When Corrado Perraboni spoke with me about joining the Trio, I was first of all honoured at the many firsts: first female, first American, first Irish woman. Right away I wanted to ensure that these firsts really make an impact on our industry which I have been a part of for almost my entire career.
2020 brings a new decade and opportunities to develop and shape the future of our industry. So what are the most pressing issues, what are the most pressing opportunities that we can take advantage of?
For me, the areas I am most passionate about are around sustainability and diversity in leadership. I am pleased to say that both are already enshrined in UFI strategy and core projects. This will allow us to hopefully make great steps forward on these in the coming year.
Making our industry sustainable in all aspects of the word is vital to not only our future but it is a moral obligation to the sustainability of our planet too. My ties to the seafood industry make this top of mind for me. While I believe in looking at the future, as an industry, we need to look at what we leave behind. When it comes to raising awareness and identifying and sharing best practices, UFI already is the global leader on sustainability for our industry. After their successful work for already more than a decade, our Sustainable Development Working group now has a hefty task ahead of them.
2020 will see them focus on waste management, arguably the most imminent and tangible impact our industry has on venues, destinations, hotels. There are easier and more “headline pleasing” issues, and they are important, too, but I believe that it is UFI’s role to aim higher, to work on where tangible change can happen on a big scale: If we manage the waste well and recycle and avoid leftovers wherever possible, we can “move the needle”.
This will be just one of plenty of UFI activities around sustainability in the coming months. In parallel, the 2020 UFI SD Award was launched this week, there will be a designated UFI Forum on Sustainable Development in Paris next May, and sustainability will also be a focus of Global Exhibitions Day next June.
The other issue I want to drive forward is diversity in leadership. While it is an honor to be the first female President of UFI, the real diversity will happen with the second and third Presidents. To quote just one of many similar studies here, a SISO study showed that our industry reflects 65% women at entry level positions. But this drops to 50% at management level, 35% at director and only 9% at C-level.
Businesses are missing out on leadership skills that are pertinent to our business, industry and communities. There are numerous studies showing that having female leadership and females at board level reflect a higher return on share price. Catalyst has noted that companies with female CEO’s and directors experience a 50% increase in stock and 25% increase in the S&P 500. The most desirable employers for women outperform industry medians on profits as a percentage of revenue (55%), profits as a percentage of assets (50%) and profits as a percentage of equity (59%). Currently, as voted by all of us, the UFI members, the UFI board is made up of 88% males out of 60 membership positions.
Of course, diversity is not just about gender, it is also about race, origin and age. UFI does not have a board member under the age of 40 – what else are we missing out on?
2020 is a big year and huge opportunity for UFI. And we have the opportunity to change how we view the industry we all serve. 2020 is an election year, also at UFI – and we can all make a difference by changing the face of our industry through the election process for the board of directors, the chapters etc.
So as I take the helm as our association’s President for the next 12 months, I challenge us all as UFI members to actually deliver on diversity at our board and to reflect on the diverse next generation of leaders. And to ensure we take the lead on making our industry sustainable in all aspects of the word.