When Lina María meets her clients for the first time, it’s common that, when they see her arrive alone, she is asked if a male technician will accompany her to take charge of the project. Having heard this question before, she politely smiles and says, “I am the technician.” Lina María Villa Betancourt, an experienced electronics engineer, with a master’s degree in Sound and Music Technologies, knows that these situations are still part of the culture of today’s society and that they will only change as more women like her occupy a place in the industry.
Like Lina, there are more women in the AV industry every day. From areas of sales, marketing, and content development, to design and engineering, the presence of women in the industry has influenced and encouraged recruiting diverse talent, backgrounds, and skillsets of professionals like Lina María. Prior to the InfoComm Colombia 2019 show, a group of six women from the Colombian AV industry shared ideas about what it means to be a woman in this sector. They recognized that, unfortunately, while there is some bravado still present in our society, some have experienced obstacles due to their feminine status. Yet, they agree that their professional careers have depended on their will and have not been limited by male members in the industry.
A Role Model and Equal Access to Education
Growing up with a working mother and the impact of a successful, professional aunt, are some of the examples that these women experienced in childhood. “I was educated without a specific gender approach and did not know the concept of women destined to be in the kitchen. I always saw my mother as the head of the household, and she was my role model,” said Diana Quintero, Sales Manager at Bose Professional for South America.
However, a role model is not enough to grow if it’s not accompanied by equal access to education. “It was very natural for me to observe that women studied and achieved professional preparation. Therefore, I never felt that there was any difference between men and women,” said Adriana Montañez, Marketing Manager at Audio Concept, who grew up close to the family business, a student residence for young university women.
For these women, education did not end in their university days, as they have continued with their additional technical training and learning in topics such as project management or business administration. “During the production of the events, it is common for the technicians responsible for the assembly to look at me in a certain way and say: “You’re so young, you’re going to tell me how to do things? No, you don’t know.” Then I answer in silence: “I may not be able to assemble a rack or mount a screen, but I do know the process behind it,” explains Sara Arandia, Project Coordinator at the Colombian company, RLA. “So, to earn my place, I had to learn and read a lot. Before the events, I sit down to talk with the technicians to make the work plan and assign responsibilities. I always try to learn from things I don’t know,” she adds.
Montañez says that her challenge is two-fold because she works in marketing, so there are also doubts about her technical knowledge. “I had to prepare technically to understand and work in this industry,” said the Audio Concept executive.
“A woman has many roles, the mother, wife, lover, friend, head of the household, in addition to the role as a professional in your company,” said Marketing expert, Carolina Alarcón, the newest of the group in the audiovisual industry, who previously worked in the financial sector. Carolina explains that, by performing all these roles, women are expected to give their maximum and fulfill their duties at the highest level. “To create a professional bond and gain the trust of customers, I always have to go the extra mile, because I had two factors against me, I’m a woman ... and I’m the woman from Marketing.”
The members of the group believe that this multiplicity of roles helps them in their daily work because of their abilities to organize, observe and attend to their office team, and leadership skills.
Leading the Way for New Generations
According to recent data, women occupy 20% of jobs in the audiovisual industry. The percentage can be raised in the administrative areas of companies but is reduced to 10% in technical departments such as engineering.
“This percentage is similar in many professional sectors, not only in the AV industry this unequal proportion is presented”, says Andrea Artunduaga, Key Account Manager at ICAP Global. Andrea herself explained that she has had to overcome obstacles to maintain her place in the industry.
Despite the obstacles and the low percentage of women in the Latin American AV industry, their level of influence is quite high. “Women have a greater aesthetic and design sense, good organizational skills, and generally focus more on fine details. This gives a higher level of influence when making decisions. It seems to me that, although we are very few, we have that power to influence and that our point of view is taken as a reference,” said Alarcón.
Montañez says that, in her company, there are always two women at the table when it comes time to make decisions. “Taking that ‘extra mile’ puts us in a position of more significant experience. When we propose an idea, it’s because we have already tried it, either because we failed and learned from our mistakes or because we succeeded,” she explained.
As for the new generations, the future looks bright. The young women who are just beginning in the AV industry are very competitive, have gone through very demanding work processes, and have learned from women like those in this group. “We did not want to be victims of society, we seek to empower ourselves, climb positions and achieve positions of power,” adds Montañez.
“I see our role as that of the ancient explorers who had to use a machete to cut the weeds and open new paths. For the new generations, it will be an easier path, but that does not mean that it will be more relaxed. I think students have a bigger challenge, so the message is: get ready and make the decision to be happy with what you do,” adds Alarcón.
Innovating and Professionalizing are Critical to the AV Industry in Latin America
These industry professionals observe the healthy growth of the audiovisual integration business in Latin America. Technology is increasingly present in daily life, and that brings both new opportunities and different challenges. In their opinion, aspects such as industry member’s professionalization, the creation of innovative content, or the need to educate the client and the end-user will be essential to maintain progress in the region.
“We are in the process of growth, and professionalization of the industry is key to advance. Every one of us, from integrators and distributors to technicians, is more concerned with training, certification, and learning how to do things and how to do them well. I think the challenge is to educate customers. That they understand the capabilities and scope of technology, everything we can do for them, and value what AV solutions offer them,” said Betancourt.
Arandia commented that once customers understand the importance of AV technology in their business, then they become more demanding, ask for innovative solutions, and seek to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
Latin America is a region that always experiences constant changes, both political and economic, and that generates its inhabitants to develop different skills of those who live in much more stable areas. “We must take advantage of our creativity because we are used to generating solutions to adapt to constant change, that will be a competitive advantage if we apply those skills in the AV industry,” explains Quintero.
These women are optimistic about the growth opportunities offered by the AV industry since they consider that technology is the most attractive business sector of the future. Without a doubt, the future requires greater female participation.