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Let’s hear it for the girls! A WAVE of opportunities for women working in AV

Michael Garwood 20 September 2017

Set-up to promote, support and increase the number of women working in the AV industry, the ‘Women in AV’ group is making it mark in the UK

It’s no secret there’s a clear disparity between the number of men working in the technology space, compared to that of women.

Some put the number as little as 17 per cent in the UK, one of the lowest of any sector. The future looks somewhat bleak too. Recent research from PWC showed women occupy just five per cent of leadership positions in the technology sector, whilst a recent survey of 2,000 female A-Level and University students, showed three per cent would pick a career in technology as their first choice

Whilst there are no figures specific to AV, the imbalance is one that’s largely acknowledged.

Helping to readdress the gender gap, is the group ‘Women in AV’, or WAVE for short. The group, born in the US, was formed to ‘help promote the growth and performance of women, by empowering them to feel recognized, respected, productive and important to the AV industry’.

For the past few years, WAVE has been active in the UK and under the leadership of Abigail Brown, the group, both in terms of awareness and in its achievements, continues to grow.

How did you become involved with WAVE?

My introduction to the group was through my previous employer. That’s when I started attending WAVE events. A few years later, in 2014, the then leader of the group relocated to Italy, so I was approached to take over and took the reigns (for the South) in the September.

Why did they choose you?

I was a very regular face at the events and was (am) very committed and passionate about what the group is about.

How would you describe its purpose?

The reasons for forming the group were essentially to educate, support, encourage and inspire women in the AV industry. We do this through collaboration, research, mentoring and networking opportunities throughout the year. These are either combined with other technology events, or our own. It’s a great opportunity to network.

How big is the gender gap in the AV industry ?

We don’t have specific numbers, but it’s hard to dispute. There has been a lot of negative news in the press lately around the subject of women and pay – but to be clear, that’s not what we’re about. We’re more about the number of women working in the industry, which is hugely weighted in favour of men. There is nothing resentful about our tone.

Is this improving?

Again, I don’t have specific figures but from our membership numbers and the volume of people coming to our events, there is definitely a rise in new faces. That can only be a positive. We like to think companies out there will always appoint the best person for the job, be that a man or a woman.

How many members do you have?

We have around 200 today. It’s growing really well and numbers on social media increase almost everyday. At the start, it wasn’t uncommon to have only 10 or 12 people attend our events. Last summer we held one and 24 people showed up, but our most recent event saw that number double.

Is there a membership fee?

No. WAVE is still young and continuing to evolve, so we do all we can to keep costs to a minimum. However, this may have to change as the group grows to ensure the quality isn’t put at risk.

What can people expect from attending WAVE events?

We often have a theme. For examples, we’ve had meetings focused on social media training. So, in that instance, we had some people working in this space come in to provide some tips and advice. Other events might be in partnership with a sponsor who can use the event as way of making introductions. Obviously the women that come to the events are all at different levels and work in different industries, so we try and make them appealing for everyone where possible.

Tell me more about your members.

They are very widespread in terms of positions and where they work. We have people working at manufacturers, distributors, integrators and end-users. From an end user perspective, we have a number of AV managers, including people at the University of London, the Imperial War Museum and at KPMG. It really is a wide pool and we encourage those in the end user space to join up and become involved.

Are you doing anything to help boost the number of women choosing a career in AV?

We haven’t as yet gone down the route of talking to younger women about their career moves, but it is something we will look at in the future.

At this stage, we are more about encouraging people within the industry to progress. How can we help you? How can we put you in front of the right people? How can we increase your relationships and how can we help boost your skillset? The events we hold absolutely serve this purpose and provide huge benefits.

How supportive has the industry been to WAVE?

The industry has been fantastic. The quality of the events we have held over the past couple of years is due to the sponsorship, hospitality and generosity of the industry.

When is your next event?

It’s on October 19 at the new Lutron experience centre in London. There will be an interior design theme. We will also be looking to do something in December and are currently exploring a number of different options.

How do people get in touch?

The best ways are through social media or by getting in touch directly. The door is always open and we’d love to see more new faces come along.

 

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