Some big news came from the FIT Show yesterday, in the form of a new ownership structure at the company. You can catch up on that article here.
This post is not about that. This post is about two main things I want to see at the 2019 exhibition. First, no more promo girls, or guys. Second, far more diversity.
A show right for the climate
When I mean climate, I don’t mean the weather. We are all aware of the international conversation right now about women in society. Be it the scandal of sexual harassment. Inclusion of women in the workplace. Equal pay. Gender equality. It’s a conversation that has been long coming, and spans all areas and industries. Be it politics, Hollywood, finance, business. And although no such allegations have hit the window industry, yet, our sector is not and cannot be immune to the conversation or the direction of change.
At the last FIT Show, I said that I would be disappointed to see the use of promo girls on the stands. Low and behold, disappointment ensued. A couple of companies decided to go with their use. We know who. Even last May, before the intense debate started, it felt wrong to see promo girls being used at an industry event that was supposed to be trying to appear more welcoming to a new generation of women. Since then, things have changed very, very quickly.
If companies decide to use promo girls, and guys, at the 2019 exhibition, there will be backlash. And not the usual muffled murmurs from exhibitors and key industry players who are dismayed but careful not to rock the boat so much as to spoil their own mutual relationships. It will be far more public, far more obvious, and I will be sure to make a point of it. I am very clear on this. If our industry is to grow up, evolve, and become the sort of industry that the younger generation, both male and female, want to join, we have to demonstrate that the old fashioned way of things is truly dead.
When it comes to exhibitions, our industry has more than enough talent, tech, products and brains to be able to put on a three day show that grabs the attention of guests without the use of promo people. I fully understand that those who work for promo companies will be worried about their jobs. But, if darts tournaments hosted by the PDC are already starting to shelve using them, then I’m afraid the trend is already set in motion.
This should be a positive change, that should be remembered. We want to portray our industry as one that is inclusive to all people. An industry where women can operate in UK fenestration in all areas. The use of promo girls in previous FIT Shows only serve to work against that.
More diversity needed
I’m approaching 30 years old. Can’t really call myself young any more. Yet, with each FIT Show, I continue to be one of the youngest there. I have been in this industry for nearly 13 years. I was genuinely young then, and part of what should have been a new wave of talent replacing the generation beginning to leave. That appears to have failed. Miserably.
That generation gap is most evident at trade shows like the FIT Show. Of course it’s not the exhibition’s fault, it’s down to the industry to bring the talent in. But it hasn’t.
In 2019 though, I would like to see a big push by exhibitors and the organisers of the show towards diversity. The current crowd is all of a type. Mostly of an age. Surely, if we’re to become a more attractive proposition to new talent, we have to show that we’re open to diversity as an industry. That no matter who you are, your gender, your skin colour, the world of fenestration in one in which you can carve a successful career. Up to press, I really don’t think we have that outward facing image.
The FIT Show is a rare opportunity for the industry to get together an enact change. Decision makers, managers, CEOs, MDs and other high-level people are all gathered in the same space. These shows should be the time not just to show off new products and innovations, but to work on ways to make our industry better. We face a great number of issues at this moment in time. Issues that are going to last for many years to come. I see our lack of diversity and new talent as a very pressing one. If we waste the 2019 exhibition and fail to even at least talk about ways in which things can be improved, then it will have been a major opportunity wasted.
So, if you’re already starting to think about your stands for 2019, and promo girls and guys are a potential idea for them, think long and hard. In 18 months time, when the progress of the conversation right now will have moved on a lot further, is it right? Should a more innovative, evolved marketing plan be used to attract new business and make leads instead?
Finally, I think this is something the FIT Show organisers should also be thinking about. F1 is currently thinking about their use of grid girls. The Darts have shelved their use as well. Like it or not, public opinion is changing, and you’ll want to be on the right side of it.
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