INSPIRATIONAL WOMEN IN THE EVENTS INDUSTRY PART 13 – CHARLOTTE GENTRY, FOUNDER AND CEO, PURE EVENTS

How do you define an inspirational person?  Is it someone who gives you hope and ideas? Someone who makes you challenge your thoughts on a particular topic? Someone who uses their voice to stand up and say something meaningful?

Whilst doing some lunch break Linkedin browsing last week, I stumbled across a Conference News article which caught my eye: Is sexism still rife in our sector? written by Pure Events’ Charlotte Gentry.  Whilst I believe the industry has progressed in terms of creating opportunities for women to stand up, show up, and rise to the top in high-level positions, as we look to the c-suite level, in an industry with more women than men, we still see men dominating the boardroom.

This is why Charlotte’s words inspired me; she stood up for women in the industry by questioning the topic, opening up a conversation and encouraging readers to think.  She wasn’t preaching or dismissive of the male event professionals who are doing amazing things in the industry, of which there are many – but simply asking questions to promote thought on a topic which needs to be discussed more.

Charlotte Gentry

Charlotte is Founder and CEO at Pure Events, based in London.  An innovative, dynamic and service driven creative agency, they specialise in producing inspiring bespoke event solutions globally, and have won an impressive selection of industry awards such as the Gold Award for Challenger Agency Of The Year at the EVCOM Live Awards 2017.

Pure Events

I’m excited to share Charlotte’s thoughts on what it means to be a female events professional today, as she tells her story and offers advice too.  Charlotte has a determination and passion for not just the industry but inspiring, mentoring and supporting others, demonstrated in her strong team at Pure Events and also her input to many event industry publications and events.  I’m sure she’ll inspire you as much as she has me, too!

Can you tell me how you found your way into the events industry?

I am an entrepreneur who by default started an events agency.  I used to work in PR but started my own concierge style business which was flagging due to 9/11 and the halt in travel from the US market, but at this time I was approached by a guy who wanted to start a hospitality and events agency so we built it together, but our values turned out to be completely different so I left after 3 years and started Pure Events with £9K as my start up budget.  Within 3 months I had 2 members of staff and we won Red Bull’s company conference to Iceland which helped to propel us in the right direction.

Despite being a female-dominated industry, there are fewer women taking senior and boardroom positions- where do you think we stand today with the ‘glass ceiling’ for women in the world of events?

I feel sad that most sizeable events agencies are owned by men and that there aren’t enough owned by women. I think that most women get stuck in the weeds of their businesses and can’t get themselves out of the delivery side of the business, rather than working on the strategy.  Yes, I do think that creating a family can hinder the career of most women as I’m not entirely convinced even in today’s society that women can have it all. Building my business took up all of my 30s, and some women wouldn’t have chosen to make the sacrifices I had to make in order to get where I am today, as a sole business owner with no business partners to share the load.  I therefore am now in a situation where I am embarking on building a family in my mid 40s which most women wouldn’t choose to do.  I think in our industry there is still an element of the ‘old boys club’ in terms of agency owners, but that is slowly changing.  There is the stigmatism that women are operationally brilliant but men are strategically and commercially savvy when lends to the ceiling of women reaching Ops Director level without progressing further, or do women want to take on that extra stress and responsibility at this stage of their lives?   I have plenty of friends who have chosen after having children not to go back to work or who work and then choose to have another baby after coming back for a year, which causes disruption to a team environment, so I think that women also need to be mindful that they also can’t have their cake and eat it.

What’s the motivation behind your company Pure Events?

To be the best agency in the market at creating and delivering outstanding events with exceptional client service skills, as well as attracting the best people in the industry to work for us.  We have just won the Gold Award for The Best Place to Work by C&IT.  We also won the Gold Award at The EVCOM Awards for Challenger Agency Of The Year in 2017.  We want to create an environment to work in which is totally unique in the industry, focuses on well being and mental health of our staff, training within rather than recruiting from the outside and embracing internal communication.

Where do you look for inspiration?

I look at younger people in the industry for inspiration.  I think it is highly egotistical to believe that even though I have 20 years of experience, that I know it all.  I can learn from those just starting, as they are the future.  I want to understand what they know in terms of social media, the digital future and their wants, desires, beliefs and expectations which are entirely different from someone of my age.

3 top tips for aspiring event professionals?

Think strategically when creating an event, move your thought processes from event deliverer to event marketeer, and think about how you can add value to your client and employer.

I’m so grateful for Charlotte for sharing her story and thoughts and being part of my Inspirational Women in the Events Industry series. You can find out more about Pure Events by visiting their website here.

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