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She Means Business lifts off at IMEX, boosting the "astronaut in all of us"

Published 26th June 2018

She Means Business

Shawn Kusenko is a Senior Copywriter working out of Dana Communications' Los Angeles office. She draws on her lifelong passion for hospitality and not-just-space travel to help create successful, award-winning marketing campaigns on behalf of top industry brands.

When IMEX, Dana's longtime client, shared its plans for EduMonday in Frankfurt, this strong woman raised her hands in testimony—and the 10-year-old girl in me jumped for joy. This dedicated pre-show day of learning would launch a conference called She Means Business, celebrating the role of women in the meetings and events industry and featuring an incredible lineup of participants.

As a lifelong space geek—who as a kid created her own backyard space camp—let's just say I was eagerly awaiting the "Women in Space" keynote portion. And when the day arrived, I was not disappointed, only pleased to see that the entire programme was more exhilarating than even I anticipated.

She Means Business itself was sparked during a conversation between Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX Group, and Kerstin Wünsch, Editor-in-Chief of tw tagungswirtschaft, the event's ultimate co-creator. The timing was right, and the idea quickly gained momentum. A number of partners lined up to support what turned out to be EduMonday's biggest event, where women could speak up and share their stories and perspectives.

Here, I'm sharing some of the most significant messages I—and about 400 other ladies (and gentlemen too)—heard loud and clear. Liftoff!

"There's an astronaut in all of us"

Beginning the day in a stellar way was Major Nicola Baumann, a Eurofighter pilot in the German Air Force, not to mention an engineer and aspiring astronaut. With a catching enthusiasm, she warned the room: "If you go after what you want, you might just get it."

What did she get by aiming high? A lot of fun! But it took a lot of work to get where she is. Because, "you don't get to space overnight." Pace yourself for the marathon, always do your best to be prepared—and avoid racing in a sprint, stressing yourself out unnecessarily and running out of steam before your toes leave Earth.

Choose to accept "Mission I'M_POSSIBLE"

That's according to Laura Winterling, CEO of Space Time Concepts and, oh yes, a former physicist-turned-astronaut instructor for the European Space Agency (ESA). When tested by disheartening odds and critical people saying it's "impossible," say "thank you, I value your opinion, but I'm going to do it anyhow."

Be brave. Trust your intuition. Know your value, and never sell yourself short. There's an alarming chance you'll actually achieve your dreams.

"Women's empowerment makes a difference"

The "Women in Business" portion starred fierce female leaders from diverse backgrounds, discussing critical issues, including becoming financially confident, and training and hiring women, especially leaders.

Karin Nordmeyer, Chairwoman of the UN Women National Committee, Germany, relayed a cold, hard fact: “No country worldwide has yet achieved gender equality—and at the rate we're going, it will take 217 years.”

Everyone gains from the economic empowerment of women, though. Economies grow faster, and children benefit greatly. Fortunately, movements like UN Women's "Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality" are striving to improve this situation. And as of the event, 1,827 business leaders globally had signed and successfully promoted its Women's Empowerment Principles.

"Gender equality should no longer be a buzzword, but must be lived"

Jeannine Koch, Director at re:publica, started the "Women in Events" portion with that rallying cry. During this segment, we tackled the seismic shift in attitudes in this industry, which lags behind most others, despite the much higher ratio of women to men.

A startling chart demonstrated the odds of women getting a promotion in hospitality, which decrease dramatically the higher the title. In fact, men have been ten times more likely to be promoted to the principal/partner or president levels than women.

We studied some steps toward changing the culture, destroying barriers, empowering our community and reaching equality, like:

  • Taking it seriously.
  • Communicating on eye level, and listening.
  • Being encouraging.
  • Building a network.
  • The importance of involving men in the process.
  • Supporting the industry's diversity initiatives, like PCMA's Ascent and its CEO Promise.

"There's always a team behind me"

Another moon-rock-solid message from Major Baumann, and one that infused the day's whole agenda of speakers and panelists, virtually locked arm in arm. We need a team to fight along beside us. But not only fight. To swap knowledge, to lean on and, sometimes, to simply exchange a smile and a laugh.

As someone who often focuses solely on her own work, even in a hall full of likeminded ladies, I was happily confronted by face after friendly, open face. We savored strong, made-to-order coffee and healthy bites, engaged in roundtable discussions on deep topics and applauded the inspiring sentiments declared on stage.

Without trying, I got to know remarkable, kindred spirits from around the world, who readily embraced this fabulous opportunity to support each other, in our mutual drive to succeed. For me, that was the most notable takeaway of the She Means Business experience. After all, we cannot show up to battle by ourselves.

Dana Communications has been the IMEX Group’s US-based marketing agency since its inaugural 2011 IMEX America show. Specializing in the hospitality, meetings and events, tourism and lifestyle arena, Dana serves clients globally from offices spanning New Jersey, New York City, Los Angeles, the Carolinas and Florida. Find them at