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International Women’s Day: Pressing for Progress in Brand Experience and Beyond

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How the women of Freeman are leading, working, and succeeding

This year, International Women’s Day (IWD) is more important than ever, with recent movements all over the world pushing for women’s equality. Celebrated since 1911 and created by the Suffragettes who fought for their right to vote, International Women’s Day is both a celebration of women across the globe and a movement for gender parity. This year’s theme, #PressforProgress, sends a worldwide call to communities and colleagues to help push forward gender inclusivity. So what better day to celebrate the women of Freeman and the important work we do in our industry? 

We asked employees across the global organization about their thoughts on International Women’s Day, how women are helping lead the way in brand experience, and more. Here’s what they had to say.

How and why are initiatives like IWD important?

With the emergence of female power in today’s new world, more voices are joining the #metoo campaign, and marching on Washington to defend their rights, their voice, and their power. It is important for corporations, associations, and individuals to support women both within the workplace and in everyday life. By designating a day to do just that, we get one step closer to not even needing a day to celebrate women. – Danielle Tauber, Business Development Manager, FreemanXP

These initiatives put women front and centre by showcasing that there still is an issue with gender parity. Without awareness and organizations that rally behind IWD, the inequality will continue, and that is unacceptable. There are currently some strong initiatives that have done a great job of educating the masses, and this is just the beginning! – Melanie Salerno-Sestito, Director, People & Engagement, Freeman AV Canada

Until we see the day when all people are no longer marginalized or made to feel “less than,” initiatives such as IWD are important because they provide a platform to honor and celebrate the greatness of women around the world. The day also reminds us that we’re not where we should be in terms of gender equality and that there’s still much more work to be done. I feel fortunate to work alongside some of the most amazing women in our industry every day, while also being married to an incredibly patient woman, and raising two remarkable young women at home. Whether it’s in the workplace, at schools, or in our communities, when women are treated equally and fairly, I know that all of us win. – Charles Roberts, Assistant Director, Corporate Communications, Freeman

At present, we are 217 years away from gender parity. As a community within Freeman, we need to reinforce the importance of equality and accelerate the efforts to close this gap. Innovation and bold ideas advance this planet and its people. The diversity of backgrounds and perspectives of many — men AND women — stimulates this innovation and we are remiss to not acknowledge that women have incredible ideas, perspectives, and valued opinions. We rightly deserve a seat at the table and the recent uplift in women’s movements are a testament to the acknowledgement of women’s contributions — to business, lifestyle, and humanity. #pressforprogress - Claudia Stephenson, Vice President Business Development, FreemanXP EMEA

Women have not always shared the same rights and, in many respects, still do not. IWD is an opportunity to celebrate the women who pressed for progress before us, and to support the women who emerge as our leaders by expanding the boundaries of our capabilities. It continues to be a powerful global platform that unites and drives us, as well as acknowledges the monumental achievements of women the world over. As Shirley Chisholm said, "If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair." – Andrea Bertucci, Graphic Designer, Freeman AV Canada

It is important for women to unite and uplift each other to blossom and allow the future to create layers of growth between women’s advancements and history’s oppressions. Even as we continue to sprout, and discrimination slowly falls further beneath the surface, there are constant reminders that we need to stay strong and empowered to provide true sustenance in this world. – Tiffany McCray, Technician, Alford Media

I think we are on a long, slow, careful journey to redefine gender roles in all professions, and all around the world. By celebrating IWD, we can take a pause and recognize some of the most notable social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. We are incredibly fortunate in the US to have very few boundaries as women. But think about how much further we can go to eradicate poverty and solve major global issues if women all over the world share our level of education and opportunity? – Melinda Lindland, SVP Business Development, FreemanXP

Initiatives like IWD and Freeman’s Forward mentoring program are critically important to the success of our company, industry, community, and society. They invite us all to look at what we are doing as individuals in efforts for equality. They help us understand that actions and not just words are needed to change results. I think, most importantly, they provide a collective voice that will break down barriers that one person cannot do alone. – Mike Lamoreaux, General Manager, Las Vegas, Freeman

How has women's place in the workplace evolved in recent years/decades?

Thanks to the previous generations of women who pushed for equality, women now have many more opportunities in the workplace. Over the past decades, we've brought a number of changes to the table. From fighting for the right to vote to pushing through the glass ceiling of gender parity, with many countries now recognizing and taking action on unequal pay. Although we are quite fortunate that the workplace has improved, there are still many women fighting all forms of discrimination, marginalization, violence, exclusion, and lack of equal opportunity. While we are making significant progress, shaping the future of our workplace centers around the forward-thinking women that stand up in the face of these issues, and the forward-thinking women still to come. – Andrea Bertucci, Graphic Designer, Freeman AV Canada

In recent years, women have shown to be resilient, inspired, and innovative. It’s been an evolution of balancing work and life. It’s become acceptable for women to be more work-focused if they choose to be and for the roles to be reversed if there is a family. – Becky Bixby, VP, Exhibitor Services, Freeman

