Women in the Events Industry – interview with Sophie Daranyi and Jennifer Maksymetz

6 May

The number of women in Senior Managerial positions in the Events industry is nowhere near as high as the number of men. Like many other industries this is a fact, and is unfortunate but the number of talented capable women in our industry is steadily increasing – so this over time is surely set to change.

There’s much discussion on this subject at the moment, especially after Event Magazine released their list of the top 100 most influential people in the Events industry, with just 20 women featuring in the list.

Some say that women reach a certain age / stage of their career then leave to start a family and generally don’t return to continue their previous role, others say it’s linked with women not being ‘chest beaters’ – a less competitive attitude towards their colleagues and therefore not achieving more senior development. Perhaps it’s also something do with companies not necessarily embracing women in senior roles, due to the number of men in our industry, and companies not providing the right channels of development for progression.

Across the last few months, Event Magazine is releasing a number of special reports on women in events after the flurry of comments from the industry with opinions and reasoning for the outcome.

I was interested to find out what some of the influential women in our industry thought about this, so I interviewed 2 inspiration women…


Sophie Daryani is the CEO of Haygarth, one of the top digital and experiential agencies in the UK. Haygarth have huge clients like BBC, Disney and P&G and have created some incredibly outstanding work!


Jennifer Maksymetz is an Art Director and has curated and managed many festivals all over the world including New Forms Festival, Mid Forms Festival (in partnership with the 2010 Cultural Olympiad Vancouver), Adventurous Digital Culture Festival, Shambhala Music Festival, Radical Arts and Electronic Music Festival and she is also a Board Member of International Cities of Advanced Sound.



Why do you think there aren’t many women in Senior Management / influential positions in the events industry?  

Sophie: I think unfortunately due to fairly practical reasons.  Events by nature take a huge amount of time and physical investment and as women reach a point when they need to balance family, it’s hard to reconcile with being in a muddy field on a Friday night setting up.  Traditionally also it’s been a fairly male dominated industry but hopefully with time this will change.

Jen: There are myriad reasons – I think many woman shift their priorities or awaken to what is important and nourishing for their spirit over time. Ironically this time can be when people catapult in their career or are at the cusp of senior management.  I am not saying it is to start a family, which in many cases I believe that to be true, but rather woman are seeking to have a balance and a quality of life.



What do you think could be done by companies to encourage women to progress to more senior positions?

Sophie: I find this hard to be honest as I believe in meritocracy so I think companies should encourage all talent (male or female) to senior roles.  Obviously they can help with generous maternity packages and a practical level of flexible working but I personally believe it’s a two way street.  Women need to be more confident in focussing on their individual ambitions and also recognising that they need to be determined and experience compromise to achieve success.

Jen: I think companies could help nurture the male and female balance, by balance what I mean is that companies need to adjust their lens to recognise the qualities woman and men bring to the table and how both are vital.  Though this recognition of balance I like to believe that companies could take a more holistic approach to the way they do business or events.



Who has been an inspiration to you in your career (Male or Female) and why?

Sophie: I had a fantastic boss when I was in my mid-twenties. He was head of the marketing department I worked in and he absolutely pushed by abilities – ensuring I thought on and beyond the obvious, considered all scenarios and delivered an excellent level of professionalism.  He was instrumental to my success.

Jen: Mentors are key inspiration and  Sara Spicer is the first woman to come to mind.  I started at Shambhala at 26 and was the youngest director, Sara was the director of the Beach Stage as well as programmed the majority of the music for the whole festival – she had been walking with grace and precision in that position for 6 years.  She knew not to take things personally and was stunningly diplomatic in a male dominated industry.  She is a dear friend who continuously lent support and insights into the intricate navigation of the alternative festival world.



Do you think being a women has helped or challenged getting what you want from your career? 

Sophie: I think it’s both helped and hindered at different times but I’m not sure it’s played a defining role.

Jen: A dear friend’s mother from Peru had insightful advice one afternoon on her patio in Lima. We were discussing the role of women and the vicissitudes of movements. I told her about my position as an art director in a male dominated field and how at time I felt unsure of how to hold space. Her response I will never forget – First you are woman, second you are a woman, and yes sometimes 3rd you are a woman, why would you give up your power that what makes you unique.


Really interesting points from both Sophie and Jen. I’ve worked with both of these incredible people and I massively value their insights from working in our industry to such an influential level.

I believe that women have the opportunity to make their way to senior management levels now which is fantastic – you just have to be smart, forward thinking, hard working, and 100% passionate about what you’re doing. Events is a very difficult industry to get into and to work in over a long period of time – it can get exhausting but I believe every single moment is worth it. Women have so much more opportunity now and I intend to exercise that!

Thank you very much Sophie and Jen for your two cents!


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