The Association for Women in Events (AWE): Fostering Personal Empowerment Through Connection

February 15, 2018

The Association for Women in Events (AWE) is an inclusive community dedicated to the professional advancement of women in all facets of the events industry.

AWE was founded in 2015 by five women who are also event professionals: Carrie Abernathy, CMP, CEM, CSP; Mary Higham, CEM; Tamela Blalock, MBA, CMP, DES; Mas Tadesse and Kiki Janssens Fox. The co-founders’ vision was to help women find resources, mentorship, and career guidance/enhancement. They put a board together to help bring this vision to life, and in January 2016, launched enrollment. One year’s membership in the Association for Women in Events is currently priced at $195.

I recently chatted with co-founder Fox, who is the 2018 President of AWE and senior manager of national sales at Core-apps, about the organization’s charter and membership drive.

Danalynne Wheeler Menegus: How did you and the other co-founders come up with the idea of AWE (great acronym, by the way)?

Kiki Janssens Fox: I was running a brunch group for young professional women in the industry. We would sit down usually once a month and we would talk about our goals and our challenges and be a sounding board for each other. I would bring a woman that we admired to each brunch and we would pepper them with questions for an hour or two. Two of the other founders were doing something similar, helping professional women who were trying to advance in their careers. Carrie [Abernathy] was the real driving force – she brought us all together. The five of us had a conversation which started off about bringing these different groups together to help each other, and by the end, we had decided to start a women’s group for the industry. Two days later, we had a tagline and were working on the logo for the website.

DWM: One thing I noticed on the AWE website was the immediate coaching program. Can you tell me more about that?

KJF: Among the most important things we offer is immediate coaching. If you’re looking for a mentor – or want to be a mentor for other event industry professionals, we can help facilitate that. When you sign up to be a member, you can check off areas where you have experience or expertise that you are willing to share, and act as a resource. That doesn’t mean you always have to be available, just that you’re willing to consider it. And you’ll be able to see who is open to questions if you have any about a specific area.

DWM: What are some of the other benefits that AWE offers exclusively for members?

KJF: We have a members-only Facebook group. We offer exclusive webinars. But what we’re really trying to do for the year is expand the opportunities for our members to meet each other in person. We hold meetups across the U.S. and try to do as many as possible. We partner with IMEX, including having a booth. We’ll be at EXHIBITOR LIVE, and will likely have some presence at at least one other industry event. Our idea is that the more you get to know people in person, the more you’ll use the online community and resources to help the people who can’t meet with you face to face. For education, we recently partnered with the American Association of University Women (AAUW), to deliver a workshop on salary negotiation, and plan to do more like this in future.

DWM: Why would AWE appeal to corporate event professionals?

KJF: AWE is about personal empowerment for women in events. We’re growing our membership, and the more representatives we get from across the industry, the better. Because we are a new organization, the more corporate members we get, the better we’ll be able to tailor content and education for that segment. I think the salary negotiation workshops resonated even more with corporate because when you're dealing with association life, the salaries, the rules and titles can be difficult to figure out, but the negotiation tips and techniques made sense to our corporate attendees. Also, being able to meet other people in that corporate industry and bounce ideas off of them in a safe, protected arena is always a huge benefit.

DWM: What would you say the primary goal of membership might be?

KJF: We want to help you achieve whatever goal that you put forward for yourself personally or professionally or both. It doesn't matter if you're still a student and trying to figure out what you're going to do once you graduate or if you're a CEO. If you are a CEO, some days you may just want to talk to another female CEO about how they handled certain situations at work. Just because you're at the top of your game doesn't mean that you don't still have questions. It’s also wonderful when people are willing to share their experiences and expertise and give back.  

DWM: What differentiates AWE from any other industry organization?

KJF: Because we’re still a new organization, we have the benefit of being able to do things the way that we think they should be. You don’t have to have been on a committee previously to join AWE or become a board member. I’ve found that people who don't have board experience come in with a level of energy and excitement. Being part of a brand-new movement has been incredible. Our volunteers have given their time and their energy, and it’s been absolutely amazing to be a part of. That being said, we’re supportive of all the organizations and believe in working together to help women succeed wherever they may be.

Fox does her part at giving back and has gained recognition as a young professional woman in the events industry herself. She was named as an industry leader in Connect Association magazine’s “40 Under 40” feature in the spring 2016 issue, in part for her role in the development of AWE.

For more information on the Association for Women in Events, go HERE.


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