do production—that’s not what our industry is about. I need someone who is going to be creative and problem-solve.

*Photo courtesy: Khaki Bedford Photography


On the West Coast, women in events tackle buy-in, buzzwords and the tech bubble

Snow Burns, VP-Global Marketing,
Mountain Hardwear
Alaine Newland, Senior Event Producer,
Lauren Schutte, Head of Entertainment, Manager-Global Creative Programs,
Keirsten Hammett, Partner, Executive Producer,

EVENT MARKETER: What’s the biggest challenge facing women in business and events today?

LAUREN SCHUTTE: I’ve been lucky to have worked in a lot of female-focused industries. And then specifically with Instagram being super supportive, it’s a place where I’ve been able to come up with ideas and feel like my voice has been heard. That being said, I think there is always room for more female voices, more leaders. It’s something we still have a long way to go on. It’s hard when you look around and you are the exception, not the rule.

KEIRSTEN HAMMETT: I would say complacency in thinking that there has been a lot of progress. There’s a lot of “progress” for people to point to, but a lot of people don’t necessarily feel how much inequality is still out there for women. It’s easy to have a token woman or two in the room or on the board or on the stage and maybe not think that there is so much work that still needs to be done. I could see that as a bit of a challenge for all of us.

ALAINE NEWLAND: In the tech industry, there is a focus on diversity and inclusion. So it is easy to feel that the work is being done. And then, you step outside of Silicon Valley or out of this tech bubble, and it is just a completely different world. There isn’t a targeted focus on getting women into leadership and getting women onto the board and onto the stage or into the room the way there is here in Silicon Valley.

SNOW BURNS: The outdoor industry is very aware that it needs to become more progressive and diverse and inclusive and include more women. But I go to trade shows and there are predominantly men representing companies, buying product, running marketing. So I think the work for me is to be that representative and be visible and make others feel seen, so that I can help enable them to move up as well.
From a consumer perspective and from a buyer perspective, the bulk of the dollars are owned by women. So it’s interesting that this paradox exists, that women are buying things, but it’s men that are running things and setting marketing campaigns. It’s cool to be part of the change, but it’s interesting to step away from tech into an arena where it feels like there’s still progress to be made.

AN: The ‘tokenism’ can be really uncomfortable and dangerous. I had a manager who’d say it’s a privilege to feel uncomfortable, because it shows that change is happening and that you’re at the cusp of that change, and that even being uncomfortable, you’re paving the way for that change.

SB: I worked hard to not feel uncomfortable in a room, to feel like my voice can be just as loud as anybody else’s and that I’m just as informed. That, no matter the makeup of the room, I should be in the room. I’m often the only woman in the meeting. It happened in tech, I would say five or 10 years ago more frequently, and now it’s the case in outdoor. That’s just how I roll.

AN: I have a female colleague who was raising money from VCs for her startup and she said, ‘You know, I just had to go into the room acting like I was equal.’ And I said, why does that have to be an act? Why aren’t you going into the room knowing that you’re equal? And that’s the mentality she has—and she’s a very progressive, incredibly intelligent woman. She had to bolster herself to go into this room with those eyeballs on her. It’s fake it until you make it, but it’s not even faking it. It’s proving it until you make it.

I worked hard to not feel uncomfortable in a room, to feel like my voice can be just as loud as anybody else’s and that I’m just as informed. That, no matter the makeup of the room, I should be in the room. I’m often the only woman in the meeting. It happened in tech, I would say five or 10 years ago more frequently, and now it’s the case in outdoor. That’s just how I roll.
–Snow Burns

KH: I also think that often women feel or take on an extra sense of pressure if they are the only woman in the room because they want to show up for everybody else who’s not at the table. So while men can come to the meeting and sort of throw around ideas and not necessarily be judged for them, you feel like, OK, if I’m here, I want to make sure that I’m making a statement and that I’m representing everyone else, which is sort of an unfair and undue burden.

