AVIXA Diversity Council Message Reaches ISE 2019, Returning to InfoComm 2019

AVIXA Diversity Council will host first European event in March, featuring ISE managing director Mike Blackman, as worldwide effort continues steady growth.

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There’s been a lot of talk in the past few years about increasing the diversity in the AV industry. And, while there’s still certainly a long way to go before the industry is representative of the general population, the work of the AVIXA Diversity Council is starting to help make in-roads.

Integrated Systems Europe (ISE 2019) in Amsterdam this week featured a panel discussion on diversity that included, among others, AVIXA Diversity Council staff liaison Amanda Eberle Boyer, the association’s senior director of member services.

The council will also host its first event in Europe on March 7 at the Royal Society of Medicine, the only facility equipped with event sponsor Sennheiser’s Mobile Connect streamed audio over WiFi capabilities (which will be demonstrated).

Kevin McLoughlin, director of AV User Group and organizer of the March 7 gathering that will also include a showcase of AV products that will help people of all background better interact with technology, says the program has “really caught the imagination of a lot of people in the industry.”

About 70 people have registered so far, says McLoughlin, and the facility can easily accommodate up to 300 people. The event will highlight a video-conferencing sign language interpreter, furniture that helps people of all backgrounds and end with a panel discussion led by ISE managing director Mike Blackman.

Increasing Diversity in AV

McLoughlin, who is deaf, says he’s happy to participate in “discussions about becoming more diverse and the positive actions we can take to make that happen.” He describes his deafness as “an invisible disability” and knows there are many others like him who will benefit from these changes.

“Diversity goes way beyond gender, skin color and ethnicity,” he says. “It goes as far as you want it really. It’s just about bringing differences together. Having those difference in the industry can only benefit everybody. There’s a real business case behind it.”

More ISE 2019 News: 34 TNT Award-Winning Products

McLoughlin recalls a recent AV User Group meeting attended by about 40 men and no women. He also says a female co-worker is often ignored or minimized by customers who want to speak to someone about their projects but who don’t realize she too is an engineer who can assist them.

“Something needs to be done and now is the time to do it,” he says.

AVIXA Dviersity Council

Bringing the Diversity Message Worldwide

AVIXA Diversity Council chairwoman Charmaine Torruella says the council is up to about 160 members around the world, including North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, Latin America and the Middle East.

“Although we’re starting to recognize more of the diversity in this industry, it’s still a matter of valuing that person’s feedback and what they can bring to the discussion. That’s where the knot in the system is,” says Charmaine Torruella, AVIXA Diversity Council chairwoman.

The council’s growth has been “nice and steady” and has included the involvement of several large AV manufacturers and integrators, who are making a financial commitment to increasing diversity across the sector.

That certainly doesn’t mean council members think their work is done.

“Progress is slow,” says Torruella. “Although we’re starting to recognize more of the diversity in this industry, it’s still a matter of valuing that person’s feedback and what they can bring to the discussion. That’s where the knot in the system is.”

McLoughlin agrees, saying “a lot more can be done” about diversity, although he was pleased to see it as part of a panel discussion at the pro AV industry’s largest worldwide show this week.

“That shows it’s a very timely subject,” he says.

The AVIXA Diversity Council will host a panel discussion and an event at InfoComm 2019 in Orlando in June and is planning an event in the fall in New York that Torruella says will feature “a legendary band” who can talk about the importance of diversity in AV.

McLoughlin, she says, “has been a pioneering force on the other side of the hemisphere and inspired a lot of clients as well as organization to be part of the council and drummed up a lot of recruits. Diversity issues on the other side of the hemisphere are very different than here.”

Work to Be Done on AV Diversity

Torruella dismissed some of the feedback Angie Billingsly has gotten to a CI column she wrote about some of her struggles as a black female CEO in the AV industry. One comment in particular wondered why Billingsly expected to be handed respect simply because of her position with her company.

“If you’re saying a CEO of a company who’s a minority shouldn’t be given any sort of access or respect because she didn’t work hard for it, you’re basically saying it was given to her,” says Torruella, who called the comment “blissfully stupid.”

