AVIXA Diversity Council Has a Plan to Address the AV Industry’s Lack of It

AVIXA Diversity Council members aim to garner recognition for their new group as they launch much-anticipated effort with widespread AV industry support.

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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.

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

  • Stephen Torrance May says:

    The Times they are changing. Question? ” Why do we have have labels for people? ” The very stigma of the word diversity communicates some sort of digression from the norm. Bottom line money is green.

  • A very commendable group and mission. Thanks for covering this important story.

  • George Williams says:

    Perfect. Now we’re bringing race politics into AV?
    I’ve been in this industry for 20 years and the barriers to entry are quite small.
    If any people of “diversity” wanted to get in they would already be in.

    • Dean Callies says:

      Yes, it’s called identity politics. So what is this group’s message? They dance around keywords like the “effort”, the “conversation”, the “beacon”, “momentum”, doing some “interesting things”. So what is your mission statement? This article is empty and vague and says nothing of your intentions. But way to open it up with the “dominated by the proverbial group of old white men” phrase.

      To Charmaine: regarding your video-I’ve got news for you, “Working overtime, working above board, going well beyond” and “pounding the pavement, and working internally to solidify your place” are things ALL people do when they want to make it in an industry and within the private sector marketplace. It used to be called work ethic and perseverance. Qualities highly regarded by an employer. By suggesting that these are unfair burdens that only minority groups are subjected to is ridiculous. You are actually cultivating a victim mentality within the groups you propose to help by spewing this rhetoric. You are poisoning the minds of impressionable young people to believe that the trials and tribulations of advancing ones career are hardships relegated only to people of color. Not true!

      If you are hard working, honest, dependable, coach-able, likable, smart etc. etc.- you will always have opportunities within this industry and any other, regardless of race, religion, and gender. Only your attitude and drive will limit your potential, not race, religion or gender. Do not discourage yourself because some people say you are at a disadvantage due to race, religion or gender. Develop marketable skills that employers need and you will be successful, regardless of all the other stuff.

      Well, there is a message from me. What is your message again?

  • The definition of Diversity is a range of different things or multiformity – Variety.

    Diversity is not a label, but a KEY to opening the door to variety within the industry. With Variety comes options and Options spark a higher level of satisfaction. Ask yourselves, would an AV integrator be valuable to a client if they only integrated one type of room system, standardized on one type of product, or had one type of design – I think not.

    Diversity goes beyond race, gender, and faith. It also touches mental and physical disabilities, culture, age, military service people, etc.

    The message is simple – Diversity in the AV industry will promote growth and place AV more in the forefront of the technology sector in lieu of the AV/IT convergence which absorbs AV into IT. I am so appreciative of all the comments because it demonstrates why the AVIXA Diversity Council is SO NECESSARY – To drive the knowledge and value of Diversity!

  • Excellent coverage of this important new Group! good to see AVIXA Council’s getting some exposure they create great things for our Industry.

  • Akin Adewole says:

    I think diversity can be improved both internal to the industry (among integrators, consultants and mannys) and externally (through client inetractions). Internally it’s about reeling in untapped talent and individuals who can bring a different perspective to how we see and live our own, often insulated, lives… through a wider lens. It makes for a more productive, enjoyable and collaborative environment when people can go to work in a place where they can both appreciate others and be appreciated holistically… not just for their talent, but for who they are. For example, MLK Day is important to many people, for what I hope are obvious reasons, but I have not seen it explicitly celebrated or recognized in my 15+ years of being in this industry … is St. Patrick’s Day any more or less important? Not at all… and it’s celebrated widely. I’ve had my fair share of soda bread and love it. What about Black History Month? Women’s Day? (NOT Secretary’s Day), Ramadan?.. the list goes on. There are a few places in or industry that are starting to recognize the importance and appreciation of differences and what they can do to move a company forward, but I rarely see it in AV as much as other industries are trying to embrace it.

    Externally, it’s all about understanding today’s customer’s needs, problems and how to solve them. And the face of the customer has changed significantly and is constantly evolving. It’s something that the industry has to address whether people like the way it looks or not. Discrimination, stereotyping and bias are real; unchecked, they creep into everything we do. We are kidding ourselves if we think not. Understanding diversity and the positive impact it can have will help to shift the negative and indifferent attitudes and behaviors we have towards each other.

  • Loren Roetman says:

    Continued development and refinement of Industrial Education programs that teach the hands on technical skills necessary to excel in technician roles would be a great start. Coding and programming skills are obviously critical, but we need skilled techs to hook it all up and keep it maintained, wired and wireless. Different backpack, just as cool…
    Differences in mindset, dexterity and temperament can be identified, encouraged and channeled into suitable roles. Career path advisement in our public schools needs to promote this physical, skilled role in Technology as a critical and respected STEM component.

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