Most women love their exhibitions job but gender inequality persists: UFI study

A staggering eighty two per cent of more than 200 respondents from around the world, mostly women, who participated in the Women in the exhibitions industry research, conducted by UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, and its media partner m+a, claimed to be happy with their jobs in the exhibition industry.

Results of the Women in the exhibitions industry research was unveiled at the 85th UFI Global Congress in St. Petersburg

Results of the study, which aims to provide insights into the perception of women’s and men’s skills in the workplace, the potential for advancement for women within the industry and details of the different female career drivers, was released at the 85th UFI Global Congress in St. Petersburg, Russia this week.

Good communication skills, empathy and strong organisational skills are among the many soft skills held by women and valued by the exhibitions industry

The study found that women were identified as having soft skills such as good communication skills and empathy. Women were also judged as having strong organisational skills, with the capacity to multi-task. Despite these soft skills, women lagged behind men when it came to networking.

Meanwhile, all respondents, both women and men, assigned self-confidence, technical know-how and power-related skills to men.

A darker discovery of the study was that more than half of the female respondents did not feel treated equally in terms of salary and career opportunities, and more than one third felt that they were held back from having more responsibility.

Most of the respondents felt that the industry would benefit from more female leaders and 61 per cent already see active support for women, although only 49 per cent think that quotas are the way to go.

Women, contrarily to men, often have to choose between their career and private life, which is also seen as one of the major negative career factors, with career breaks taken due to maternity leave (78 per cent) and institutional discrimination (68 per cent).

Gwen Kaufmann of Deutscher Fachverlag (Germany) who led the project, said in a press statement: “Women clearly make up the majority of the workforce in the trade fair industry, but they only represent a minority of the leadership. Both men and women agree that women can deliver diversity with a more creative approach when it comes to solving problems, helping the industry to prosper.”

Sonia Thomas, UFI’s COO, added: “Men and women have different skills, and are complementary, so the optimum is a mix of both sexes. We all must consider how to increase female representation at the senior level by making the path to the top a little easier for women.”

UFI will continue to work on the topic following the initial release of the research results. The full result can be downloaded at

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