You often hear women talk about being in the “male-dominated” AV industry, but I am running a company in an environment that has been dominated by white men as far back as I can remember.
Finding Pro AV…and Being Disrespected In It
I studied cellular and molecular biology in college after receiving an undergraduate degree in nursing. By choice, I was a stay at home mom with zero regrets when I witness everyday the success of our daughter, who is also an entrepreneur and doctoral candidate.
Choosing the pro AV industry happened somewhat organically. It started out as a sole proprietorship, heavily focused on meeting and event planning. After several years of tedious and laborious work with events, I realized where the real money was when it comes to events. So, I pivoted.
Since incorporating as KMT Digital Technology Services, I’ve learned a lot!
- I’ve learned that this industry is not very welcoming to women Founders/CEOs.
- I’ve learned it’s even less welcoming if you’re a woman CEO AND black.
- I’ve had men ask my husband (who is my CTO), “how does it feel to work for a woman?” His reply is always the same: “She’s more qualified and competent than any man I have ever worked for.”
It’s Even Worse at Trade Shows
We attend Infocomm every alternate year in Las Vegas and it’s always interesting to observe how people (men & women) communicate with us on the show floor.
As my husband and I go booth-to-booth, every person we talk to addresses my husband. I am invisible, literally. I am invisible until the moment they want to scan his badge and he gingerly says, “scan her badge, she’s the decision maker.”
In my small way, I’m trying to change the narrative.
I’ve taught classes at local community colleges encouraging women to participate, I’ve partnered with non-profits and taught classes to kids in urban schools as “blended learning” to introduce young black kids to technology, and now I’m strongly thinking of how to have pro AV included in the STEM definition.
It may seem lonely, but it isn’t; it may seem unfair, and it is, but no one knows who I am when I speak with them on the phone.
Most assume I am the admin assistant, the receptionist, or a clerk. It is never the assumption that you are speaking with the founder, the owner of the corporation you are hiring for your high-end private event in San Francisco.
I recently shared with a friend, who happens to be our Yamaha Rep: “Our clients have never met me; to most of them, I am just a virtual voice, and even then, they don’t know I’m the CEO.”
He laughed, but to me, I’m protecting my company from those who would otherwise discriminate.