On March 19, 2021, AVIXA officially announced its commitment to building a culture of inclusion and the AV Industry Pledge for an Equitable Future. This important endeavor began almost a year ago by a group of AVIXA employees who raised their hands and said they wanted to make a difference. This Diversity Task Force in collaboration with AVIXA’s Diversity Council, founded in 2018, rolled up their sleeves and said how can we as people and an industry help create a world that embraces individuals from all backgrounds?
Members of that task force, AVIXA’s Rochelle Richardson, senior vice president, Exhibition and Event Services; Narin Nara, digital media producer; and April Peay, project manager, sat down virtually with AVNetwork to share in their own words why this initiative will lead us down a brighter path.
AVN: What motivated you to join the call for change in the pro AV industry?
ROCHELLE RICHARDSON: It is imperative to amplify the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and what better way to do that than to unite with others that share a similar passion to improve diversity in our workplace and industry? It is important to me to be a part of AVIXA’s Diversity Task Force to be a voice that represents all, provide solutions, and to have a heart of compassion to understand the needs of others and the courage to take action.
NARIN NARA: When a call was made to bring together a group of volunteers to be a part of the task force, I knew I had get involved in order to do what I can to help promote diversity and equity in our industry when it comes to BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, those with disabilities, and our veterans. Last year, as we reached a heightened level of awareness of racial injustice, I was motivated to do my part to ensure that people understand what is going on in our society and that Black lives matter. Period. I’m determined to help build a culture of inclusion within our industry. The Diversity Task Force, in conjunction with the Diversity Council, is a good start for this journey.
AVN: Who works on the Diversity Task Force and how do you collaborate with others?
RR: AVIXA’s Diversity Task Force consists of a diverse group of individuals collaborating and engaging together to discuss and bring awareness to systemic racism and the need to create a better world by committing to be the catalyst for change, establishing measurable goals, and being authentic to share the progress with AVIXA and our industry. The Task Force members volunteered many hours working together to formulate ideas that helped to create the initial framework for AVIXA’s culture of inclusion. This initiative includes the acceleration of diverse representation on global stages and presentations, self-guided resources, training, and an inclusive language guide.
APRIL PEAY: The members of the AVIXA Diversity Task Force are not experts on diversity. We are not sociologists or psychologists, so our goal is not to dictate actions to our members in the AV industry. Instead, we want our efforts to guide and inspire more diversity, inclusivity, and equity within the AV industry.
NN: Collaborating with the task force really opened my eyes—there was a lot I learned about appropriate ways to approach nomenclature and language when it comes to what we do. I enjoyed learning more about my peers who I don’t normally work with, and it was an educational and rewarding experience that certainly builds more awareness for all involved.
AVN: What are you most proud of when it comes to your diversity initiatives?
RR: Diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives must be a part of the overall strategy in order to be successful and it starts at the top. I am proud that AVIXA’s CEO David Labuskes is committed to this action, that we launched this initiative at a critical time for our industry, and that we created an opportunity for everyone in the AV industry to take the AV Pledge for an Equitable Future and be a part of the solution.
NN: I helped in different areas, specifically the content side of things. I was able to feature some of the great interviews I’ve done in the past, such as my interviews with Chris Hope of The Loop Lab and Latoya Lewis of EnventU, which highlight the stories of these great leaders in our industry who inspire the future of the AV workforce. The part I’m particularly excited about is the pledge. I think it is a fantastic way to get the word out there about this initiative, but the part of it that is most important for us is that it encourages the person taking the pledge to continue to take action, to promote the cause, and to be a real difference maker for the industry when it comes to embracing change in AV.
AP: I’m proud of how well we all work together as a group and the respect that we have for each other. I am particularly proud of the inclusive language guide. That’s the project that I am leading. I think it is the simplest, most tangible way for folks to start thinking clearly about equity and inclusivity within their organizations. Doing the research and making the connections necessary to get what I wanted for the guide has taken me on quite an enlightening journey. I’ve learned so much and look forward to continuing to evolve the guide as language, the AV industry, and society continue to evolve.
AVN: How do you plan to impact change for the future?
NN: We want people to talk the talk, to walk the walk, and to be there for their peers. Unfortunately, we’re not in a world where we can make change happen overnight. We can, however, help to provide a platform. Whether it is people learning more about inclusivity through our resources or taking the pledge to stand up for their peers, we want to see people talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion with passion and great vigor. I want to see people champion for human rights and a better tomorrow!
AP: I hope to see more signatories of our DEI pledge, and for those signatories to share with the industry the actions they’re taking to improve diversity and inclusion within their organizations. Sharing is the most important part as that will help other organizations and ultimately the industry as a whole.
NN : As a member of the Asian-American community, we’ve seen recently the effects that racism and hate-driven narrative on people. It has caused pain, heartbreak, and in the case of the Atlanta spas, a loss of innocent family members. It’s been several months since we’ve started work with the Diversity Task Force, but one thing is clear as the months pass by—there will unfortunately always be injustice and evil in the form of hate. This is why educating people on diversity, equity, and inclusion is so important. We need to continue to educate people and show them that love, compassion, and understanding the diverse cultures of the world, will always win. Hate has no place in our society, but what most certainly has a place in everyone’s hearts is appreciation for our peers and celebrating what makes us all unique.
Editor's Note: For more information on AVIXA's diversity efforts, visit avixa.org/about-us/a-culture-of-inclusion.