EM: If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

LS: Maybe this is my events bubble talking, but if I could change one thing, it would be the word “experiential.” You cannot go anywhere without hearing it. The Apple Store is experiential, the children’s kindergarten is experiential. We need one or two other words. The good part is, people are actually thinking about an experience as opposed to just gathering people in a room branded with a message. It is more about what you feel and what you want people to take away. But I think we have more room to grow there.

SB: If I were to change anything about the industry from where I’m coming from it is how do you take this little time, the microcosm of an event, and make it seem bigger and broader and resonant to people who aren’t there because everything—literally everything—is experiential in outdoor. How do we make that stuff connect to 10,000 people instead of 500 people?

AN: I truly believe there is power in bringing communities offline to connect and build relationships. And it’s those forged relationships that have legs way beyond the event itself. But I also think we’re speaking to a globally dispersed culture. What does experience look like for people who aren’t there? How do you build those connections when they’re not in person in a way that has that same power?

LS: It’s probably obvious, but working at Instagram, I think about how can I scale this and make people wish that they were there, interested in what we’re doing. And that leads to moving away from a modern vibe and into things that photograph really well. And where my constant effort is, is to make the entire thing from entry to exit feel like a moment that’s worthy of content.

KH: Because there are so many other ways to communicate I feel like sometimes, it’s easy to forget the power of just being in the room. And if it’s not easily tied back to a line item for ROI, that human presence and connection can very easily get pushed down the priority list in terms of budget. And then the ability to create an experience, where you’re really thinking about what it feels like from the beginning to end, is much more difficult. If you have to be flat with your budget every single year, and are expected to surprise and wow and entertain an audience who gets entertained and surprised constantly online from other pieces of content, how can you do that in a corporate setting over three days, right? That is where I feel like maybe some of the pull from the other channels is taking away from the importance of that face-to-face. If each of those channels just contributed a small piece to the live experience, it would be so much more powerful. From a corporate perspective, it’s very challenging.

LS: In managing the whole department budget, that’s why I’m trying to think, OK, how can I take this event strategy and then pile on top marketing or digital advertising ROI and a p.r. ROI? Because then, all of the sudden, I have stakeholders who are like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll throw X amount of dollars at that thing, I could really get something out of it, too.’ It’s bringing in other channels of stakeholders, but that means long-term planning, deep strategic planning and long-form storytelling.

AN: The problem is, not every department thinks that far ahead. So when you want to get stakeholder buy-in from all the departments, like for a flagship conference, you want to make sure that it creates an opportunity for everyone at the company to connect with their target audience or find value in the event itself. But not everyone can look ahead a year and see what they want that value to be. And it’s very hard to curate that opportunity for them.

SB: I spend a lot of time trying to kill proposals and consolidate marketing efforts. On the one hand, it’s a great endorsement of the success of the very cool events we’ve been able to throw that everyone thinks that needs to be a key part of any launch plan or a narrative. I always think, let’s combine efforts and do them bigger. We can save money that way.

LS: With enough money and enough time, literally anything is possible. I can get any amount of people, we can do anything and have people doing anything I want, but what’s the point? That’s what I always ask my team: ‘Why, exactly, do you want to do this thing?’ And then we can work back to how much it costs.

EM: What do you think makes a great leader in experiential marketing?

AN: I think someone who is capable of communicating the ROI of an experience to leadership, and getting that buy-in from the people who open their pockets. We have a team of people who are great at creating experiences, but the challenge is so often proving that it’s worth the experience. So having a leader who really understands the long view, the power of an experience for a community.

I also think a leader who understands that creativity doesn’t happen in the nine-to-five window. A lot of production happens during those hours, when you’re working on logistics, but when you’re dreaming of big ideas, they don’t happen in that half hour before lunch, which is your only free window. So I have been extremely fortunate to have leaders and managers who are fine with my work happening on the edges of the day, and the work/life balance that needs to happen so that my brain can be open to big ideas. And being supportive of us living our best lives so that we can be our best selves when we’re doing this kind of work for other people.

