Two industry changemakers, Sarah Soliman Daudin and Courtney Stanley, have been appointed to co-chair Meeting Professionals International's (MPI’s) 2019 Women’s Advisory Board, the first of its kind for the organization.

Soliman Daudin, president and CEO of Soliman Productions, and Stanley, speaker, writer and business consultant at CS Consulting, have been turning heads and advancing their movement all year at industry conferences across the U.S.

The duo has been out presenting sessions such as “#MeetingsToo: How to Prevent and Address Sexual Harassment at Events," as well as "Woke Women," aimed at empowering women around salary negotiation, mental health and the importance of collaboration.

They have also been busy volunteering on international boards with MPI or their own MPI chapters.

It was the opportune time for the creation of the new board, they said. 

“MPI [successfully] launched its Women in Leadership Certificate Program about a year or so ago,” Stanley said. “[MPI] started to have a real conversation around the importance of providing education and resources and opportunities specifically for women in the community to advance professionally.”

With MPI’s member base, the new board was a natural next step, according to Soliman Daudin.

“MPI’s membership is made up of 80 percent women, so it only makes sense to have an advisory board that speaks directly to those women and continues to better the growth of the MPI community,” Soliman Daudin said. “I also feel women have made their mark in the professional space and in politics. We have really seen a complete turn in society and the way women are exuding confidence.

“So this is the perfect time to have this advisory board for our industry,” she added.

MPI Director of Community Kristi Casey Sanders—who was a key player in the formation of the new Women's Advisory Board—agrees that the time is right to ramp up offerings for women in the industry.

"As the largest association for meeting professionals in the world, with a composition of female members that hovers between 70 and 80 percent, you could argue that MPI is the association for women in the industry," Casey Sanders said. "Yet, the remarkable things that MPI does to support female and female-identified meeting professionals were not visible to the larger community we serve.

"...That's why, when our International Board of Directors met in September [2018], there were a lot of strategic conversations about how we needed to offer community support, education and resources, and raise the visibility of what MPI is doing to support these communities in 2019," she added.

A Strong Advisory Board Needs Strong Leaders

Casey Sanders approached Soliman Daudin about leading the Women's Advisory Board.

"At IMEX, I asked Sarah if she'd be interested in chairing the board," Casey Sanders said. "Because she was also going to be elevated to MPI Foundation's Global Board of Trustees, she felt like it would be best to have a co-chair, and suggested Courtney, who I knew slightly through the Event Masterminds social media group.

"We had a great conversation at IMEX and several afterwards," she added. "I am thrilled they said yes and really am excited to have their leadership on the board this year."

Soliman Daudin and Stanley are excited about the diversity represented by the board’s roughly 25 members, which include both the supplier and planner sides. 

“It’s really exciting that we have an enormously diverse group of women participating on this advisory board because there is not one type of woman,” Stanley said. “We have young professionals, senior professionals, business owners, women of color, moms, mentors, speakers.

“There is such a vast range of women who need to be heard and need to be represented, and this is exactly the kind of group we wanted to get together to think collaboratively and creatively,” she added.

Addressing the Issues That Impact Women Professionally

Together, the board plans to address career advancement and topics such as equal pay, negotiation, mental health and sexual harassment. 

“Where we want to really stand out and be different is that in addition to empowering one another, we also want to really have some solid solutions, takeaways and resources that we can immediately use in our professional and personal lives and expand those to the MPI community,” Soliman Daudin said. 

[Related Content: 2 Attorneys Share Tips on Legal Issues Surrounding Sexual Harassment]

Combatting ageism in the industry—from both a younger and older perspective—is another important initiative for Soliman Daudin and Stanley, who are both millennials.

“We applaud MPI for throwing out a dinosaur hierarchy and expectation that only people who have been in the industry for X number of years should have the opportunity to lead,” Stanley said.

"We absolutely applaud MPI for seeing that there is value in all levels of membership and leadership, and we’re excited to lead the group but also to listen to everybody, no matter the age," she added.

“Especially coming from the perspective where we are the women in the room who are not taken seriously or are not heard or are repeatedly interrupted, we’re happy to say everybody has a seat at the table.

"Everybody brings value and we want to hear what you have to say," Stanley concluded.

Getting Everyone Involved in the Conversation

Men are also encouraged to participate in the discussion, Soliman Daudin said.

“Getting men engaged in the conversation through webinars, education or on our monthly calls is another key initiative,” she said. “There are many important topics we want to tackle, and we think it’s important for men to have a seat at our table.”

Mentorship is another primary objective of the board.

“It’s the idea that it does take a village to advance and grow, which ties back to the importance of engaging men in the conversation, but it also brings to light the reality that women cannot advance as far in their careers or in life if they are trying to do it alone,” Stanley said. “We will focus on identifying real tactical resources and strategies to provide and to train women to use, so as a group, we are able to help each other advance."

Soliman Daudin added that she and Stanley have both seen the power of collaboration in their own efforts over the past year or so while out speaking at industry events and talking to participants.

“To be able to expand our own village and be able to bring in new ideas and new minds and new hearts and really engage them in the conversations and the initiatives that we’ve started to put forth is what we want to continue to expand on,” she said.

Related Content With Input From Sarah Soliman Daudin and Courtney Stanley:

Sarah and Courtney will also be leading our first webinar in 2019. Register now!