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Cynthia Wisehart on AVIXA Women’s Council

Thanks for InfoComm everybody. What an incredible amount of hard work went into this show, including from my own colleagues on the Daily led by our SCN high priestess, Megan A. Dutta.

I have to pick one thing and it’s this: the AVIXA Women’s Council breakfast. Over 320 in attendance—a loaves and fishes moment, given the overflowing turnout. Again, Megan was on the scene, joining the other local council leaders who have willed this breakout group into existence, along with the AVIXA Women’s Council staff Amanda Eberle Boyer and Brittany DiCesare.

Last year there were 17 local councils, this year it’s 40. I’ve personally watched Council Chair Brandy Alvarado (Mad Systems) drive for expansion (don’t meet her eyes if you aren’t prepared to pitch in!). Ditto QSC’s Cory Schaeffer who was awarded Biggest Cheerleader, which… she is. Other breakfast awards went to Ericka Schumpert and Laurie Harrigan (both AVI-SPL); Toronto Council leaders Christina Cruzeiro (Stampede) and Cristina Lucas (Genisis Integration); AtlasIED’s Gina Sansivero, and Dayna Baumann (Control Concepts).

The keynote from Shure CEO Christine Schyvinck, who is a mechanical engineer by training, and one of the industry’s few women executives set a powerful example. Big companies can embrace diversity to their benefit and to the broader development of the industry. Only a few have taken advantage of this so far, so it remains one of the big strategic opportunities out there.

When Sennheiser’s Petro Simonishi spoke, she cited a study demonstrating a 25% revenue increase as a result of diversity in the workplace. I believe this. It’s increasingly unrealistic to imagine that a homogenous team is the best dynamic for many business in today’s marketplace. Customers have a wide diversity of life experience and viewpoint. So businesses benefit from mirroring that dynamic if for no other reason than market intelligence.

However, we are also seeing that beyond that obvious market consideration, collaboration is enhanced by bringing together people of different viewpoints, interests, preferences, learning styles, neurological styles, and more. Even the discomfort of differing viewpoints is a fertile ground for collaboration. I’m a fan of discomfort, which is different from disrespect.

Certainly discomfort is our market condition at the moment. Not the discomfort of recession which is just plain hard. But the discomfort of opportunity. There is competition, there is a lot of unknown (see AV Over IP). There is a lot to understand about customers, markets, IT managers, and how relationships work in a more three-dimensional market—in a more diverse market.

The AVIXA Women’s Council is about more than getting women a fair shake in AV. I would say that in some ways AV needs women more than women need AV. More than ever, diversity is a strength and a resource. Watching the way the Council is building, I’m reminded that diversity translates to different ways of thinking and doing and making success happen. Whatever demographic diversity each of us may come from, embracing our own personal diversity and seeking it in our partnerships produces growth, and a resiliency for all the market unknowns to come. And it’s more fun.

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