My boss says to me, ‘I’d rather go down in flames doing something interesting than repeat the same thing just to check a box.’ And so I tell my team the same thing. Fundamentally, it’s about the ideas. And the brain at rest has really, really good ideas. The busy brain doesn’t. 
–Lauren Schutte

SB: Adaptability is really important because once you’ve done something and it’s successful and then replicated, you can’t do it again. You have to be a student of the world. You could be paying attention to trends of all sorts, going places, opening up your brain and paying a lot of attention to new ways you can think about something as opposed to sort of rinsing and repeating on something because it worked once.

LS: My boss says to me, ‘I’d rather go down in flames doing something interesting than repeat the same thing just to check a box.’ So I tell my team the same thing. Fundamentally, it’s about the ideas. And the brain at rest has really, really good ideas—the busy brain doesn’t. So encouraging time off, encouraging vacations is really important. But then I also think it’s about encouraging people to say, ‘What did I do last year? Let me look at it. Is there anything we can extract that was good?’ And then, what would be the complete opposite of that? Just to get you out of this mold of thinking. Because what I see in our industry, in particular, is there is a playbook, and people replicate the playbook. And the playbook works fairly well.

KH: I think a big piece is listening more and refining the art of listening, and listening mostly to what people are not really saying versus what they are saying. And I think about it internally and with clients because a lot of times people don’t really know exactly what they’re asking for. People don’t like to admit that they don’t know what they’re either doing or asking or need. Thinking about, what are the pressures from their boss that they’re getting that they’re not saying on this call that they need us to provide or whatever that is?

EM: How has the women’s movement impacted your work or how you see events?

SB: It’s on my mind every day. Not every minute of every day, but there’s at least one thing every day that makes me think about where I’ve been and how things are elsewhere and how things are with events. It’s a real issue and I think that no matter how much progress we feel we may have made as individuals, outside of our Bay Area bubble, conditions are different and potentially less optimal.

LS: It’s not something that I necessarily thought about coming up in my career, but something that I see a lot of the younger females that I work with thinking about, which is—I have the capability to take up more space. I can be a part of that. And I think it’s also opened up conversation in the workplace to be more thoughtful around inclusivity. I think the movement has given me the ability, in any event I do, to think about how I’m making it feel safe and inviting for underrepresented groups. And it’s given me the ability to throw some events for badass women and women only. And then, overall, it’s just bringing that into the conversation as I’m planning things and trying to make sure that it feels equitable.

AN: This may sound counter-feminist, but I think in some ways the women’s movement has made my job a lot harder. And I think it is because people want to see that change very quickly, but it doesn’t happen that quickly. So, in the tech space, we set a goal to have 50 percent women on the stage. That is important to us as a company, and to me as a producer. But there aren’t 50 percent of women putting themselves out there to speak or in the pool of developers that we’re reaching out to. I’m not saying I don’t want to do the work. My job is harder and it’s worth doing. But in many ways, it’s shining the spotlight on an issue that wants to be solved, but may not be solvable yet.

EM: How are your teams preparing for future generations of workers and attendees?

AN: We have a checklist of factors that must be true at our events in order to ensure that diversity and inclusion is top of mind. We won’t even consider a venue that doesn’t have ADA accessibility, that doesn’t have a space we could convert into a nursing or pumping room, that doesn’t have gender-neutral restroom options. That is baked into how we think about events now. And it’s starting to be noticed. We’re starting to see that a lot of our social media kudos are about those things, like someone who sees that we prepare a room for children who want to play so parents who don’t have care can come and enjoy their content anyway. Or that we create the world’s most cushy pumping room for a mama—because, lord knows, you have to do it four times during a conference. It might as well be fantastic. We’re starting to see acknowledgement of all that. And as people acknowledge it, more people are going to want to do it to get that acknowledgement, and eventually it becomes the norm. When you get to a point where people aren’t even clapping for you for doing something like that, you know that you’ve gotten to that place of progress.

