Riding the Wave of Equality

Published: March 6, 2023

Women empowerment can be defined in many ways; the list is endless. However, there is nothing more inspiring and empowering than seeing women supporting other women. And that is precisely what Women in AV/IT (WAVIT) is trying to do. The organization, which was created for and by women, and which was announced in January, aims to build a platform that supports and encourages women in the AV and IT industries. Its focus areas include education, representation and inclusion. In short, WAVIT is looking to create ripples that gradually swell into waves, forging new paths for women in the world of technology. 

But how, exactly, will WAVIT create those ripples? To answer that question, Commercial Integrator sits down with Shure’s Althea Ricketts, the BAM! Marketing & PR Agency’s Brandy Alvarado-Miranda and LAVNCH [CODE]’s Megan Dutta. These three industry luminaries expand on the new organization’s efforts, while highlighting the importance of supporting women not just in the AV industry but also all across the world. 

Creating Ripples 

According to Alvarado-Miranda, CEO of BAM! and former AVIXA Women’s Council’s chair, the pandemic turned the tide when women began leaving their workplaces in droves. “It was frightening that we were losing women at a rapid rate because of layoffs and lack of support when working from home,” she says, “Our numbers were continuing to slide backward instead of moving ahead.” Alvarado-Miranda however, recognized that it would be too monumental a task for any one organization to take on this challenge. “So, we started looking at creating a more focused, dedicated group that could help organizations such as the AVIXA Women’s Council and others working toward the same mission,” she elaborates. 

Touching on what motivates her, Dutta, editor-in-chief of LAVNCH [CODE], asserts that she wishes to leave the world a better place than when she found it. “I want to be involved in initiatives that help create equity and equality in the workplace,” she proclaims. Dutta believes that WAVIT can drive exactly that kind of change in the AV and IT industries. 

As a technology journalist, Dutta aims to also use her influence to drive this change. “[Being] a member of the media, I have the privilege of passing the mic and helping spotlight women who may have not previously had a voice in this industry,” she explains. Accordingly, Dutta, in her role with WAVIT, seeks to work to identify women who would like to speak at events, write blogs for publications, etc. She also hopes to partner with other media organizations to ensure that women receive their share of recognition in our industry. 

Althea RickettsRicketts, vice president of corporate initiatives at Shure, remarks that people — especially women — are the most valuable resources in any industry. She says, “Women are that niche [resource], and I want to make sure they continue to be valued in every industry.” Ricketts thus believes that creating mentoring opportunities are a powerful way to support and value women, and that WAVIT will pave the way for such opportunities. “As a woman [leader] myself, I wish to transfer the knowledge that I have gained and share some of the success and challenges I’ve experienced,” Ricketts declares. By doing so, she hopes to help move the representation needle a little faster and with more intentionality. 

Building a Ship for the Future 

As Dutta puts it, “WAVIT is here to ensure women are seen.” And some of the opportunities to facilitate that include thought leadership, as well as education. 

As Alvarado-Miranda explains, “Along with all our other initiatives, we’re going to take a dual-pronged approach on educating women in the industry, as well as the women of tomorrow. We have to nurture as well as retain.” Noting the universal truth that most AV careers are formed accidentally, Alvarado-Miranda says that WAVIT plans to create deliberate pathways into the AV industry. “We have to focus on curriculum, program outreach and internships to hook young people into AV,” she states. Meanwhile, for those already in the industry, Alvarado-Miranda hopes to continue to provide pathways to help elevate and advance them in their careers. 

Ricketts chimes in to observe that education is more pertinent now than ever. By leveraging WAVIT’s partnerships with various organizations, she hopes to expand education opportunities for all. “I believe partnerships will be the key to moving that needle [of representation],” she stresses. “With [those partners], we can go into the community and sponsor different schools and their STEM activities. We can bring young people into the facilities and expand their education.” Summing up, Ricketts returns to why WAVIT was formed: it is not just one organization’s job; it is a collective responsibility. “For me, it’s all about partnerships, and I believe WAVIT has the right thought process for this,” she adds. 