“It goes beyond just having the diversity,” she says. “The stupid comments stop when people become more knowledgeable. Our job is to be knowledgeable about the products, the equipment and even the labor. There’s no reason you shouldn’t also be knowledgeable about the people you’re working with.”

McLoughlin says the comment highlights why more diversity is so important.

“If diversity is in that room around you, it changes the conversation and people don’t say stupid things,” he says.

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About the Author


Craig MacCormack is a veteran journalist who joined Security Sales & Integration in June 2023 as web editor. He is also the former executive editor of Commercial Integrator (2011-2021).

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  • Mark J says:

    “A lie makes it half the way around the world before the truth gets up and puts it’s pants on.” Winston Churchill

    CT: “If you’re saying a CEO of a company who’s a minority shouldn’t be given any sort of access or respect because she didn’t work hard for it, you’re basically saying it was given to her,” says Torruella, who called the comment “blissfully stupid.””

    No such thing was stated or implied.

    The hyperbolic misstatement of the commentors actual words by Ms. Torruella for the purpose of synthesizing outrage against him is divisive, dishonest and not becoming of a person charged with the role of responsible leadership of an AVIXA council or any other organization that asserts itself as a body of standards for an industry.

    “None of us are entitled to respect because we carry a title or have a senior position in a company… we EARN respect through great dedication & perseverance, proven skills, delivered innovation, and sincere interest in fostering the professional success of our clients and our coworkers.”

    This was preceded with this statement:
    Diversity should be the realization of the culture you have after building it through the objective of bringing the most qualified and skilled individuals into your organization — NOT a framework or cage (imposed by a political ideology) that is built to then force talent inside of.

    The commentor further went on to offer constructive business encouragement to Mrs. Billingsley as follows:
    “Building collaborative relationships with competitors in the marketplace can be of great value when the skills we possess complement a distinct and alternate set of talents offered by those competitors. Raising both the value and Quality of packaged services we offer to our marketplace serves our customer base and raises the bar for competition, which in turn improve the overall Quality of our competitive environment. The rising tide floats all ships — though the leaky vessels have farther to sink.”

    NO inference to race or gender was made, suggested or intended anywhere in the body of the comment. The entire basis of Ms. Torruella persistent attack on this commenter was not contained within the substance of the comment, but rather the presumption that the author’s beliefs do not align with her ideology.

    The business of A•V•C Integration is very complex and at times can be unwieldy. Limits to a company‘s ability to pursue new business, to deliver on existing business, and to support the ongoing needs of previous business are ever-present and constitute ongoing challenges in an ever-changing competitive environment. In my 37 years as a professional engineer and systems integrator I have had the great fortune to work alongside some of the best technical innovators who’s combined efforts have resulted in what we know many of the best parts of this industry to be today. We all share a common love of taking on very complex and in some cases nearly impossible tasks and passionately driving them to successful outcome. To all of you reading who know exactly what I’m talking about the weeks that we forge our greatest successes out of we’re made of 168 hours ~ not 40, and as professional systems integrators we accept this cost for achieving amazing outcomes. I love all the people in our industry that share this commitment and dedication to delivering our best and it is truly what makes our industry great.

    My resistance to and skepticism of the injection of “diversity” arguments are that they distract from where our focus should be, which is on service to our clients and taking on the difficult technical challenges that most others will not. We are fostering a politically driven ideology into our daily thought-stream who’s intent and objective is to force ‘equality’ which risks jeopardizing the Quality of the work we must deliver. I love my peers and colleagues, not because of the color of their skin or their sex but because of their passionate pursuit of doing great work. These are the building blocks of great character.

    If we are all equal can any of us be free?

    It is somewhat ironic that In the world of A•V•C systems development and sales we are building transport mechanisms for content delivery, but we somehow surrender our critical thinking when it comes to the actual quality of messaging within that content. I encourage all practitioners in the world of A•V•C systems to become The Objective Underground and apply conservative critical thinking to the constant barrage of ideologically-driven messaging that assaults our cultural values of individual freedom and equality of opportunity (not outcome) for all. We are better than this and herein lies the messages we must teach our team members to keep our culture strong

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