I’ve been in the audiovisual industry for 16 years. Long enough to notice some major changes. I’ve been the only female in a room many times and am ecstatic to see that happening less and less frequently.
I applaud AVNetwork for running their current web survey–”How can the industry better attract women in AV?” Three of the five choices all have merit:
1) Publicize women leadership roles better;
2) Enhance mentorship programs; and
4) Encourage open dialogue about industry diversity.
The third option, I’m hoping, was a tongue-in-cheek shot.
3) Appeal to Women’s colleges
According to Wikipedia, there are a whopping 48 active women’s colleges in the United States. Let’s not limit our recruitment here gentlemen! Draper hired me straight out of Butler. Trust me … it’s co-ed :).
The fifth option made me chuckle at the bravery of the survey writer.
5) Replace booth babes with booth hunks
S/he really took a risk on this one, especially with all the dialogue that surfaced after InfoComm 2014. This blog post written at the time by Leonard Suskin sums up the discussion at the time.
Frankly, in a male dominated industry, we ladies are surrounded by attractive men every day, so booth hunks don’t really hold an allure for me … although it might bring some sadistic pleasure to see them walking around in 4-inch heels all day on the show floor.
I’ve had a few of the stereotypical sales calls during my time at Draper. I share them not because they are/were the norm but because they were not. They happen so infrequently that they stand out. I now find them hilarious, although at the time I was rendered speechless (impossible you say!). Once I was asked if I actually knew anything, or was I just another pretty face. Another time I uncomfortably directed my male customer to wait across the room as I climbed a ladder to adjust some limits on a window shade … in a skirt. I assured him the ladder wouldn’t fall. Perhaps the most unforgettable one was when I was given some very specific sales advice-wear shorter skirts and show more cleavage. This coming from someone who used the F-bomb as his favorite adjective. I never called on that dealer again.
All in all I have been treated with the utmost respect in this industry. It can be fun to be in the minority. It helps me to be more memorable … but I’m memorable because I’m a woman who knows my stuff, not because I wear a short skirt or 4-inch heels!
My advice for bringing more women to our industry-appeal to their knowledge level and skill set. Pay fairly, and treat them with respect. It has worked for Draper. 55% of our inside AV sales team are women! And of course, we had the 2014 InfoComm Women in AV award winner Penny Sitler as well!