SB: What we’ve learned is that an event is a moment in time. And what I’ve set a goal for, and what our president has set a goal for is, we want anybody who goes to that event or sees it online or experiences it in any way to be able to scratch the surface of the brand and find all the things that are true at that event to be true in the brand at every touchpoint.

We wanted to devote ourselves to helping climbers and outdoor enthusiasts that have less access to the outdoors to have more access. So there’s a diversity issue there. There’s an access issue there. And so it’s about us enlisting blind athletes and transgender athletes to help us with our activations across the board and have them help do clinics that teach people about these issues. And then, it’s bringing training in from the HR perspective so that employees can actually speak to these issues, and fix hiring practices.

So I think for us, an event is a moment in time that we want to be true, but then we have to lay a lot of groundwork on top of that. So that’s the work that we’re steeped in now, making sure that as we do these things that are public-facing, that they’re actually meaningful and resonant internally as well. And that’s a lot of work.

LS: At Instagram, obviously, the next generation is the primary user of our product. So we think about them a lot, all day, every day. Our mission is connecting people to their interests and giving them a place to express themselves. So in an event capacity, I am constantly thinking about, who’s the audience, and what is the interest-based experience that we can execute here—and how can we make it shareable? Because there’s so much to mine on Instagram. It’s a space that allows you to be whoever you want to be and have as specific or general of interests as you want. We spend a lot of time trying to create space for the next generation to be the snowflakes that they are, to find what they are looking for and make it a safe and inclusive place.

Younger generations are pushing for different ways of working. Now, the expectations around the transparency of salaries is shifting. It used to be such a taboo topic to share what you make with your coworkers.
–Keirsten Hammett

AN: I also think that the next generation consumes content differently. It’s not necessarily putting a sage on a stage and saying that that is the best way to learn or to connect with the brand or to take home something. So, reimagining different ways that people collide in a space and learn about your brand and consume that content, that is a way to reimagine an experience for the next generation.

EM: What are some of the ways women can boost their careers? And then, what has worked for you personally?

LS: I had a former female boss who said to me, ‘You should be in that room and you should feel empowered to be in every room, and you should know that you’re one of the smartest people in it everywhere you go.’ So even when I don’t feel that way and even when something’s intimidating, I try to maintain that mentality. The biggest piece of advice I’d tell anyone who’s just graduated from college or is wanting to make another move in their career, is to take every meeting. I think opportunity is based on connection and the workplace is such a big part of that. When that person reaches out to you, you may have already decided you don’t want the job, but you have no idea what the next job that they’re going to be in is, and the next job that you’re going to be in. It’s about not closing doors before you’ve walked through them.

SB: I was in a meeting with someone yesterday who asked me a similar question. And I was like, just always throw yourself into the deep end of the pool. Like, don’t worry about it. Just throw yourself in and assume you can figure it out before they figure you out. To Keirsten’s point earlier about a man might go to a job interview and check four of the 10 boxes and a woman won’t think about it until there’s seven. It’s saying, no, if I think I could do this, the boxes are really irrelevant, right?

AN: I would say be a cross-pollinator. Be someone who takes the time to build those connections, build those relationships. Be the person who makes connections and be the person who’s generous with those connections because, ultimately, even if you’re introducing and then releasing, if you’re known as a person who has those connections and is willing to do so, it all kind of comes back around. And if there’s something I could do differently, I would have taken more care of those relationships as I built them and held onto them. There are lots of people in my past career who meant something to me, either as a mentor or a collaborator, and I didn’t do a good job of staying in touch with them. I mourn the loss of those relationships and I wish I would have been more cognizant of the power of them when I was that age.

