Fireside with Toni: An update on Women in AV
04 June 2018 | Community
On International Women’s Day this year Women in AV Australia was launched – a group that aims to unite, support and empower women in the AV industry.
Three months down the track, we caught up with Toni McAllister, the driving force behind the initiative, to see how the group is tracking towards its early objectives.
Toni, there’s been a fair bit of coverage of Women in AV since it first launched three months ago. Do you feel like it’s gained momentum?
Yes absolutely. We were really pleased with the traction we received in the weeks following International Women’s Day. We had some industry media outlets run coverage of the announcement and so many people reached out to offer their support.
It was great to see more and more AV companies get on board too – we’re now supported by AV1, AV 24/7, AVPartners, International Convention Centre Sydney, Scene Change Australia and Staging Connections. And others have reached out to see how they can be involved as well. It’s humbling to see everyone working together – we all want change.
So what’s your main objective and how does Women in AV plan on achieving it?
Our ultimate goal is to increase the number of women working in AV. To achieve that, we’re using social media as a communication platform, building an awareness campaign, and planning events where young women can come together to learn, network and get hands on with equipment.
AV is quite a hidden industry so we want to get out and talk to students in schools, TAFE and colleges about how to get into the industry and what’s available to you once you do. It goes back to that old saying; you can’t be what you can’t see.
Down the track we’re also looking at a mentoring program and possible career expo days.
Now you’ve been going for a few months, has the group faced any unexpected challenges?
I wouldn’t say it’s unexpected, but it’s been challenging to make progress without any income. We rely on our supporting partners to volunteer their time and resources, but they have to balance it with their full-time jobs and home lives too.
We’re currently looking at some funding options and in the meantime moving forward with our plans in the most cost-effective way we can.
Have you noticed any immediate results so far?
I’ve definitely noticed that people are more aware. But it will take generations for real change to be achieved. It’s not an overnight fix unfortunately – and we knew that from the beginning.
We believe that if we can create the right culture and environment for people to enter into, then over time the industry will become more attractive to women. Our generation is tasked with creating that culture for the next.
What does that culture look like?
Often AV crews can appear to be a bit of a ‘boys club’. Encouraging diversity in promotional and educational materials will help remove the stigma so women feel more comfortable entering the industry.
The feedback from AV companies is that they want more women to apply for roles, but for some reason they’re just not applying. So we need to look at why that is and start there.
How can event professionals reading this help?
First and foremost it’s about enabling young women to see all the opportunities that are available to them. And then encouraging women to explore all avenues.
Encourage the company you work for to open up its doors and talk to young women. Show them all the different jobs they could do – not just the traditional ones.
It’s important the industry is on board because we want to welcome and nurture these young women – opening up all opportunities and possibilities.
Check out an interview between Australasian Special Events and some of the Women in AV group here.
Pictured above: (L-R) Jenny Verus, ICC Sydney; Toni McAllister, AV1; Libbie Ray, AV 24/7