WAVE founder, Jennifer Willard, reflects on InfoComm 2018
By Jennifer H. Willard, founder of Women in AV
I was equal parts excited and anxious heading to InfoComm18 to see the progress our AV industry’s made on the inclusion of more professional women in our workforces, leadership roles, and decision-making on the future direction of AV.
There was every reason to be optimistic as days before the show, AV Technology Europe published their June news edition here, and for the first time in AV history, they dedicated 11-pages to “Shining a Light on Diversity in AV” and the challenges facing females in a male-dominated tech industry. I can’t recall anything receiving that much attention and a huge testament to the many industry leaders striving to make AV an industry where women feel respected, welcome, and encouraged to pursue their career goals and dreams.
And, I’m ecstatic to say IC18 only got better from there! Certainly, no one’s claiming females’ representing less than 20% a victory. But, the transformation in attitude and efforts to offer women and young girls opportunities to advance, be trained, and achieve success was as undeniable as it’s energizing and here to stay.
While there were countless examples of positive and inspiring growth for Women in AV at IC18, these three key areas stood out for me.
- More Professionals, Less Eye Candy.
When I founded Women in AV in 2011, the show floor was a much different place for professional females. We were still celebrating the Best of Booth Babes slideshows and provocatively dressed women still outnumbered those of us there as AV Pros. Not only did it take almost a complete tour this year to find a booth with videos of women draped over sports cars, but, Conference Technologies (CTI) even found manufacturers like LifeSize flipping the entire script brilliantly to include Booth Dudes! Check out CTI’s Women in AV adorable meme here
More importantly, there’s a visible increase in the number of female AV Pros at the show, both representing their companies and walking the floor as attendees! Without question, professional females outnumbered any signs of Booth Babes, and that’s something we all can be extremely proud to be part of making possible.
- Incredible Support from Men and Internationally.
Men in the AV Industry have always played a crucial and direct role in the success of Women in AV, be it as our mentors, sponsors, and biggest supporters from the very beginning. Throughout our seven years, men such as Tim Albright, founder of AV Nation TV and Chuck Wilson, Executive Director of NSCA, have championed our success by generously offering WAVE much-needed resources, tools, and platforms to make our voices heard and push for recognizing the presence and contributions of female AV professionals here in the US.
Across the pond, UK’s Kevin McLoughlin of 1 Wimpole St. , has similarly supported founding WAVE member Abigail Brown of Openingz, to grow our London WAVE Chapter to over 200 members itself who with other UK/EMEA leaders host bi-monthly events for the past four years. And, they’re just getting started!
I was thrilled meeting Kevin and Owen Ellis, of AV User Group, at InfoComm18 to discuss how our two organizations share similar strategic missions for our members and explore ways to collaborate in the future in support of each other. Ellis said it best on how they want to support professional women in the AV Industry stating, “We want to Bring More Women, Keep More Women, and Help More Women.”
And, they are indeed. McLoughlin’s 1 Wimpole St. with sponsor StarLeaf will host the 1st of its kind Women in AV Summer Spectacular with an all-female panel of AV owner/end-users in London on July 26th, 2018. You can register to attend here and stay tuned for details on how to watch the event live-streamed from anywhere in the world!
- Talk of Governance and Policy.
Perhaps, the best part of IC18 was at the very end when I saw a Twitter post from the phenomenal Women in AV, Dawn Meade, Senior AV Solutions Architect with Northrop Grumman. So much momentum for moving women forward has come from the amazing AV professionals in our industry, and, this was no exception.
JamaisSansElles is French for “Never Without Her” and represents a collective of 100+ French professionals committed to not participating on a panel discussion without at least one female. What I love about this and Meade’s post is both represent a ground-up, grassroots effort of dedicated experts (men and women) using their voice and station to promote diversity on their terms, in their everyday lives.
They’re not asking for anyone’s permission or a policy to be written in order to make progress real. They’re creating change themselves—by their example on how to, individually and collectively, foster a future with greater gender equality.
Our road ahead is still long to see a world reflected back at us of equal numbers, treatment, and opportunity for everyone with a dream to be successful in the career or path of their choice.
However, reflecting on how far the AV Industry’s come in just seven years through the incredible support and yeoman’s efforts of men and women who are as Gandhi says, being the change we want to see, fills me with hope we’re going in the right direction to leave the future of AV a much better place than the one we came from. That, alone, should make us all feel proud of and confident in how many more incredible things we’ve yet to accomplish together for Women in AV!!