How to Plan Inclusive Events and Address Racism in the Meetings Industry

Black members of the meetings industry speak out about their experiences and what needs to happen to make real changes.

In 1983, there were no Black CEOs of convention and visitor bureaus, according to the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals. Fast forward 37 years, and that number has improved only marginally.

"I read a recent article that mentioned there are just four Black chief executive officers among the 500 largest companies in the U.S.," says Cleo Battle, COO of Louisville Tourism. "I thought that sounds very similar to the more than 700 CVBs in the U.S., where maybe only 10 have Black presidents or CEOs."

Diversity - or the lack thereof - has been an ongoing topic among meeting professionals for years. But it's clear the industry and the nation as a whole still have a long way to go.

"I have walked into boardrooms, job interviews and conferences, and been judged before I open my mouth," says LaToya Williams, manager of global accounts at HelmsBriscoe, a meetings procurement and site-selection company. "I think in some cases, I have a double whammy: I am Black and I am female... I had an instance where I was dressed in a suit and was told I was overdressed for housekeeping. I knew what that meant: Someone that looks like me could not possibly be in a position of management or leadership. I look back at photos of the teams I belonged to and I was always the only minority. This is unacceptable, and it needs to be discussed."

Read the full story on to hear from Black meeting professionals about their experiences in the industry and how to bring about lasting change, including by diversifying meetings and leaving a positive impact on the meeting destination.