Marie-Claire Andrews Takes Association of Women in Events Global

Marie-Claire Andrews is looking to break boundaries as Association of Women in Events president.

Marie-Claire Andrews

The sentiment fits right into AWE’s strategy since it was founded five years ago to remove barriers for women to become industry leaders. 

But Andrews is crossing into new territory here. Namely, she says it’s time for the association to think globally now that she is the group’s first international president. “We are an association for all women in events, not just women in U.S. events,” she says.

A World Perspective

Andrews, co-founder of the Event Tech Tribe and a Connect Corporate 40 Under 40 honoree in 2018, is no stranger to pushing event professionals to think broader. That’s the reality of living in New Zealand, she says. 

“We all laugh about talking about difficulties talking on East Coast and West Coast,” she says. “I talk to people in Singapore and Australia all day. There is a whole wide world we can be connecting with 24 hours.”

A case in point: Andrews was up by 7:30 a.m. to talk to Connect for this story. If she hadn’t been on the call, she would be responding to the 45 emails in her inbox she awakes to each day. WhatsApp notifications go off every couple of minutes on her phone. 

Anyone else might need to set up their work space like a hotel lobby with multiple clocks set to time zones across the globe. With practice, Andrews says she has the time down to the minute—no matter the location of the person she’s talking to. 

Her first two hours of the day are spent strictly on AWE, of which she was vice president last before ascending one step higher as part of the association’s progression plan. She’s on the second of a three-year team on AWE’s leadership team. 

Because Andrews knew she would become president, which took effect in October, she had time to prepare to take steps to make AWE think bigger. AWE already holds two virtual events per year, and there’s a Slack channel to keep everyone connected year-round.

Some goals, like creating an international version of Elevate!—its membership conference, held in Washington, D.C., in 2019—won’t occur under her presidency. 

Yet Andrews aims to get the ball rolling toward a conference in a city like Singapore or Dubai, UAE. Dubai, in particular, intrigues Andrews as a way to help the male-dominated culture there to see women as equals. “If we can’t go there in 2020 or 2021, then we are not brave enough,” she says. “It would be quite symbolic to have an event there.”

Moving AWE Forward

One thing is certain: Elevate! is moving in 2020 from D.C. to Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Andrews says the second iteration of the conference will concentrate more on content than the inaugural event, highlighting “everything women are thinking about on their professional path—wellness, health, balance.”

She says AWE Executive Director and Founder Carrie Abernathy, CMP, CEM, CSEP, has big plans for the night before the conference but the details remain a tantalizing secret even to Andrews. “Knowing Carrie, it is going to be epic,” Andrews says.

Abernathy, Andrews, Kelsey Dixon, Courtney Stanley and others are among the women to lead AWE forward. To allow others to find their voice in leadership, AWE structures its board terms for new members to join. For instance, nine of this year’s board members are new to the job.

One area to watch for continued expansion is a larger role for men. While it may seem counterintuitive for a women-centric association, Andrews says the other gender’s insights are valuable in advancing AWE’s cause. “There are heaps of women in the industry but not enough in leadership positions,” she says. “We need to unpack why that is. We have to treat men as equals and be as supportive of them as we are of women to make it different.”

Besides, inclusion is AWE’s top priority. “We are all about diversity, so why should we negate our first principle?” she asks rhetorically.