AN: I also say don’t feel like your career has to be linear. I think the most interesting problem-solvers I’ve ever encountered are people who look at it through a totally unexpected lens.

EM: Any hard lessons that you’ve learned about being a woman in the business or things that you wish you knew sooner?

LS: I think it’s giving yourself the strength and ability to change who you want to be at 22, at 32, at 45—who you want to be at 45 could be totally different. And that’s not the failure of a dream, it’s the evolution of a human. And I think so often you are told you need to think and know where you want to be so you can get yourself there. There’s a big advantage to being flexible and malleable and open to other things because you change, your goals should change, your location can change, all of those things. You may still want to be the thing you wanted to be at 22, and you should keep going for it. But if it changes, that’s not a failure, that’s an evolution and that’s OK.

KH: I think about this in my career, that at 22, you aren’t even aware of industries that exist that are actually perfect for your set of skills. And maybe they don’t even exist yet, right, because how quickly things change now.

LS: It’s so much pressure. I also find that a lot of times there’s this worry that this job’s not going to get me to that job. And it’s like, actually, every job takes you in a new direction. Take the job as opposed to waiting for the perfect role. You should be able to find the opportunity in anything you’re doing to learn from it.

…be a cross-pollinator. Be someone who takes the time to build those connections, build those relationships. And be the person who’s generous with those connections because, ultimately, even if you’re introducing and then releasing, if you’re known as a person who has those connections and is willing to do so, it all kind of comes back around. 
–Alaine Newland

SB: I think there’s myopia in a current role that says, ‘Here are the parameters and here are the constraints and here’s how I think about work.’ And so, something left or right or peripheral may not make obvious sense. For me, it’s, how do I find that thing that’s kind of peripheral and interesting that might be the next thing? At this point, I legitimately have no idea what that thing is, and I’ve been saying to myself, that’s cool. It’s cool to be interested in what I’m doing now. I feel like I’m growing. And then, the next thing—is it here or is it tech? Is it outdoor or is it some other animal altogether that I haven’t even thought of yet? I don’t know. But when I was younger, I would definitely think, if I don’t do this thing, then I won’t get to this thing. I’ve found that to not be true.

AN: It’s exhausting, playing your life like a chess game. Sometimes you need to just sit back and let the pieces move.

EM: Do you think there’s a salary disparity between men and women in this industry?

LS: Yes.

SB: Definitely.

AN: There’s a salary disparity between industries in general. I mean, in this space, the disparity exists, but it’s maybe smaller than the disparity in other industries.

KH: Younger generations are pushing for different ways of working. Now, the expectations around the transparency of salaries is shifting. It used to be such a taboo topic to share what you make with your coworkers.

AN: There’s something to be said for knowing your value, too, and knowing where the baseline is and where you fall.

KH: Right. That goes back to the transparency of knowing what people should be paid, what people are being paid, what men are being paid in this role. You don’t know those things, and you’ve been underpaid your entire career. And it’s hard to catch up. It’s hard to then walk into the room and demand that you be paid more.

LS: And you’re already coming from an industry that just on a whole pays less. I think the question that I didn’t know as a young person that is now the more standard thing to ask is what are you paying for this role—not what am I asking for—but what is your budget? And then we’ll talk about it. As a young woman coming up, I’d be asked, ‘What are you making?’ Today, the process has become much more regulated and open, which is better.

AN: Also it comes back to that problem of the impostor syndrome, knowing what you’re worth, and not being afraid to ask for it because you truly believe that you’re worth it. And it’s scary to ask for more or to negotiate back if they come back with a number, to come back and say, ‘No, sorry.’ I think it’s good to know that by the time you get to the point where you’re talking about salary, they want you.

LS: They want you, but the salary’s not a gift. And your raise is not a gift. Those are paid for services rendered. And I work really hard so every time I’ve gotten a raise, I worked for that raise.

*Photo courtesy: Josh Edelson