As a relatively new member of the AV industry, with just three years of experience under my belt, my exposure has been limited. Last year, I had the pleasure of attending Integrate, and found an exciting floor filled with new technology and friendly faces ready to discuss about new products and functionality. However, this year, I was pleasantly surprised to have the opportunity to attend the "Leadership Styles and Building Spaces for Women to Thrive" panel during this edition. A panel discussion that would significantly influence my perspective on the audiovisual industry. Among a gathering of industry experts and enthusiasts, the panel delved deeply into the urgent matter of gender equality and representation in the workplace, particularly within the AV market.
Gender Imbalance: Breaking Down the Walls
The conversation kicked off with a stark acknowledgment of the persistent gender imbalance in the AV industry. It became evident that many women in the field often grapple with feelings of not belonging and imposter syndrome. Stacey Kempton, one of the panelists, shared a striking observation, "Without fail, every single woman I encountered on the floor had imposter syndrome. They openly admitted we don't belong here, we're frauds." It was disheartening to learn how, even in today's world, such sentiments continue to plague the minds of talented women in AV. Kobe Johnson, Head of Product at Diversified Communications Australia noted that women often find themselves in situations where conversations are directed towards their male colleagues, even when they hold authoritative positions. The need for allies and advocates to challenge these biases within the industry became evident.
Language and Communication: Fostering Inclusivity
Language and communication emerged as potent tools in promoting inclusivity within the AV industry. Jay Davis emphasized, "Language in meetings can be so important. Educating colleagues about the terms they use, even if unintentional, can make a significant difference." The panel applauded AVIXA's recent efforts to incorporate inclusive language in their standards. Sarah Joyce, Chief Global officer at AVIXA, stated that "Language evolves, and it's about understanding what makes us tick." She highlighted that fostering diversity goes beyond gender alone; it encompasses all aspects that allow individuals to be their authentic selves in business settings.
Advocacy and Allies: A Call for Change
The discussion on advocacy and allies in the panel discussion was a powerful call to action for addressing gender disparity in the AV industry. Kobe Johnson, emphasised that individuals at all levels of the industry have the capacity to make a difference. This message was particularly significant because it highlighted that change is not only the responsibility of top-level executives or those in leadership positions. Everyone within the AV industry can play a role in fostering a more equitable environment. One practical approach highlighted by the panel was the establishment of mentoring groups and the recommendation of buddy systems. These initiatives provide structured support mechanisms that help individuals, especially women, navigate the challenges and opportunities within the AV industry. These mentorship relationships and buddy systems can offer guidance, advice, and a sense of belonging, ultimately contributing to women's professional growth and advancement.
A reminder from a study by McKinsey was also mentioned during the discussion. The study underscored the tangible benefits of diverse representation within leadership. When companies have diverse leadership teams, it often leads to better decision-making, innovation, and improved financial performance. This research reinforces the idea that gender diversity isn't just about fairness; it's a strategic advantage that positively impacts a company's bottom line.
Networking and Mentorship: A Helping Hand
The significance of networking and mentorship in women's career advancement was highlighted. However, it was noted that there is currently inadequate support for women in these areas within the AV industry. Expanding mentorship programs and creating networking opportunities emerged as key solutions.
Diversity and Inclusion: A Collective Effort
In summary, the panel discussion at Integrate Expo 2023 underscored the significance of diversity and inclusion in the AV industry. The overarching message was clear: everyone should be evaluated based on their skills and abilities, not their gender.
The passion and commitment were definitely reflected by the panelists who were truly inspiring. They recognized the progress that has been made but also acknowledged the work that lies ahead. As I left the panel discussion, I couldn't help but reflect on the collective responsibility we all share in making the AV industry more inclusive and equitable for individuals of all genders.
In the end, it's about breaking down barriers, fostering a supportive environment, and ensuring that talent and merit shine brighter than gender stereotypes. The journey to gender equality in the AV industry is ongoing, but with voices like those of the panelists at Integrate Expo 2023, it's a journey worth taking.