Catching up on diversity, equity and inclusion


For balanced ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) report, DEI factors (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) are key markers. It is a measure of how a company treats its employees, customers, and suppliers. It also includes how the company is perceived by the public and how it contributes to the community.

There will be a sharp spotlight on gender parity in leadership and other DEI topics as Dubai prepares to host COP28 come November. So what does it look like when women lead generational and transformational change across the industry? How can inclusion be a business advantage?

At  AIME 2023, Event Director Silke Calder pulled off the  30th anniversary of the leading business events trade show in the Asia Pacific region in style. With participants from Qatar and Abu Dhabi to New Caledonia and Fiji and everyone in between, AIME 2023 was 50% bigger than the previous year, more than 350 exhibitors from 25 countries engaging in 12,000+ meetings across the two days. “Building an all-female team was not a deliberate move. Instead what I focused on was hiring a team based on shared values, and that resulted in the diverse mix of talented women who individually are passionate, high-achievers and together create one very strong AIME team,” revealed Calder.

Coming from a place of great success, Calder’s message to next generation talents in the travel sector is, “Just go for it! Throughout my career when there has been something I wanted, I put my hand up and asked for it. Early in my working life I moved to Dubai. At the time I had no connections there, so I identified five businesses I wanted to work for, printed off my resume and knocked on their doors asking for a job. That is how I ended up working for Messe Frankfurt Middle East and entering the world of business events.”

The annual contribution of sporting events to the economy runs into billions of dollars in UAE and Saudi Arabia alone. Are sportspeople taken care of well? On court opponents of Australian tennis champion and former world number 4 Jelena Dokic would be familiar with the term smashing, but it was also the outcome of her keynote on the topic of resilience at AIME 2023. Dokic held together a packed auditorium, sharing priceless lessons from her life and her bestseller book Unbreakable. What could organisers do better to support elite athletes at sporting events, especially when it comes to mental health, TTN asked.

“It is important to have help available to athletes. It is important that athletes know they can access this help in a safe and inclusive environment when needed. The more federations, clubs, event organisers provide this safe place at all levels, the better,” said Dokic. Her upcoming book, to be available in September 2023, blends the power of storytelling with topics of mental health, social media and the need for speaking up. Dokic added, “It is a book of hope, my lessons and my mistakes, and it’s called Unstoppable.”

“We are looking further afield, not just our immediate footprint,” said Samantha Glass, Director of Corporate Affairs and Communication at International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney) as she unpacked their exemplary Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). RAP aims to celebrate and foster the values of a 60,000-year old culture of Australia’s First Nations people. The programme has strengthened ICC Sydney’s diverse team, delivered positive social impacts within its community and provided meaningful event experiences by connecting hundreds of thousands of visitors to the venue every year with aboriginal culture. Onboarding of indigenous people’s businesses among vendors have created opportunities all round.

Led by Glass, ICC Sydney’s RAP Working Group is embedding initiatives across the business towards reconciliation goals, “We have the great privilege of welcoming people from around Australia and across the world and for many, their experiences at ICC Sydney may be their first in Australia – whether in person or online. We believe we have not just an opportunity but an obligation to celebrate and acknowledge Australia’s First Nations. By continuing to build a welcoming and inclusive culture, we hope to extend career opportunities for more First Nations peoples encouraged to join our team.”

Geoff Donaghy, CEO and Group Director – Convention Centres, ASM Global (APAC), reminds us that the RAP framework can be scaled to connect with and celebrate marginalised communities. The successes and challenges of development and implementing Reconciliation Actions Plans provide excellent guard rails for businesses on their reconciliation and outreach journey, “Nothing would make us happier than to see other organisations across the nation do the same – because it is only together that we will really turn the dial and drive change.”  Donaghy’s message underlines that equity is about walking towards common goals together.