This year's edition of IMEX Frankfurt wrapped this week, with a number of new initiatives including Pink Hour @ IMEX, a female-only networking event on the show floor that took place on Tuesday.

The Pink Hour event has since received criticism for encouraging gender stereotypes, but IMEX CEO Carina Bauer (pictured) has hit back, saying we shouldn't get ‘distracted’ by labels. But what's in a name?

"Calling it Pink Hour is just a bit of fun and criticism is a distraction from the great results of a recent survey,” Bauer says. “The event is inclusive—no one would be turned away for not wearing pink—it is simply an expression of identity.

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"Pink Hour is not run by IMEX, it’s an event run by [German events industry magazine] TW magazine with our support. TW conducted a survey which received over 1000 responses from women all over the world and the event is a reception to celebrate women off the back of this.

"The discussion around this shows it is a difficult issue. If we as women argue about inconsequential things we will never get to the real issues. This is a great industry for women but women still need mentorship to get to those senior positions. If we don’t celebrate the opportunity for this, we will never change women’s reality."

Bauer also responded to comments on Saudi Arabia's presence at the show this year, with some attendees expressing concern over the country’s poor human rights record, particularly towards women. 

"Our industry is all about inclusiveness—bringing people together to learn from each other and develop relationships. The meetings industry is a vital force for good in the world—by bringing different cultures together we can have an enormous impact on fostering understanding between cultures.

"We understand that women are welcome to take part in events as organisers, exhibitors and delegates. Many women from Saudi Arabia are here working as stand partners and in senior positions in the Saudi industry.

“It’s interesting that Saudi is having a very successful first show with a very strong number of appointments. The fact that so many buyers were interested in finding out more about what Saudi has to offer shows speaks for itself.” 

This article was first published on citmagazine.