In honor of Women in Consumer Electronics month in October, CEDIA hosted an all-female group of guests on the CEDIA Podcast. The conversation hosted by Walt Zerbe, CEDIA’s Senior Director of Technology & Standards and co-hosted by Jessica Guyon, CEDIA’s Content Manager, welcomed Amanda Wildman of TruMedia, Heather Sidorowicz of Southtown AV, Jamie Restrepo of Restrepo Innovations, and Wendy Griffiths, CEDIA's Vice President of Member Engagement and Global Development.
The conversation began with everyone’s origin stories in the tech world—all of which span nearly two decades or more. Restrepo originally began working in IT on the commercial side of the business in 2005 before transitioning to home automation. Sidorowicz essentially grew up in her father’s HiFi shop in the mid-80s and admits she was the least likely of her siblings to get involved, but today acts as President of the company. Wildman says TruMedia started as a satellite installation business before she and her husband decided to take the leap into the residential A/V world in 2014. Griffiths says she used to organize the National Music Show in Wembley and worked primarily in professional audio before finding her way to CEDIA some 20 years ago. With such rich career histories, these women have witnessed a complete evolution in the technology, professionals, and clients that make up the CI industry.
Restrepo says that today’s clients are savvier than ever, which can be both a good and bad thing. Sometimes they know exactly what they want which can make her job easier while other times they request something that is simply impossible given their circumstances. Through in-depth conversations with clients, she is able to peel back the layers on what is possible based on their home, lifestyle, and budget to create a solution best suited for them.
Sidorowicz has found that the professionals in the industry have become significantly more accepting of women than in decades past. She recalled an instance at a trade show where a representative bypassed her to speak with her father, assuming she wouldn’t know what she was talking about. Today, she is happy to report that these instances are far less common, whether she adorns her Southtown AV badge or a press badge at trade shows.
Wildman says she still encounters the occasional mistreatment from male clients. During one particular project, the male homeowner asked if Wildman was sure the house wouldn’t “blow up” from the technology she installed. The condescending comment stuck with her, but the best revenge has been her work performing flawlessly for her clients.
While the group agreed that female inclusion has seen vast improvement in non-traditional fields like technology, there remains work to be done. Sidorowicz emphasized the importance of hiring women—even ones who aspire to start a family. Women have an incredible ability to multitask, she says, and allowing them the flexibility to raise children and build a career empowers them and creates a sense of loyalty within a company.
Wildman finds that women possess a sharp eye for detail, which is evident in the number of DIY projects they take on. She says to look to these women as potential hires because they will be the ones to ensure a project is neat and organized the first time around.
The group ended the conversation with a nod to the supportive men in the industry, including their own husbands, who champion them to strive for their career goals and raise their voice on important issues because a truly inclusive industry requires action from everyone.