Commercial Integrator Bridging the 131-Year Gender Gap

Bridging the 131-Year Gender Gap: Uniting for Equality and Action

By Brandy Alvarado-Miranda, CEO of BAM! Marketing & PR Agency and Founder of #WAVIT

From Commercial Integrator- Making Waves 10/31/23.

I read an article by Alicia Wallace from CNN Business that said, “It could take 131 years for the world to close the gender gap.” I was absolutely gutted after reading that statistic. I read through it a few more times, and then shared it with the WAVIT Board as yet another reason why we must work diligently towards diversity. This is not just an AV/IT industry issue, but a far-reaching global issue.

You’ll find that stat along with many others released in June by The World Economic Forum (WEF) in its annual global gender gap report where they shed light on the progress that has been made and the challenges that persist. As a woman, I find this report incredibly significant, as it underscores the urgent need to prioritize gender equality and diversity in every facet of our lives. While COVID-19 certainly did our numbers no favors, other factors such as health, and education have also contributed. For many years now, the WEF’s Report has predicted that none of us will see gender parity in our lifetimes, nor will many of our children. I, for one, do not want to wait until the year 2154 to see equality, we must act now!

I see us at a crossroads, where the struggle for gender equality and diversity has taken center stage in many discussions about inclusivity, innovation, and equity. One of the main reasons I founded WAVIT was that I was simply tired of “discussing” it. I can’t begin to tell you how many podcasts, and panel discussions my colleagues and I have been invited to participate in to discuss DEI.  I’ve begun trying to reframe these discussions to focus on actions versus “discussions”. My intention is to utilize these opportunities for a broader platform where we can affect a change.

I’ve tasked myself and my WAVIT colleagues with the question, “How can we get from this crossroads and become changemakers of diversity?” If we can at least make an impact in our industry, then maybe other industries will take note and make a change too. I’ve included several actionable ways where I believe we can make some gains.

Economic Empowerment

One of the key findings of the WEF report is that gender inequality is not merely a social issue; it's an economic one. As a woman, I understand the importance of economic empowerment and financial independence. Gender equality in the workplace means equal pay for equal work and an environment that supports the growth and advancement of women. When women have the same economic opportunities as men, it not only benefits them personally but also has a positive impact on their families, communities, and the overall economy.

How can we advance equal pay opportunities for women?

  • Conduct regular pay audits to identify and rectify gender pay gaps within the organization. Ensure that women are paid fairly for their work, and address any disparities that exist.
  • Implement and support diversity and inclusion programs and initiatives that actively encourage the hiring, retention, and promotion of women in the industry.
  • Create a merit-based system that ensures equal opportunities for advancement. Encourage women to pursue leadership positions and provide mentorship and training to help them reach their career goals.
  • Create and increase access for targeted professional development for women. Negotiation and leadership type skills are vital.

Representation and Leadership

Another critical aspect highlighted by the report is the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions. As of 2022, women hold only 8% of leadership positions at Fortune 500 companies. I've often noted the lack of female role models and mentors in our sector as well.

Gender diversity in leadership roles brings different perspectives to the table, fosters innovation, and helps create inclusive workplaces. When women are empowered to lead, it not only breaks down stereotypes but also inspires future generations of women to aim high and dream big. Studies from the International Labor Organization show that gender diverse companies are more successful:

  • 60.2% of gender diverse companies report increased profits and productivity
  • 56.8% report an increased ability to attract and retain talent
  • 54.4% report greater creativity, innovation, and openness
  • 54.1% report enhanced company reputation
  • 36.5% report a better ability to gauge consumer interest and demand

How can the AV/IT industry promote more women into leadership roles?

  • Ensure your discussion panels are diverse. Consider using the WAVIT Speakers Bureau as a conduit for diverse panelists on a broad range of topics.
  • Become a mentor.
  • Use inclusive language in your job descriptions/ posts.

Education and Skills Development

I think most would agree that Education is the foundation upon which progress is built. The WEF report reveals that gender disparities persist in access to quality education and skills development. I know that education is not just about acquiring knowledge; it's about gaining the confidence to navigate life's challenges. When girls and women are educated and provided with equal opportunities to develop skills, they become agents of change, capable of contributing to an organization's growth and development.

What can we do to further education and skills development?

  • Offer opportunities for certifications, continuing education, skills, and training.
  • Provide scholarships and support organizations that are paving the way for DEI.

Health and Well-being

The report also examines gender disparities in health and well-being. Gender-sensitive healthcare policies and services are essential to ensuring the well-being of women and girls. Additionally, addressing gender-based violence and promoting mental health are crucial steps toward creating a safe and nurturing environment for women, as well as other marginalized groups. I’m pleased that WAVIT has formed committees for both Safety and Wellness.

What can we do to promote a safe and healthy work environment?

  • Attend and support programs like AV Yoga, the AVIXA 5K Run during InfoComm, and others that foster a healthy work-life balance.
  • Support and implement safety policies for tradeshows and after hour events.
  • Establish confidential reporting mechanisms for harassment, discrimination, and unequal treatment. Ensure that employees feel safe and supported when reporting workplace issues.

Breaking Stereotypes

Stereotypes and biases can be deeply ingrained in society. I, like many in the industry, have faced stereotypes that have tried to limit my potential. Embracing gender equality and diversity challenges these stereotypes head-on. It's about acknowledging that individuals should not be defined by their gender but by their skills, abilities, and character. It's about allowing everyone, regardless of their gender identity, to pursue their dreams and aspirations without fear of discrimination.

What can we do to challenge biases?

  • Nominate women for AV/IT Awards and Honors.
  • Celebrate International Women’s Day which offers ways to combat biases while promoting equality.

As a leader in this community, I am reminded of the progress we have made and the challenges that still lie ahead. I encourage you to become a member or sponsor of WAVIT. Collectively, we have a lot of work to do to bridge the gap. Gender equality and diversity are not just ideals; they are essential for the betterment of our industry. Let the WEF report serve as a reminder that the journey toward gender equality and diversity is far from over, and let’s make sure it doesn’t take 131 years!  

Source: “It could take 131 years for the world to close the gender gap, report shows”

By Alicia Wallace, CNN  Twitter: @aliciawallace

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