Women in Events Leading the Way

Today is International Women’s Day and it’s becoming a bit of a tradition at Event Birdie to mark the occasion by showcasing a collection of amazing women who work in the events industry.

This year the theme for IWD is ‘Parity’. Sadly, throughout the world there is still a divide between the education and economic opportunities given to men and women. In many industries, even here in Australia, the salaries and development opportunities are simply not equal.

In order to explore this theme we wanted to feature women who are specifically business owners or working in general manager roles. We wanted to find out what drove them to start their own businesses, how they feel about being a leader and whether they think there is parity between men and women in our industry.

The answers from these fabulous female role models are entertaining, refreshing and encouraging. So go pop the kettle on, grab yourself a treat and enjoy getting to know a little more about these amazing women in the events industry.




Julia BarnardJulia Barnard - This Space Events
Managing Director / Founder
This Space Events
Industry Experience: 18+ years

Give us a snap shot of your events career?
What a ride - it's been 13+ years of developing This Space Events as a full service event agency. Through it all I continue to love every single moment.... Producing the Australia launch of Tumblr to designing and managing 15 separate sites at some of the world’s major sporting events from the Olympics to Formula 1. We have released 300 gorillas throughout the streets of London and built Greenfield events in 47 degree heat in outback Australia. From meeting IOC Presidents to meeting Marvin the amazing 72 year old security man at Trump towers who moved heaven and earth for us during one epic event delivery. I have crashed Formula 1 cars through shop windows (on purpose of course!) and chartered mega yachts in Monaco. All this has been the creative ride I get to jump on board with. However, some of my most memorable, moving and heart felt moments are the simple ones, like interviewing Grace who had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for a health campaign and orchestrating a moving tribute to the centenary of the Anzacs where the last post had 1000 amazing people from the Clubs industry upstanding. Throughout my career I have hopefully inspired the younger event generation to be bold and be brave. 
 
What were the key reasons that drove you to start your own business?
I wanted to develop an agency that incorporated every aspect of events from the theatre and production to creating digital content that captured an audience’s attention. I wanted to have this all under one roof, to create consistency for our clients and to push the boundaries of what the events industry does in Australia this is where This Space Events, Design and Digital was born.
 
I want to inspire, I want to collaborate with different industry types, but importantly I wanted to create a company based on strong values, values that we live and work by that create meaningful relationship based on trust, opportunity and innovation. 
 
What do you find most rewarding about being a leader of people in the events industry?
That spark you see in people’s eyes when they are engaged, they are inspired, you see their mind starting to whirl with positivity and possibilities. I am a big believer in sharing knowledge, I particularly like to work with those starting out in the industry who have a far tougher journey than most, to give them ideas on how to stand out, stand up and create. I see that is our job to create an industry that is filled with committed, passionately creative people who can produce events that are creatively relevant, safe and sustainable.
 
Do you think there is parity between women and men in the events industry?
I would love to see more men in the events industry, we are heavily female dominated. I would love to see more women in the technical delivery for events, it’s not often you see a female technician. Most importantly I would like to see more well-rounded event professionals with robust options for training within our industry. It’s something I continuously strive to achieve with clients of upskilling them on areas they want to develop further.
 
What are three personality traits you have that allow you to succeed in the events industry?
I have a mantra that I live by Be Bold, Be Brave, Be Humble. Not everyone in the industry is an extrovert, taking the time to listen, incredible ideas can come from the quietest corner of the room. As for my personality traits I would say, I’m fiercely loyal to my tribe at This Space and our clients, I have exceedingly high professional standards. After all you are only as good as your last event!

If you could share one piece of good advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Take a leap of faith, be bold be brave be humble. Listen to your mum’s advice she often nails it. Most importantly surround yourself with passionate inspiring people who feed your creativity every day. Oh and depending on how far back we are going here to my 16 year old self take off the tie dyed dress with that crystal and moon boots it's not a good look for you. 
 
Last question… On the day of the event when the guests are there are you in heels or flats?
I’m usually the show caller so from behind the tech desk I’m in my flats. I admire our team as they rack up 40,000 steps in heels!



Lauren LacavaLauren Lacava
Director
Black and White Marketing
Industry Experience: 17 years

Give us a snap shot of your events career?
I actually kind of fell into events… and 17 years later I am still going strong! After leaving high school and whilst starting my first degree, my first gig in events was with Michael O’Brien Catering who managed the busy restaurant and event space The Terrace, in the Royal Botanic Gardens. I loved the crazy time between the restaurant closing and the functions starting. The stress, the excitement and the pride when guests walked in, oo-ing and ah-ing. After starting to talk to people about their weddings and events, doing site inspections and phone sales... I just knew it was for me. I used to say that I sold fun for a living which is really what it felt like. 
 
