Special Panel: Women’s Leadership Through the Generations

In a recent survey by PCMA Foundation and Business Events Sydney studying the participation of women in the meetings and events industry, results showed that while the industry is nearly 70% female—and more than 85% female in the U.S.—women represent only 20% of C-level positions such as CEO and chairs of boards. 

Yet, for decades, the meetings and events industry has been powered by women, and their efforts and leadership continue to propel the industry forward as they work toward an equitable future. If they can’t find opportunities for women to succeed, they create new ones. How have these women built relationships that go beyond casual workplace connections to lift each other up? How do they cross generational boundaries to guide every woman down her own unique path to success? 

Tune into this Meetings Today webinar and special panel discussion for Women’s History Month, “Women’s Leadership Through the Generations,” to hear from four generations of women in meetings and events about their experiences in the industry, what they’ve learned about the roles women play and their biggest pieces of advice in relation to women empowerment.

Meet our panelists:

  • Baby Boomer: Laura Purdy, CEM, CMM, General Manager, Exhibition Place
  • Gen X: Twyler Jenkins, President & Chief Strategist, Strategic Event Solutions; CEO and Founder, I Am That Woman Movement
  • Millennial: Liz Smith, Vice President of Sales and Marketing and Partner, Eight One Events
  • Gen Z: Nikki Gonzales, Chief of Staff, Soundings

Visit Our Sponsor(s)

Visit Our Sponsor(s)
Laura Purdy
Laura Purdy, CEM, CMM
General Manager, Exhibition Place

As general manager of Toronto’s Exhibition Place, Laura Purdy, CEM, CMM, is responsible for the management of Canada's largest convention and exhibition complex, Enercare Centre and Beanfield Centre, providing strategic leadership to venue event operations including sales, security, transportation, technical production and event management teams who support convention center clients and permanent tenants across the 192-acre Exhibition Place site. 

For over 25 years, Purdy has been a leader and influencer in the meetings, exhibitions and conventions industry in Canada. An active member of several industry associations, she currently serves on the Board of UFI (the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry), Convention Centres of Canada, Canadian Association of Exposition Management, Meetings Mean Business Canada and is a founding member of Women in Exhibitions North America.

Twyler Jenkins
Twyler Jenkins
President & Chief Strategist, Strategic Event Solutions; CEO and Founder, I Am That Woman Movement

Twyler L. Jenkins is one of the most sought-after event planners in Chicago, since she founded Strategic Events Solutions in 2001. With more than 25 years in conference management, special event planning and registration facilitation, she is considered an expert in optimizing event profitability. Jenkins has managed to provide these core competencies services to some of the most notable nonprofit and corporate organizations in Chicagoland. She has efficiently executed her services with excellence for The University of Chicago, The University of Chicago Medicine, McDonald’s, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Chicago Urban League, ComEd/Exelon, National Black MBA Association, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, The Chicago Guardsmen and the Emmett Till Foundation, to name a few. 

In addition to her event management company, in 2018, Jenkins launched the I Am That Woman (IATW) Movement and Retreat in Riviera Maya, Mexico. The IATW Movement and Retreat provides holistic wellness resources, events and programs locally and internationally to women. 

Jenkins serves her community with the same creative and developmental excellence. She is the co-president of the board of directors for the South Side Community Art Center. She remains relative and connected as a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., MPI, PCMA and the Alliance of Independent Meeting Managers.

Liz Smith
Liz Smith
Vice President of Sales and Marketing and Partner, Eight One Events

Liz Smith, a Southern California native, stumbled upon the event world by accident during her senior year of college while working for Four Seasons Hotels. Known amongst her team as the girl who responds to any question with “absolutely”, she will find a way to make any request fulfilled. Her passion for providing impeccable service and desire to always create the unexpected provides a perfect platform for listening to clients, putting their needs first and delivering beyond their expectations. 

Smith has worked in every aspect of events, from hotels, food and beverage management, social events and premier national destination management companies, making her well-versed in all areas of client programs. Smith’s desire to give back has led her to serve on the SITE SoCal Board for over seven years, where she served as the 2023 president.

Nikki Gonzales
Nikki Gonzales
Chief of Staff, Soundings

Nikki Gonzales is the chief of staff at Soundings, an innovative talent platform connecting event and marketing professionals with companies in search of the most relevant talent for their organization, either freelance or full-time, in the event, hospitality and nonprofit industries. 

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in hospitality and tourism from San Diego State University, Gonzales held several positions at Hilton in hotel operations, event strategy and human resources. She has been with Soundings for the last four and a half years and works closely with the Soundings leadership team to drive strategic initiatives and align the company’s key stakeholders. She leads all Soundings Thrive community initiatives, including the young professional programs and partnerships.