We interviewed Tammy Bradley who has been a part of the AV-CANADA team for over 5 years. As a Senior Account Executive, her experience is invaluable, so we decided to use her insights to expand on the role of women in the AV industry, how it has been, where it currently is and what needs to be done for future growth. We strongly believe for an AV company and the industry to be the best it can be, we need the perspectives of each and every talented person in the events space, and currently we find the AV space to have less input from female AV professionals.
About Tammy Bradley
Tammy Bradley attended Ryerson University where she completed a degree in Technical Theatre Production. She always wanted to work on stage sets, props and other creative aspects of TV production. She never thought she would then move into the spotlight in front of cameras and running live events, but as the industry changed Tammy started exploring AV technology and started her first role as a Driver in August of 1999. She has worked in AV for 24 years. Also, has been volunteering with Meeting Professionals International (MPI) for 15 years, having been the chair of different committees, and moved on to Director and Vice President of MPI. Her efforts focus on helping new MPI members, providing learning and growth support for students, and promoting MPI programs.
Women In AV 20 Years Ago
Tammy shared how when she got her first role in AV, she was a part of a group hire of 30 people. Despite having a full degree, her first role was as a Driver, while she saw male peers without full degrees starting off in more senior roles as AV Techs. At this time, the AV industry much like other industries found more women in administrative and support positions. Tammy shares, ‘The reason for this could have been society bias and there didn’t seem to be an understanding of what contributions women could make. I had to show what I could do.’
Some of the barriers that Tammy experienced included the assumption that women in AV did not have technical knowledge to answer client questions. Tammy found herself answering the phone and assuring potential clients she was well-equipped to answers their questions, provide a technical plan and support their events. Other barriers included the assumption that women could not complete all the physical tasks of moving equipment for AV setups. This in Tammy’s case was never an issue and she says, ‘The larger pieces were always carried by two techs, so the most one person would ever need to carry is 30-40 pounds. This is hardly a limitation on physical strength for women. Some women may not wish to lift heavier items, but that is their choice versus a physical restriction.’
Another barrier included the perception that women who choose to bear children will not be able to lift weight or may be a less productive worker. If we look at women lifting less weight due to a pregnancy, this is a temporary condition, when applicable, and does not reflect the ability to have a career in AV. This is no different than someone taking a medical leave or asking for reasonable accommodations of work, where their ability to have a career in AV is not questioned.
Additional barriers included the assumption that women would not work flexible hours as is the norm with event setups for an AV Tech, Driver, Technical Producer and more. This meant that women were not seriously considered for such roles or seen as a less dedicated candidate. This should have been a question in an interview for a candidate regardless of who they were, as it comes down to personal preference. These barriers as whole could have swayed women from considering AV, discouraged them to continue in the industry or fueled their decision to leave or see no future growth in their career in AV.
Woman In AV Today
Tammy shares, ‘At AV-CANADA, I never feel a difference being a woman.’ The barriers today are not the same as the ones we had 20 years ago and the focus has shifted more on awareness, learning and equal opportunity for everyone. Questions regarding technical knowledge, ability to lift a certain weight, flexible hours, and qualifications; are standard across all interviews and the rules apply to everybody. A shift has also come from safety awareness and measures put in place to work smart and follow protocol. The best example of this is that two AV Techs must lift heavy items together, as opposed to one doing it because they can or are willing to push themselves to do it. This shift not only reduces barriers for women, but overall looks at the best interests of everyone.
Today, if a woman in AV chooses to bear a child, then she can consider her options on how to manage any health safety measures she must follow during this time. She may choose to move her career more into the presentation side of AV or find a work balance with her employer that is fair to both sides. Another option is to take paid leave early as her personal health requires and adjust the time later. This choice is specific to the individual and in no way should be a barrier to women joining the AV industry.
Education, technical knowledge, work experience, flexible work hours, and the ability to complete a job as advertised are now seen as a fair evaluation for everyone interviewing for a role in AV, and less assumptions are made that may limit women from joining AV, or any other person for that matter. The AV industry is no longer male dominated and is focused on the technology and advancements that help support the events space. Furthermore, importance is given to finding new skillsets from all individuals that will help growth and progress.
The Future of Women In AV
The industry is very aware of diversity, and we expect to see more progress. This can be seen with creating multiple committees focused on various aspects of diversity and inclusion, with client representation of diversity whether it is an event panel with a diverse background of speakers or the simple inclusion of diverse staff and vendors, and finally with equal opportunity regardless of gender, social background, race, skillset and more.
The future of women in AV depends on the skills required to thrive in this industry. Based on Tammy’s experience and knowledge, the core skills include being client focused, paying attention to detail, practicing strong time management and multitasking effectively. Every driver, AV tech, Project Manager, Technical Producer, Sales Professional and Owner all need to have patience, flexibility and a willingness to listen, as clients do not always fully understand what they need, may not know what to ask for, and may not have the time to elaborate. The proper execution of an event requires being perceptive and always putting the customer first.
Tammy shares, ’15 minutes early is on time and on time is considered late for AV.’ The ability to place buffers of time to plan for curveballs will help an event be on time and are qualities than an AV tech requires to be successful. The ability to multitask helps when clients require additional support and last-minute problem solving and creativity is required. Overall, attention to detail is needed to execute the intricacies that come with an event and if you enjoy marking off a checklist, this is the right path for you.
Other skills that will help women thrive in AV include a genuine interest in technology, as the more tech savvy an AV tech is the better they will understand what the event requires, and that skillset is needed to properly advance in senior AV roles. Tammy shares, ‘You get the skills by being a tech then you can move into Sales, Technical Production, or other creative roles and 80% of people in sales were techs before!’ Additional skills include PowerPoint and video that could provide a less equipment-heavy career path in AV.
The career path in AV typically starts with being a driver or AV tech, then as you gain more experience you can choose to move into project management, sales, technical production, video specializations, audio specializations, engineering, and ownership. AV can be seen as more creative and less technical, however, it is a good balance of both. Women and men both will experience the same career path and there is a lot to be understood about AV work, a lot to learn, and a lot to be enjoyed in terms of creativity and solutions.
Supporting Women in AV
The AV industry should continue to spread awareness of their career paths and have representation of women in roles such as an AV tech, Technical Producer, Project Manager, Sales Professional and more. Women a few decades ago were raised to not believe they could work in AV, technology and other up and coming industries. They may also have been shaped to think that they could not accomplish the same things that men can or may have doubted their ability to do bigger and better things in their lives. Today women think bigger and better for themselves. Accomplishments do not look the same for everyone, but overall encouragement, open communication, and support help limit barriers for women and increase diversity in AV.
Tammy shares, ‘We should be highlighting the creativity and fun that you can have executing an event, and just across AV in general. It’s like art, creating your masterpiece, knowing the challenges and everything you did to get there, knowing you saw it through to completion.’ It is important to promote AV for women and this does start with young girls. Perhaps we need an AV doll wearing black with her hair in a ponytail, carrying a multi-purpose tool and camera, and showing young girls they have a place in AV.