What career challenges are women facing in AV?

Four industy experts say that equality at every level still has to be achieved.

PAT DEELEY, managing director, AV Jobs

“The challenges that face women in the workplace in general are those that face women in the AV marketplace: equal pay; harassment; career opportunities; having children whilst building a career; and work-life balance. As a recruiter, I have never faced a problem on the equal pay issue. It may be that once in employment certain companies pay women less so it would be interesting to hear from women who have that problem.
There are still people who won’t look at taking women on as they fear they could get pregnant and not contribute whilst the employer has to keep their job open and pay someone else to do it during maternity leave. Some worry that even after that the employee will not return. It’s true, women are the ones who have babies but that shouldn’t stop them having a career too. I can think of many women in the industry who do just that and have a very successful career.”

AMY CRONSHAW, senior consultant, macom

“Women in AV face the same career challenges and opportunities as anyone else in the industry. In fact, sometimes more opportunities as we apply a unique thought process and focus to projects. As long as I work hard, show initiative and my clients are happy I expect to get the same recognition and career progression as any male counterpart would. The issues that face women in all industries are present of course. Amusingly I sometimes still encounter a presumption that I am attending a meeting to support a male colleague. Sometimes it takes outperformance just for your work to be seen as equal to the men within your team. However, I personally enjoy the surprise on some faces when I turn up in my steel-capped boots, with my CAD drawings and start to lead a meeting, it reminds me that I have the opportunity in the AV industry to break barriers and challenge perspectives daily.”

JO SAULL, head of gallery services, The Science Museum

“When starting out as a field engineer one of the first things someone said to me was, ‘We had a woman work here once. She didn’t last long’. But that was over 20 years ago and so much has changed since then – for the better. I haven’t personally experienced any greater challenges in my career than some of my male colleagues. I think the workplace difficulties facing women in AV are the same as in many other sectors: lower pay, slow career progression when returning to work after having a child and, yes, most of us will never reach the top because the glass ceiling still exists. One pressing challenge I think still exists comes long before career choices are made. How can we get more young women interested in tech and engineering in the first place? I was lucky to have a father who never told me I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. So make sure you talk to young women about the magic of making things work, creating spectacular experiences and the awesomeness of the AV industry.”

Emily Webster, senior designer, AV technologist, ESI Design

“Gender inequality is an extremely important topic, but it’s a hurdle I try not to focus on. It’s a reality, but focusing on gender as a differentiator makes gender our defining character, instead of the focus being on our expertise. I prefer to have a dialogue about my work, or leading trends in the technology industry, than focus on why it’s hard to be a woman. Being engaged in the industry, and vocal about your expertise is how you can be seen as a colleague, not a gender. AV Magazine has been a great platform that supports female professionals and fosters conversations from many voices. That said, the challenges facing women in the AV and tech space are similar to those women face in any male-dominated industry and they are real roadblocks to professional development. Many key decision makers are still male, and it’s a challenge for women to be seen as experts in their field. If there are men and women in a room who can speak to the same topic, it’s not atypical for a woman’s voice to be overshadowed by a far less experienced male colleague. Until we can get over the gender bias about what we expect people to be good at, women have to be even better at their job to be heard.”

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