Over the last 17 years, I have worked for a number of catering companies, hotels and venues in sales, marketing and management roles. I have always genuinely loved the industry and what I do and am fortunate now to be working with an amazing event guru colleague and friend, Nicole Bates on our crazy / busy / amazing consulting business Max Capacity.  
 
What were the key reasons that drove you to start your own business?
We saw a gap in the market for experienced sales and marketing people in events. The very experienced candidates expect six figure salaries (and rightly so!) which is just not always feasible in our industry, especially for small businesses. Hence Max Capacity was born to provide sales and marketing advice and services to all types of small to medium businesses in the industry. Personally, I wanted my own business as I wanted to use my skills and experience in business to create my own thing in my own way. Max Capacity started three years ago and we have never looked back. 
 
What do you find most rewarding about being a leader of people in the events industry?
I enjoy using my experience to help small businesses grow through sharing my experience and giving advice. It's rewarding to have so many strong relationships in the industry, it's such a beautiful thing to have kept in contact with so many people for so long. 
 
Do you think there is parity between women and men in the events industry?
This varies on the business I think. I have been blessed to have been managed and developed by very strong female managers and business owners for the most part. I have worked in male dominated teams before where it was just that little bit harder to be heard but my advice to women in our industry is just to be the best you can be and don't let people's poor behaviour derail you, just keep focussed on your work and yourself. 
 
What are three personality traits you have that allow you to succeed in the events industry?
Creative - Whether your role be in sales or operations, you have to be creative with concepts and solutions to the myriad of random problems that can and will occur.
Customer focussed - It’s all about relationships.
Crazy - Just a little bit. 
 
If you could share one piece of good advice to your younger self, what would it be?
You can't please everyone. 
 
Last question… On the day of the event when the guests are there are you in heels or flats?
Always heels. These get popped on at the very last moment. 



Kerryn Howell Kerryn Howell - JAK Creative & Events
Creative Director
JAK Creative & Events
Industry Experience: 22 years

Give us a snap shot of your events career?
Night Club Host – transitioned to…
Night Club Decorator – transitioned to…
Rather Clueless Freelance Operator – transitioned to
Business Owner in partnership with Jane Klose – this one really works so I’m sticking with this bullet point for a while.

1994 - 2000
I had the coolest part-time job EVER as a Host to the biggest Alternative night club in the Southern Hemisphere while I studied Visual Merchandising at RMIT. My job was to make sure everyone had an awesome time. Naturally, I did too. 
 
** It’s important to note here, it was at this time I met my future business partner Jane Klose, in a classroom at RMIT. We ended up as house mates and did all of our assignments together. This is a significant part of the story!)
 
Surrounded by lighting rigs, technicians, amazing music, performers, models and art, it wasn’t long before designing in big spaces made sense to me.
 
I got to dress stages, hand paint models, design green rooms for Courtney Love, Fat Boy Slim, Boy George and Blur. I suspended massive creations of my imagining from ceilings and truss and learned about lighting. Nothing was off limits. It was the best playground in the world for me and the basis for my future business (Theme from JAK)… But I didn’t know it then. I graduated and went full time in my created position at the Metro and continued to play.
 
2000 – PRESENT DAY
I was ready for a new challenge and all signs pointed to ‘Start Your Own Business’. Theme from JAK was established in 2000 and the rest is history!
 
What were the key reasons that drove you to start your own business?
I had big ideas. I needed a way to create them. I also needed someone to listen to them!
I wanted the thrill of a challenge after cruising for a while. I wanted to know what I was capable of. 
There were zero job opportunities at the time, so Jane and I thought we should make our own job! That way it would also be the one we wanted. Hahahaha! 
I had skills that Event Managers and venues loved, right at the point where events were becoming serious business. 
I was at the perfect intersection. It would have been stupid not to try!
 
What do you find most rewarding about being a leader of people in the events industry?
Working with people at the top of their game. After 16 years as JAK we now get invited to play with the ‘Big Kids’. Collaborating with people who are rocking their own sector of the industry is incredibly rewarding.
 
Amazing opportunities. Each year as our business grows I’m blown away by the diversity and challenge of the kinds of projects we get to design.
 
Incredible relationships built over time with clients and colleagues. Some of these people will be friends for life. That’s a rewarding industry!
 
Do you think there is parity between women and men in the events industry?
I can’t speak for the whole industry, only the space we operate in, which is the Design and Production part of Events. I have always felt judged on my merits, professionalism and performance as opposed to any other factors. Our little pocket of the world is pretty down to earth and results focused.
I think our part of the industry is more ‘Age-ist’ than ‘Sex-ist. If you’re young or a young business, clients and suppliers are worried that you won’t have the experience required to ‘deliver’. They don’t really care if you are a man or a woman! Everyone is wary of the new kids on the block, because they haven’t seen them get any runs on the board yet.
I see more importance placed on producing an exceptional outcome than other factors. Clients and employers engage individuals who are going to deliver the results they want. 

