Scholarship recipients and industry leading supporters explain why the programme is important as part of the long-term change required for a fully representative workforce.
White event professionals currently make up 61% of the workforce; it was also found in the 2022 Equity Benchmarking Study from the Events Industry Council that Caucasians are predominant across all job grade levels, and there remains little to no representation from other ethnicities especially in senior management and board level roles. The findings beg the need for action to be taken for the future faces of the industry, starting with the next generation considering a career in this field.
Funded by leading industry professionals, the Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage (REACH) Events Scholarships have been established to increase the representation of young people from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds on Events Management related degree programmes, with a long-term goal to increase diversity in the sector’s workforce.
It's apparent these types of initiatives are most conducive at grass root levels of the industry, as Mary Carter-Lee, People and Culture Director at Identity explains, “We are keen to contribute to raising awareness of the events industry at an earlier age (e.g., via schools/ colleges) and schemes like The Girls Network. Expansion of the REACH programme (to enable more events degree students to study) would also help as would more work experience or mentoring opportunities for those wishing to enter the industry via structured schemes.”
Since the launch of the programme, two cohorts of students from the University of Hertfordshire and Manchester Metropolitan University have subsequently been awarded the Scholarship in the form of a £15,000 cash bursary, distributed as £5,000 per annum, over three years. The next partnering University to receive the scholarship funding will be exclusively announced during The Meeting Show at ExCel London on 28th June 2023.
So far, these have helped with commuting costs, the expense that comes with unpaid work experience placements, and even supporting their households with increased rent and bill payments. Scholarship recipient, Rummanah from Manchester Metropolitan University’s BA (Hons) Event Management degree programme explains, “Receiving the Scholarship means that I have now gained access to funds that will help me improve myself, both personally and professionally. Especially now that we live in a world where the cost of living is increasing, I feel as though I no longer have to stress about my financial conditions.
“Knowing that this Scholarship is supporting race, ethnicity, and cultural heritage within the events industry, helps me know that there is an active change for an increase in diversity in this sector.”
On the reasoning in becoming one of the first industry brands to get behind the initiative, alongside Identity and TRO, Matt Franks, Director of Events at DRPG, highlighted, “Starting out in the events sector can be tough with long hours, problem solving and concentrating on making an impact. A person’s ethnicity should not add pressure in any stage of a career, least of all at the beginning. That’s why we didn’t miss a beat when it came to signing up to support the REACH programme.”
The programme was launched in August 2021 by Gabby Austen Browne, Founder of the Diversity Alliance network and Robert Kenward, Chief Talent Officer @ You Search and Select (Event industry recruitment agency).
Kenward says, “Setting up REACH with Gabby was one of the easiest and best decisions I’ve ever made. The sector as a whole is trying to do better; however, real measurable change can sometimes seem out of reach (excuse the pun). This scholarship isn’t out of reach, it’s simple to get involved with but the benefits are huge and it’s more than that, it’s a legacy piece and one I’m immensely proud to be a part of. Seeing the impact first hand has been a gift and one I want to share with others.”
Kirsty Finding, Head of Talent at TRO tells how REACH fits into with the wider event sector goals, “We’re on a continuous mission to create amazing experiences and events for all, by all, that are created by teams that are representative of the audiences we’re trying to reach. To do this we have to ensure our industry is more accessible, we need to educate the next generation of talent on the breadth of career opportunities we offer and remove the barriers to entry”.
Founding member Gabby Austen-Browne explains this is only possible through the support of the wider industry, “Our REACH scholarship donors are making a profound impact on the lives of aspiring minority professionals, but we need more companies willing to put their money where their mouth is. Investment into the scholarship will not only support the next generation, but it is also actively promoting representation within our industry. So, donate today and be a catalyst for change!”