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Associations seek meetings success by encouraging diversity

Events organizers are exploring ways to attract more women, minorities and other groups underrepresented among attendees

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Feb. 1, 2019
By Walt Williams

When Lynne Thomas Gordon first interviewed for the position of executive director of the American Association of Orthodontists, she quickly recognized a potential problem facing the group: There were no women on its board of directors.

“So at the time I said if you don’t do something about women, whether you hire me or not, you better do something quickly because women are doers, and they’re going to go out and start their own association,” Gordon said.

Now many associations are doing something, starting with their events. Multiple groups have taken steps in recent years to draw diverse crowds to their trade shows and conferences, seeking a greater mix in gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and people with disabilities. And when they fail to take those steps, people notice.