Agents of Change
Some progress is already noticeable, says Suckow. “No one gets soused at lunch and gets a signed contract anymore,” she says. “That’s gone the way of the liquid lunch.” Hope for further change can be summed up in one word: Millennials.
“They’re the generation that’s raised on equality more than any other, and they are not prepared to expect this behavior at all,” says Suckow. “They may be put into the situation, but they are the generation that will stop it. They will speak up.”
Perhaps more importantly, “they are the changing face of meetings,” says Lui.
Knowing they have a voice and that certain behavior is not only no longer acceptable or tolerated in business relationships, but also destructive, a younger generation might bring an end to the types of stories described at conferences here.
While safety, harassment and generational bullying may not be session topics on the conference agenda yet, Lui feels younger people will advocate for gender equality in the industry’s top jobs. He’s seen women’s issues strike a chord at conference sessions he participates in, and says it’s time to expand the conversation. “There’s always a positive response from the audience,” he says. “We need to talk more. We need to hit taboo topics head on.”
Klopper sums up the discussion in her own passionate voice. “The choice should not be about survival in the industry, but instead about integrity, responsibility, respect and ethics.”
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Practical Advice: Inappropriate Behavior
- Be self-aware thinking about what could happen.
- Inform staff they are required to brief the supervisor, manager or person in charge immediately of an incident, and especially if they are going off-site for a meeting. Be very upfront. When people are outside their usual environment, they may act any way they want.
- Equip the on-site team. Whether attending, exhibiting or running a meeting, they need to be able to manage different situations.
- Let attendees know you have a zero-tolerance policy.
- It’s a good idea to include a general statement in your brochure or attendee information stating all attendees are expected to respect and work with others, and to maintain respect for the general environment.
- Encourage people to attend, but if they have a problem with the statement of behavior, you don’t want them there. It won’t prevent or stop the behavior, but you are putting yourself in a better position by including it.