By David Keene
With all the AV industry changes over the past few years, there’s no stronger trend than the evolving nature of the workforce, on both the AV provider and client side. At the center of that story is the importance of contributions by professional women today and new opportunities for further growth and achievement.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2020 on March 8, some of the exceptional women leaders of AVIXA are working day in and day out at the association’s events and conferences to forge exciting professional pathways for women. These inspiring women see opportunity and are crafting tools to help women not just enter the industry but excel in it.
Sarah Joyce has the vision – and the deep industry experience – to bring a new kind of inspiration to her role as AVIXA’s Chief Global Officer. She comes from a rich background in AV integration, having worked for Electrosonic for more than 10 years. At AVIXA, Joyce is responsible for all operations and services outside of North America – including membership, education, certification and the trade shows in Europe, Asia and Latin America. As ISE 2020 has just wrapped, she envisions a path of innovation and development for the future.
“The journey to Barcelona for ISE 2021 is an exciting one, as is the innovation in events and conferences in the Asia-Pacific regions,” says Joyce. “I was overjoyed to experience InfoComm India in Mumbai last year and am very much looking forward to meeting a group from the AVIXA Women’s Council who are studying for their CTS® (Certified Technology Specialist™) exam. Here we have a group of 20 women supporting each other to learn and pass their CTS, being led by Kirti Shetti, CTS, our first female CTS holder in India who is the Director of Operations at Kramer Electronics India.”
AVIXA’s CTS accreditation is important in many markets around the world. And training and certification, particularly AVIXA’s CTS, complement providers’ global goals as well as with the goals of individual professionals.
“As illustrated with Kirti Shetti’s experience in India, the importance of CTS to individuals and organizations is clear and compelling,” says Joyce. “It is a differentiator for women in their careers – and not only if they are in technical or engineering roles. We are seeing an increasing number of tenders internationally, which specify CTS-trained staff within them. This has been established practice in the U.S. and U.K. for some time, and we now see this more in Europe and India particularly.”
The AVIXA Women’s Council has over 500 members worldwide and is the association’s largest member council.
Joyce has also been instrumental from the beginning in encouraging the volunteer work of the AVIXA Women’s Council, which now supports more than 40 groups around the world.
“I was honored to host the first Women of InfoComm breakfast, as it was called then, at ISE back in 2015. It was a fabulous experience, and now there is an AVIXA Women’s Council breakfast at almost every international trade show. Last year I was delighted to attend the breakfasts in Mexico, Colombia, Melbourne, and Mumbai. There were so many success stories – including the breakfast in Melbourne where the keynote speaker Dr. Jenine Beekhuyzen shared her experience from The Tech Girls Movement, an incredible group encouraging young women to consider STEM careers.”
Amazingly, the AVIXA Women’s Council has over 500 members worldwide and is AVIXA’s largest member council. “I was delighted to open this year’s event at ISE with over 100 attendees,” Joyce commented, “and introduce Àngels Chacón, the Minister of Enterprise and Knowledge of Catalonia as our keynote speaker.” (Catalonia is the region in Spain where Barcelona is located, which will be home to ISE in February 2021.)
Rochelle Richardson, Senior Vice President of Expositions and Events at AVIXA, sees exciting growth ahead for the industry.
“The convergence of AV and IT was an inevitable occurrance”, said Richardson, “and we forecast the AV over IP trend to be a key driver of industry growth over the next several years. We are seeing an increased number of AV professionals, including women, seeking to learn more about IP-based systems at InfoComm when they register for our seminar and workshop sessions. InfoComm and other AVIXA trade shows internationally are a great way to learn the latest offerings from manufacturers exhibiting at the show and enhance your skills and competencies in the new AVoIP discipline area.”
Also crucial to new leadership and direction is Heidi Voorhees, AVIXA Chief Operating Officer as well as Executive Director of the AVIXA Foundation. Through her vision, Voorhees has propelled AVIXA’s activities and presence in the industry forward. With her vast experience, as well as an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, she has led AVIXA’s North American operations since 2017. But it’s Voorhees’ role at the helm of the AVIXA Foundation that has her particularly busy. She is working with the AVIXA Foundation Board of Directors and Foundation Program Director Joseph Valerio to create a strategic plan for the Foundation for the next three years. The mission of the AVIXA Foundation is to provide "access to quality skills education, build career pathways, and encourage valuable hands-on experiences to inspire the next generation of leaders in the audiovisual industry.”
Voorhees admits to a particular excitement about a renewed emphasis on women. “AVIXA Women’s Council is such a strong, positive force. This is our largest council and it continues to grow, with Sarah Joyce leading a great team of people in our communities. And along with that, the AVIXA Foundation’s work is complementing the Council in great ways. That Foundation work is often about not just advancing career pathways for AVIXA member professionals, it’s also now about going out to broader communities and creating awareness of AV as a career choice,” Voorhees says.
The AVIXA Foundation’s new programs are designed to help women succeed in the industry. The first is a new scholarship for women called elAVate, a corollary effort to AVIXA’s Mosaic diversity-focused scholarship. The second is the Foundation’s new outreach campaign launching now. It provides a toolkit, including videos, email tools, and interactive exercises, to help AVIXA members talk about career opportunities in AV with students in grades 9-12, community colleges, and vocational schools.
“We want to enable anyone – including girls and women – to see themselves in the industry. There is a place in AV – and we’ll provide the training to get started.”
Indeed, every year, the AVIXA Foundation awards thousands of dollars in scholarships to students and emerging professionals. At AV Career Days, the AVIXA Foundation hosts students, educators, and community organizations for a day of exploring AV careers. As more and more women enter a rapidly growing industry, and seek advancement in their careers, AVIXA’s goal takes flight.
AVIXA tips its hat to all the women making big strides in the AV industry and beyond. We celebrate you on International Women’s Day and every day. With the support, we’ll continue to welcome more women into this vibrant industry.