Every year, I look forward to the Women of InfoComm Networking Breakfast. This event gives me a chance to catch up with some of my favorite people in the industry. While I was thrilled to see all these women (and a growing number of men!) in one room, I, sadly, heard several stories of sexism at the show.
I'm not going to repeat these stories as they're not mine to tell. However, I will share with you a personal incident that happened to me at InfoComm 2017. I was working the reception counter at my booth when a man, we'll call him Jake*, came up looking for one of our product managers. I told Jake the team had already departed the show and I would gladly take his card back to them. He asked if there was anyone else he could speak to on this matter. I again repeated that the team had left but I could take the information back to the office for them.
Jake then told me he was going to call Dave* because he was sure Dave, who was not on-site nor involved in tradeshow planning, could direct him to the right person. I again ensured him I knew Dave and there was nobody on-site to speak with. Nevertheless, he made the call. When he couldn't get a hold of Dave, he walked around the booth to find a male booth staffer to ask the same question. That staffer gave him the same response and Jake then left.
Luckily for me, my team all recognized this incident as Jake not wanting to listen to a woman. They were very supportive and all agreed it was inappropriate.
So why am I telling you this story? Because it is not the first, second or even third time I have experienced this at a show. Certain men just do not want to believe I am an authority figure, insisting they speak to a man who must know more. And I'm not the only one. This happens over and over and over again and it needs to stop.
After repeating this story to an executive, he told me "This is 2017 and it makes me sick that we need a woman's group in this day and age." This is the attitude we need to have. We shouldn't have to host special interest groups for women because women should be accepted in this industry as the authority figures they are.
So what can we do to change it?
Keep up with the groups - there's power in numbers and our numbers are growing.
If you see something, say something. Don't let anyone get away with degrading women or treating them as less-than. Speak up and let people know it's not okay.
If you're a woman, keep being the AV Rock Star you are. Get those certifications, win those awards, teach those classes!
If you're a man, join Women of InfoComm and similar groups. We appreciate you showing up and supporting us!
Have you experienced something similar? Leave it in the blog comments.
*I've changed the names in this story .
Megan A. Dutta