Opportunities for women at companies like Freeman are growing, as concerted efforts are made to evolve our workplace culture. One reason why IWD is so important is that we have come so far, yet have much farther to go. The challenges that women face in succeeding are not isolated to any industry, so the conversation must continue on a global scale. – Ruth Foster, Director, Customer Support Processing Service, Freeman

I think women are more empowered to grow and have more confidence; they have opportunities to advance, lead, and create within their company, AND still have the option of having a family if they choose to do so. – Lee Grove, Assistant General Manager, Chicago, Freeman

Women in the workplace are getting more recognition and respect, being treated equally as their male counterparts. The workplace has slowly evolved to be a gender bias-free and safe environment for all women to work at with a peace of mind, allowing them to focus on being successful each day at work. Women leaders are also becoming more common in previously male-dominated industries, and this is a great step forward in eliminating prejudice and paving the way for more women to take on roles that they previously were passed over for. – Jean Liang, Associate Marketing Manager, APAC, FreemanXP

How are women leading the way in the brand experience sector?

The brand experience sector has long been dominated by women. The positive change in recent years is the sharing of leadership roles with men – which was not always the case. The women were the doers and the men ran the shops. Now, we are well represented in the senior ranks, and helping to steer the industry with a mixed force of men and women doers. – Melinda Lindland, SVP Business Development, FreemanXP

Women are rocking the brand experience industry. Just take a look at the Event Marketer B-to-B Dream Team as an example. The B-to-B Dream Team celebrates the top 10 B-to-B brand marketers in the industry annually. 65% of the dream team members selected in the past two years were women who lead brand experience for companies in a variety of verticals like HP, Under Armour, Twitter, American Express, and Cisco. – April Walsh, Associate Marketing Manager, FreemanXP

My creative peers in the brand experience space are still primarily male, but there are so many fantastic female powerhouses leading the way and inspiring me to compete: Piera Gelardi and her Instagram playground, 29Rooms, Kelly Wearstler and her stunning work with Proper Hotels, and Elizabeth Pinkham, who is driving what is currently Dreamforce for and expanding the brand across all employee and customer experiences in their Ohana Workplace Design. These women are unique and fearless in their own way, inspiring all creatives in our industry to care about the details and focus our abilities to transport our consumers to another time and place with design. – Katie O’Brien, VP, Group Creative, FreemanXP

In the brand experience sector, more women are taking on senior roles such as region heads and managing directors! (Here at FreemanXP, our SVP of marketing, APAC marketing director, creative directors, and China’s managing director are all women! #Proud) – Jean Liang, Associate Marketing Manager, APAC, FreemanXP

As a woman, what do you love about working at Freeman?

As a woman, I love working at Freeman because I feel that I have the same opportunities as my male coworkers. Since joining this company seven years ago, I have had two very strong women leaders, I have collaborated with amazing women across the business and today I am part of a team of seven phenomenal women. My entire experience at Freeman so far has shown me that women are present, empowered, valued, and respected. – Morgan Villanueva, Process Segment Sr. Manager, Freeman

I love working for Freeman because the culture is one of diversity, family, and values. As a woman, to see strong female leaders who not only are in corporate management roles but also in all areas of our business is motivating and so powerful! Women are the future, and I am happy to see that Freeman embraces that! – Diona Reilly, Exhibitor Services Supervisor, Freeman

One of the most valuable benefits of working at Freeman is having the opportunity to socialize and partner in discussions with like-minded female leaders on anything from business objectives to managing work-life balance with a family. Freeman invests in the development of the women at our company, so there is a unique opportunity to thrive and grow professionally and personally. – Becky Bizjack, Senior Director, Convention Management, Freeman

While we are in a traditionally male-dominated industry, Freeman has acknowledged the need for female leadership across the organisation and the efforts are showing. Our diversity in the workplace continues to improve and, as such, our perspectives demonstrate we are committed to women having great opportunities for professional career growth within the organisation. I’m very proud to be a part of Freeman and represent and evangelise this vision. - Claudia Stephenson, VP Business Development, FreemanXP EMEA

I love that Freeman respects great ideas and talent, regardless of where it comes from. I love that even though I work from home in my tiny office, I still feel I can make a difference within this massive company that enables me to have a voice and feel like it's being heard. And I love that I can look at our leadership team and see an incredible example of woman leadership in Carrie Freeman Parsons. It's inspiring to have someone who is so respected yet so down-to-earth and human as a leader within our company. Can I be her when I grow up? – Anna Mader, Creative Director, FreemanXP

I love being part of a values-based company and the freedom it gives me to be my “authentic self.” I’m inspired by the knowledge that kindness, thoughtfulness, cheerfulness, and other qualities that are important to me are expected and celebrated here at Freeman. These “softer” qualities aren’t always encouraged in the business world, but at Freeman, they are a vital component of our success. – Kathy Miklos, VP, Customer Support, Freeman 

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