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ISE chief looking to attract more women to its AV trade show

Just 12 per cent of the record 77,000 visitors attending this year's show are female – something the show's MD Mike Blackman is aiming to change

Just 12 per cent of the record 77,000 visitors attending this year’s show are female – something the show’s MD Mike Blackman is aiming to change

A record breaking 77,000 visitors will pass through the doors of the RAI in Amsterdam next month for the biggest AV trade show on the planet, ISE. However, according to the show’s MD Mike Blackman, just 12 per cent of those (just over 9,000), will be female – something he wants to change.

“Diversity is a key issue for us,” Blackman said. “Unfortunately, of the more 77,000 attendees [to this year’s show, Feb 6-9], only 12 per cent are women. We are working on this.”

Efforts from ISE on its plans are not yet clear. AVTE has contacted ISE and is awaiting a response.

Industry problem

The disproportionate number is reflective of a wider issue in the number of women working in technology based positions, with males remaining the more dominant gender by far.

Some figures suggest the number of women working in technology based positions is as little as 17 per cent in the UK, one of the lowest of any sector. Recent research from PwC also shows that 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 and Blackman and ISE are exploring ways to help change this.

WAVE of hope

Helping to readdress the gender gap within the AV industry 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 recognised, respected, productive and important to the AV industry’.

There is definitely a rise in new faces, which is a positive sign

For the past few years, WAVE has been active in the UK under the leadership of Abigail Brown. The group has grown significantly, now attracting more than 200 members, which continues to grow daily. Brown stated previously that signs of change are evident, but more needs to be done.

“We don’t have specific numbers, but it’s hard to dispute,” Brown told AVTE. “From our membership numbers and the volume of people coming to our events, there is definitely a rise in new faces, which is a positive sign. We like to think companies out there will always appoint the best person for the job, be that a man or a woman.

“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.”

I’ve been organising events for over 22 years and I can’t remember ever seeing a female AV tech

Sadie Groom, founder and MD of international PR and tech agency Bubble Communications, is also a strong advocate for more women to work in the AV industry, with some strong views on why the problem exists, and some suggestions on ways to improve it,

“I’ve been organising events for over 22 years and I can’t remember ever seeing a female AV tech,” Groom told us. ” If you’re a woman and you see pictures of people working on a live event and you see that it’s only men wearing black t-shirts, then you’re not going to be inspired or encouraged to be a part of it. Likewise, you’re not getting women at the top saying that they work in the industry and it’s amazing. It comes from all levels.

“Women often get drawn towards doing what other women are doing and suggesting. I don’t know this as factual, but I suspect that many of the AV courses are not taught by many women either.”

In the broadcast tech sector, there are less than two per cent female CEO’s. That’s crazy!

Groom continued:”Every awards event I go to, it’s the same. I don’t have the figures yet for the AV sector, but in the broadcast tech sector, there are less than two per cent female CEO’s. That’s crazy! If you look into a sector and all you see is males at the sound desk, or a man doing the corporate video. If you look at the corporate team and it’s all male, you’re not going to be inspired, or think it’s an industry for women. I’ve seen slow change, but there is a long way to go and a lot more needs to be done.

“This isn’t going to change over night, but I’d like to think in twenty years time, I will see more than one female tech on an event. How that happens I don’t know.”

Blackman, has also revealed that attendees to the show now travel from 177 different countries, while also noting that internally at ISE, of its 28 staff, 55 per cent of those are women – comprising of 14 different nationalities.

AVTE will be updating the story as soon as more information is available.

To learn more about WAVE, visit http://womeninav.com

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