What are three personality traits you have that allow you to succeed in the events industry?
Research Nerd. I am completely tenacious when is comes to finding what I want. Whether it’s a colour, piece of furniture, object or lighting effect, I won’t stop until I get there. It’s great for our clients. Frustrating for our team (Sorry guys!). It’s always worth it though.
 
Intuitive Personality. These words work separately or together. I make bad jokes. I make Dad jokes. I know when to use them and who to use them with. I’m cheeky and professional which is a tricky wire to walk sometimes. But it works. If you can read your client well and create a safe and fun space for them to share with you, 9/10 times they’ll grab it with both hands. 

Empathiser. Listening to our clients needs and really understanding what’s important to them. Learning how to read their communication to get to the heart of what they really want. I get that their head is on the ‘chopping block’ most of the time. It’s my job to get in their world and make sure they’re looking like a rock star for their boss. The client needs to trust that you have their back. The only way to do it is to actually have their back!
 
If you could share one piece of good advice to your younger self, what would it be?
You’ll be worth more than you ask for sooner than you’ll ask for it. 
It’s a bit ‘fortune cookie’ I know (read it slower and it will make more sense)! It’s really hard to articulate, and something I think young business owners struggle with a lot. Often people can disregard the value of your service because of your age, or perceived lack of experience. Early on, the amount of times people told us something would be a great ‘opportunity’ in order to pay less was obscene. It’s bullshit. It’s people trying to take advantage of a young business. Not once were any of those ‘opportunities’ authentic and they didn’t lead to valuable business or relationships. Back then we were too meek to back ourselves and it took a long time to ask for what we knew we were worth. 
 
Last question… On the day of the event when the guests are there are you in heels or flats?
Easy… Flats! Runners most likely. On the day, we are an event hybrid of fairy, ninja and design machine. We are rockin’ non descript black uniforms or blending in with the rest of the crew in high vis. Our job is to achieve perfection before the client arrives. But I always try to stay long enough to be by my clients’ side when they step into our creation for the first time. That’s the best bit 
 


Sara FlaksbardSara Flaksbard - Laissez-Faire Catering
General Manager / Director
Laissez-Faire Catering
Industry Experience: 14+ years

Give us a snap shot of your events career?
I have been at the helm of LFC for close to 12 years and as the General Manager for the last 8, my previous incarnations include running my own restaurants and cafes. 
 
What do you find most rewarding about being a leader of people in the events industry?
I have the unique opportunity to drive change within our business, over the last 12 years we have grown as a business and as an employer and for myself personally seeing the industry grow and diversify, I have been able to offer employees within all levels strategic career and personal growth.
 
As the industry has grown and moved so has the recruitment and human resource process and on a daily basis this proves to be one of our most challenging areas. I feel a great sense of business satisfaction following our team and their personal endeavours, which to me is personally extremely gratifying.
 
Do you think there is parity between women and men in the events industry?
I do feel that at some level and within this service sector, both men and women are evenly represented, however it would be fair to say that at the higher management levels, women still seem to be less common.

What are three personality traits you have that allow you to succeed in the events industry?
Although cliché, honesty still resounds for me as the strongest tool you have to offer the best product that you can - you can sell anyone the dream. However, managing expectations and ensuring transparency guarantees, for the most part, that you realise the event that you have promised, and therefore have exceeded expectations.

Engagement. By including the team that you surround yourself with and encouraging them to be proactive members of the business you allow your business and the clients to be offered the best that you have to offer, by combining your ideas with your teams, the outcome is one of involvement and this leads to higher levels of staff participation and output.
 
If you could share one piece of good advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Hmmm, this is a difficult question to reflect on, for myself personally I entered this industry with a real desire to affect change, to deliver the best product that I could, which I feel that we do very day we operate, I guess the honest answer would be that you can’t please everybody and that sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s more how you handle the situation at the time.
 
Last question… On the day of the event when the guests are there are you in heels or flats?
Again, this answer is twofold, when I am running around setting up a dinner for 5000 I can assure you my Christian Louboutin’s are in the box they were bought in, so a comfortable pump with worn soles are my “shoe du jour” however come curtain time I bring out the big guns when required and when I say big guns, I am really talking about a 3” heel at most!!!



We hope you enjoyed getting to know these fabulous women from the events industry. But now over to you... Do you think there is partiy between men and women in the events industry? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.