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AV is not a career exclusively for men – this perception must change!

In our latest article discussing the subject around diversity in AV, founder of the group Women in AV (WAVE) Jennifer Willard offers her thoughts

One of the industry’s biggest cheerleaders for supporting, encouraging and engaging with women in the AV industry, is the group Women in AV, or WAVE for short.

Formed in 2011, the group now has more than 1,000 members (including 200 plus in the UK) and a presence across six continents.

AVTE spoke to its founder Jennifer Willard – an AV specialist running her own AV/IT firm in the San Francisco Bay Area, J Technology Solutions – to get her views on the issue of gender diversity in the industry.

Hi Jennifer. When it comes to gender, what are your observations of the AV industry?

The AV industry has similar struggles to other STEM industries when it comes to having equal numbers of females compared to males, averaging around 20 per cent. However, we stand out in a unique way where, in my experience, the men in our industry are very open and encouraging of having more females join us. Many of the Women in AV’s biggest advocates and supporters have been and continue to be the men in our industry.

Why do you personally think there are so few females working in the AV industry today?

Historically, the AV industry itself has been challenged with communicating the message of our value that goes beyond gender. For so long, AV systems have been seen as a nice to have versus a core solution to a company’s ability to communicate and improve their customers experience and bottom line. For women specifically, I think females tend to want to be involved in work they feel makes a difference in people’s lives and as an industry, we haven’t done enough to show we’re not just boxes with flashing lights, but, our equipment gives people the reach people in ways they couldn’t do without.

Has this changed during your career?

I hope the success of Women in AV has shown how much the AV industry has improved in wanting and believing in how important women are to ensuring the relevance and continued success of what we do and offer as a technology that makes a difference in our customer’s and client’s experience and ability to grow their own companies. The AV industry’s leading in its efforts to be inclusive, progressive, and responsive to our client’s and customer needs

Where do you think the problem originates?

I was blessed to attend a public high school and university that had a fully-functioning broadcast studio and television station where I learned the technology without feeling pressure that my job was tied to any lack of knowledge I might have in those areas. Being able to make mistakes without fear of it costing me my job was fundamental to feeling confident I could succeed. Seeing other women doing the same thing is critical to motivating women to say I can do that too. As an industry, we need more scholarships and training for all people who want to step up their game and knowledge with practical opportunities that lead to advancement.

ISE MD Mike Blackman suggests there is still a perception that AV is an industry for men rather than women. What are your thoughts?

Mike Blackman’s perception of AV still being considered a male industry is right and no different to the struggles all STEM industries face today. We need to do a better job showing ourselves as a profession, not only females, but youth are welcome in and can thrive to achieve leadership roles and influence that’s respected and recognised. It’s exactly the support of men like himself and industry leaders who are changing how the AV industry is perceived and the opportunities women have to be part of a future that’s inclusive and successful for anyone who wants to be part of something that will make a positive difference in companies and on people’s lives.

For more information on Women in AV, visit