There’s no denying that custom integration is a male-driven industry. Sure, there are some amazing women of power in the field, but our business has remained, even in 2014, male dominated. I am reminded of this when a client walks into the store and looks me up and down before asking if anyone else is available. This attitude seems to have decreased over the years, as I’ve learned to present myself differently or maybe as I've become a more familiar figure in the community. Still there are times that I have to swallow my pride and tell the potential client to trust me to guide them through this crazy AV world. If I still get resistance, I throw in some fancy jargon proving that I’ve been around the proverbial block.
Our technology landscape changed in the last decade. No longer do mammoth TVs take up the entire living room. No longer are there multiple knobs and levers on units with a demand for power-hungry 5-foot speakers. Today’s rooms are a sleek balance of TVs designed to fit within the rest of the space. Remotes can not only turn on the TV and change the channel, but they can control lighting, temperature, media boxes, and more. The AV specialist is responsible for much more than audio-video; we have become lifestyle specialists.
For these reasons, my company now employs a “retail goddess.” She actually has that title on her business cards). She answers the phones, deals with clients, follows up after the sale, and so much more. She has become a huge asset to the company and a friendly face for customers.
Late last year we hired our first female installer. Full disclosure, she also happens to be my sister; it is as if she were bred for this job. Currently, the females here match the males in overall numbers. I realize how rare this is in our business, but I’m here to tell you that it is a good thing. Consider adding a lady or two to your company. I’ll give you three reasons why this approach makes sense.
1) Women understand the mind of the client, especially the wife.
There are some great guys in this business—wonderful guys who are a pleasure to be around. Then there are the others. Not all technical people were meant to deal with clients. In walks a friendly female that understands the pressures of life (balancing work and kids, or kids and activities, or work and work.) Women also tend to be less threatening. This makes them excellent trainers, as well as a friendly voice to answer the phone.
2) Women offer a different perspective
My most over-used phrase at the company is from Tony Fadell, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Technicians are smart guys and can often take a paperclip and gum wrapper to fix any issue (well, the good ones can). However, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” We should always be seeking the right solution verses placing a Band-Aid on the issue. Clients will not always agree to the budget of doing things the “right way,” but this should not stop us from providing it. Having ladies in the mix can often offer a new perspective on the system and how it will be used. I have found that women are more likely to take a step back to look at the situation from a different perspective, and this can help provide a proper solution.
3) Women understand the balance of life
Women understand the concept of balancing the AV into the home instead of making it a dominant theme. In other words, the technology should better everyone's world, not overwhelm it. A woman on your team will be less likely to sell the biggest speakers, but speakers that sound great and look good in the space. She won't quote the largest TV, but the “right” TV for the room, and this will equate to a happier client, which will manifest itself into a long-term client. Having this sense of balance in your company can help you better fix issues in clients’ homes and lives, rather than just selling products.
Can only women provide these advantages? Absolutely not, but having a lady or two on your team will diversify your company, and chances are this will help grow it as well. Plus, we’re just fun to have around.
Heather L. Sidorowicz is the president of Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.