Creating A Safe Harbor 

As we can see, WAVIT is working toward bringing about equality for women in many different ways. However, one of the most important missions of the organization is to create safe spaces for women and other underrepresented communities. “In the past, we’ve collectively realized that it’s vitally important that we have the safe space because, so often, we are not safe physically, mentally and even emotionally,” Alvarado-Miranda emphasizes. Acknowledging that workplaces can be toxic environments, she adds, “This becomes a huge barrier to getting ourselves ahead and taking the next steps to advance our careers.” 

Brandy BAM MarketingAlvarado-Miranda then reflects on her interactions with other women who felt lost in these situations. “I was hearing them say that they don’t feel comfortable speaking out,” she reveals. “They feel like they are not heard or don’t have a voice. Some don’t even get to sit at the corporate boardroom table or know if they will ever get there.” With the “Turning Tides” community, Alvarado-Miranda aspires to create a network of safety where women can speak up. “We want [women] to say it; own it; embrace, learn, thrive and grow [here],” she enthuses. 

Following a similar train of thought, Ricketts explains, “For me, a safe space is being able to demonstrate what we can do, especially for those who do not feel as confident.” She cites the example of a female monitor engineer who stood her ground in a grueling environment. “When she was on tour, most other engineers would look past her and ask, ‘Where’s the monitor engineer?’” Ricketts recalls. “She would look straight at them and reply, ‘I am the monitor engineer and welcome to my stage.’” That woman’s confidence, Ricketts believes, inspired all the younger women around her to have the same self-confidence. Accordingly, she wishes to do the same with WAVIT. “I’m so excited to show what we can do and what our potential is within the safe space,” Ricketts adds optimistically. 

Tying it all together, Dutta adds that the safe space within WAVIT is for everyone, regardless of gender, sexuality, race, etc. “What is important to us is that we all work together to create the waves of equality in the AV and IT industries,” she urges.  

A Personal Anchor 

All three interviewees emphasize that WAVIT is an extremely personal investment for them. As Ricketts poignantly puts it, “Being closer to retirement now, I feel like time is upon me to add value and make a stamp [in this industry].” She continues, “I want to help those who have come after me and get them to where I am, and beyond.” Of course, Ricketts acknowledges that is no easy feat. She explains, “When we talk about being inclusive, many people assume it is exclusion. But, no, there is enough for all to sit at the table. [Inclusivity] is about learning how to support each other and try to make the changes that we want to see.” While there is plenty of work to be done, Ricketts is confident in her own capabilities, as well as those of WAVIT. “When I leave, I want to make sure that women are closer to securing a seat at the table,” she underlines. 

WAVIt Megan DuttaFor Alvarado-Miranda, it comes down to building momentum in the industry for all women. “I’m a connector,” she states. “And, so, for me, it’s about helping others to connect and gain more of a foothold in this industry.” More than that, Alvarado-Miranda aims to help grow women’s numbers in the AV/IT world to be a bigger fraction than what they currently are. “We have so few women in this vivid, cool industry, and I just want to see us grow in number,” she adds. 

This number not only applies to the demographics, but also to the pay disparities. As Dutta notes, “On average, women earn 83 cents for every dollar that men earn.” She reveals that March 14 of this year will be Equal Pay Day, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity. “However, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day typically lands in September, and November for Native Women’s Equal Pay Day,” Dutta states. “I want to do my part to create equity and equality for all women.” Expressing her gratitude for being part of the WAVIT board, she adds, “I hope that our members feel comfortable discussing intersectional feminism and how we can help all women.” 

WAVIT is the ship that will carry waves of equality in the AV and IT industries. More importantly, it is a ship forged from the minds of extremely successful women who will carry over their success to future generations. As AtlasIED’s Gina Sansivero, a WAVIT board member, once said, “We needed a strong headwind, and we chose to be our own.” 

Posted in: News

Tagged with: WAVIT, Women, Women in AV/IT

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