By Ron DeVoe
Successful Sales Consulting
I have enjoyed having guest editorials published with rAVe. In times past my contributions have been more for entertainment than insight. However, this rambling is a result of my increasing awareness of the double standard that we, in our beloved industry, seem to ignore and that deals with women in AV. Yes, there were ravings last summer putting down organizations for women and two years ago there was a debate about “booth babes” but this is a far greater concern that these issues.
This fall, my youngest daughter, an account executive with an AV manufacturer, was besieged by an inebriated AV industry executive with inappropriate and suggestive comments which culminated with this man attempting to place his hands under my daughter’s outer garments. He had consumed more than a snoot full. This action was witnessed by other AV people and attempts were made to remove the “gentleman.” Later, this same person again tried to make advances and hotel staff had to be called. The next day, he was told to leave and could be facing some disciplinary action.
Yes, I am an angered father, but I am also a longtime veteran of an industry that I believe is better than this. I am infuriated that someone would do this, but upon discussion with several women in our industry, I have found that such occurrences are common place.
I remember that I was filled with pride when, almost 20 years ago, my oldest daughter, having spent one summer with my AV company and the next summer as an intern with a major AV manufacturer said, “This is a great industry with really nice people and there seems to be a lot of room for women.”
I take a great deal of pride that two of my daughters have followed me into this industry and are making their mark as highly competent AV professionals. They are both strong and very capable of taking care of themselves. But, as I have watched them, I have realized how difficult their task is along with many of their fellow AV women.
I have heard before and have somewhat scoffed that we are in a “good old boys” business. Now certainly as one of the “old boys,” I somewhat agree. It is not the intention, but it is the criteria by which both men and women in our industry are evaluated. Here are some of the double standards that, while not unique to our industry, are never the less present:
- An opinionated and assertive man is just that while a woman is deemed “bitchy.”
- A man who sports a four-day beard growth, wearing jeans and a polo is trendy. A woman that is poorly groomed or clothed will not last long.
- A woman in our industry who invites a client, dealer, consultant and/or manufacturer for dinner or lunch must be on guard to keep from sending the wrong signals. If and when a suggestive advance is made, the rejection of this advance can lead to an end of the business relationship.
- AV women in technical support, engineering and design are not taken as seriously and many times at booths or on the phone, a request is made for someone who sounds more like a tech expert….like a man.
- While there may be more women in executive roles now than before the gap is still too wide. Believe me, I do not advocate promoting women because they are women. I just hate to see women not being promoted because they are women.
- An irritable exchange from a man over a missed shipment, back order, call back, past due and so on is chalked up to stress on the job. This behavior in a woman is classified as the time of the month.
And finally we come to the reason for this rant. Ours is a relationship business. We do meet in business situations that flow into social meetings. Our social gatherings are usually relaxed and attended by several, be they members of the same company, or at least affiliated through our industry network. There are extended happy hours and there are some who simply cannot imbibe with more than a sip of an adult beverage before their behavior resembles that of a frat boy. If you are one of these people, realize it and grow up. If you are around one of these people, do not allow them to be inappropriate in any way.
I know there are some who may disagree with my thoughts on this. Guarding conversations and actions has become difficult. Sometimes a man’s friendly conversation or actions are misconstrued. I know that a man being sociable does not mean that same man is on the prowl. Our litigious society with harassment, prejudice and bias filings does not help. All I ask is this: When at any AV Industry function and where there are AV women present, I hope that you will behave as if your daughters or sisters were present. Everyone deserves respect, especially in our business. Give our AV women respect and a fair chance.