Lack of Racial Diversity in the AV Industry: Can We Talk About It?

CI 2018 State of the AV Industry focused on lack of young people and women, but there’s another group that’s poorly represented in commercial tech.

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Lack of Racial Diversity in the AV Industry: Can We Talk About It?

High school students got to attend InfoComm 2017 thanks to a partnership between InfoComm International and EnventU.

When we published our 2018 State of the Industry report, two demographic areas jumped out: our AV industry respondents were about 12 percent female and almost 60 percent of them were at least 45 years old. But there’s a third group that we didn’t address in our survey that needs to be discussed.

It’s sad that I can recall pretty much every conversation I’ve had and article I’ve written for CI that’s focused on someone who’s not a white person.

More than seven years in, we’ve had only one minority featured on our cover—David Salley of DasNet Corporation—a sign that there’s a major problem here.

But I’m not here to accuse anyone of racism or of keeping the information about the commercial tech world away from minorities. I’m mostly wondering why it’s not necessarily a career path many minorities take, and why those who do take it don’t necessarily find their way to the top of the corporate ladder.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Brandon Warren, who started his own AV company in the New Orleans area and was among the invited guests when InfoComm International became AVIXA in September.

Warren started working in the AV industry at age 15 when he did some spotlight work and stage managing at his local church and was bitten by the AV integration bug at a young age.

At InfoComm 2017 in June, I met three high school students who came to the show through a partnership with EnventU. None of the three students knew too much about the commercial tech industry when they got to Orlando, but at least one of them told me they see AV as a career they definitely plan to explore.

Minorities

David Salley doesn’t see himself as an inspiration to minorities in commercial tech.

Both AVIXA and NSCA have programs that are aimed at bringing more young people—of all backgrounds—into an industry they might not have otherwise even known existed. But the lack of minorities—and the lack of women and young people in general—has a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy feel to it.

If young people don’t see more people who “look like me” in an industry, the conventional wisdom is to think, “Well, maybe that’s not for me.”

We’ve been lucky that folks like Salley—who talked extensively about the racism he experienced early in his career—and Warren have bucked the trend and felt the passion for systems integration that led them to make it into a career.

It’s just too bad there aren’t more people from similar backgrounds in the AV industry, too.

So, what will you do to help the industry become more attractive — and perhaps, more realistic — for women, young people and those who aren’t white? Your survival as an industry may depend on it.

Here’s some perspective (from the ‘Related’ article above):

integration industry, AV industry

About the Author

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Craig MacCormack is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience covering local and national news and sports as well as architecture and engineering before moving into his current role. He joined Commercial Integrator in January 2011.

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Comments

  • I work in Cincinnati and there are only two minorities in commercial a/v that I know of. I think minorities and women need to be educated that this field is a career possibility. Almost no one comes out of high school thinking this field is an option.

  • Wallace Johnson says:

    Great article Craig and thank you for highlighting this part of the survey results. It is a subject that I think many in the industry are aware of but few know how to address or even start the conversation on how to improve. The tech industry is struggling with the same issue which is why you see a big focus on diversity programs within organizations to recruit, develop and retain talent. I think it will take this same type of focus on diversity from AV companies to start making a change in the industry. There are groups now for women in AV and young AV professionals that are making a positive impact on those segments in educating them on information and career opportunities in the industry. Maybe it’s time for a Minorities in AV Group. This could be a great networking environment for individuals and companies that are out there as they could lead the effort of educating & informing other minorities in the industry and the minority youth that could be interested in the industry. Sadly for as active as I am in the industry, I do not know other minority owners other than who you have highlighted in this article to collaborate with on such a project. So hopefully CI can use its voice and reach to spread the word of possible interest.

  • I think the industry needs to pay attention to the message behind these numbers. Perhaps youth and minorities recognize something specific to the stability and longevity of the “AV” industry specifically. The trend for pursuit of degrees has computer sciences falling further and further behind psychology, social sciences, biological sciences, and even physical sciences (amongst Asians). When the pursuit of undergraduate and graduate degrees reflect these pursuits, why would our industry believe they can change this? AV is too narrow and specific. IT on the other hand…but even that is reflecting a similar issue.

  • Dean Callies says:

    Newsflash for all you social justice warriors-
    Whites have been the minority race here in California since 2015. Many other states will follow in the next few years. Obviously, your main concern is with opportunity and education for “non white people”. Be careful about using “minorities” to make your point, as whites are now a minority in certain states. Stick to writing about how sad you are that there aren’t more “non- whites” for you to interview or write about. That’s very telling.

    Thanks for mentioning:
    “Both AVIXA and NSCA have programs that are aimed at bringing more young people—of all backgrounds—into an industry they might not have otherwise even known existed.”
    This is a message we should all embrace- “people of ALL backgrounds”.

    Finally, it seems to me that hiring, firing, promoting and nurturing an employee should be done based on the merit of that person, and not the color of their skin. If these decisions are influenced by the need to have more “non-whites” on staff (AKA affirmative action), that would be to the detriment of the industry.

    But please Sir, educate me on your last sentence. How is it that our industry “may not survive” unless we pull in more Non-White people? That’s quite a bold statement.
    Will it be a sudden death or a slow decay? Can you give me an example of some other industries that are now dead and gone because there were too many middle aged male white people employed?

    if you’re not up for a reply, i understand. Perhaps you can get back to technology based articles…

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