We’ve heard for a long time about the AV industry being dominated by the proverbial group of old white men, but we’ve learned the true makeup of the people in the space is a lot more diverse than that. If you don’t believe us, you should have attended the first AVIXA Diversity Council meeting at InfoComm 2018.
That session included AVIXA members who not only come from diverse racial backgrounds, but also at least one transgender representative, at least one person with autism and others with pasts that show how many cultures are represented in the association.
“I’m a black, Latina and Jamaican woman,” says Charmaine Torruella, managed services account executive at Verrex and chairwoman of the AVIXA Diversity Council. “I check a lot of boxes. I realized when I moved over from IT into AV how hard it was to solidify my place and there are other people who feel that way too.
“The dynamics of the decision-makers are changing to look more like us,” she says. “This is the time. I think the AV industry is ready. Our clients are saying, ‘We’re doing it. What about you?’”
The AVIXA Diversity Council officially kicked off with a meeting at InfoComm 2018 after more than 100 AVIXA members pledged their support for the effort within the first 24 hours after hearing about it, says Amanda Eberle Boyer, senior director of member services for AVIXA.
Starting the Conversation
The first meeting featured attendees answering seven diversity-related questions, including what diversity looks like and how it should look in the AV industry.
“When industry members come to us and say there’s a need or a desire to create a council, we get really excited to help them,” says Eberle Boyer. “All of our councils spin out of members who want to have a voice. We follow the lead of what our members are asking for. We want to be part of the conversation and moving it forward.”
After the initial member pledge to start the AVIXA Diversity Council, it got approval from the AVIXA membership committee and Torruella was approved as chairwoman by the Leadership Search Committee.
I realized when I moved over from IT into AV how hard it was to solidify my place and there are other people who feel that way too.
“I was looking for a way to contribute more to the AV industry outside my regular job,” she says.
“We got to learn [at the first AVIXA Diversity Council meeting] what diversity truly looks like. It’s a beautiful rainbow of representation. We have to bring it to the forefront so it will inspire diverse young talent to be part of the AV industry too.”
The AVIXA Diversity Council has talked to members of the AQAV group and the Women of AVIXA about working together on future initiatives, says Torruella.
She says the Diversity Council will be doing some “interesting things” within the next month and hopes to have all members recognize the presence of the council by InfoComm 2019.
“That first meeting opened my eyes to what diversity really is,” says Tourrella. “I see this council doing that for our members and our clients. There’s been a lot of activity and a lot of interest from great places. We hope to keep up that momentum.
“I knew there were people in AV who were interested in talking about this, but they didn’t know where to begin. There was a beacon necessary to call us together and this council is that beacon,” she says.
Continuing the Discussion
Eberle Boyer expects the AVIXA Diversity Council to meet monthly and form subgroups to deal with specific diversity issues at some point. They’ll work with AVIXA staff liaisons Sheila Bowman and Ryan Smith, she says.
“This is not just a conversation we want to have behind closed doors,” says Eberle Boyer. “It’s a conversation that goes beyond a council meeting in a room in a convention center.”
Tourrella was excited to see several AVIXA executives at the first AVIXA Diversity Council meeting.
“They intend to drive this conversation,” she says.