Events need a robust code of practice -#EventToo

06.02.2018 17:00


Certainly for those of you in London, you can’t have missed the recent headlines surrounding the Presidents Club charity event at The Dorchester. An undercover reporter revealed the sexual harassment and indecent behaviour to which event hostesses were subjected at their gala fundraiser. I would like to think this was an isolated case; however, I suspect the reality may be different. Perhaps behaviour so blatantly abhorrent is rare, certainly I have never seen anything like the reported incidents, but what about suggestive comments made furtively in passing or the ‘accidental’ grazing as a hand brushes past?  I cannot be as confident and that is a problem.  For the hundreds and thousands of women and men who work in events it should go without saying that coming to work shouldn’t create anxiety, particularly as a result of unwanted sexual advances.

As an industry we have a collective responsibility to create a safe environment

Our industry needs to establish the boundaries of what is acceptable and we all have a role to play. This can start with little things. For example, dress code. What someone wears can influence the way they are perceived. A request to wear black lingerie should definitely have served as a warning bell for the women employed for the Presidents Club gala.  But these women should never have been put in a position where they had to weigh up whether or not to take paid employment based on dress code nor does what you wear ever constitute consent, whether female or male. As event organisers we should establish dress codes that are respectful of the individuals working. Putting event staff in corporate colours – sure. Asking them to wear something related to the theme of your event – fine. But expecting event staff to wear short skirts or dresses in the case of women or skinny jeans and tight vests in the case of men is inappropriate. Protections, we believe should be in place for anyone working in our industry, regardless of gender, race, nationality, sexual preference or any other differentiating aspect of who they are.  It’s our job to put the safety and security of our workforce first.

Clear protocols not only establish a process for handling issues, but offer reassurance

Does your company or organisation have a procedure in place to handle any incidents that are reported? If not, I suggest that you create one. It’s essential that your team understand what they should do if someone working at your event raises an issue around inappropriate behaviour. Bear in mind this actually isn’t just limited to sexual harassment. This is about diversity and inclusiveness in its broadest context and ensuring that individuals are not subjected to anything deemed to be rude, inappropriate or offensive. Not only does having a protocol empower your team to act, make sure the right steps are taken and help protect the reputation of your organisation, but it can also send a powerful message if included in event briefings. By making a public statement you offer reassurance to those working that you will not tolerate bad behaviour and will take action to any address concerns.

An industry Code of Conduct would raise awareness and raise the bar
I would argue that we should move beyond the responsibility of individual event organisers and their organisational procedures to develop a clear Code of Conduct for the industry. In creating a standard, we set a benchmark around expectations that enables a more consistent approach in the market and may encourage organisers to take a more proactive stance. Those working in the industry would be able to specifically enquire as to whether a company abides by the Code and create a ‘trust mark’ for those that do. We need to take a stand and we are stronger where we work together. To get things moving we have created the ICE Code, a simple set of five basic principles that outline the protections we believe should be in place for anyone working in our industry, regardless of gender, race, nationality, sexual preference or any other differentiating aspect of who they are.


* At no time and under no circumstance should any member of the event team feel they are physically in danger, at risk of physical harm or be coerced into acting against their will

* No member of the event team should be subjected to offensive, inappropriate or demeaning language or behaviour

* If any member of the event team raises an issue related to either of the above points they should be assumed to be telling the truth unless it is proven otherwise

* The individual should be immediately removed from any situation that would enable the behaviour described above to continue

* Any issue should be dealt with promptly, objectively and escalated to the relevant authorities if the allegation includes any action that is prohibited by law

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