Underneath the Capitol dome, where the voice of the American people is meant to be at its loudest, a group of women gathered to reaffirm and discuss the weight that their voices carry and how they can best amplify it for themselves as individuals and as a united front.
Organized by the quartet of Women in Cable Telecommunications’ Washington, D.C./Baltimore chapter, Women in Consumer Technology, AVIXA, and Women in Entertainment, the inaugural “Your Voice Matters” event took place on Oct. 8. It was created with the mission to empower women at all levels in the professional industry to speak up and convey confidence to matters impacting their life, career and personal relationships.
“The inspiration was cooperation, collaboration, work together; everybody kind of jumped on board with the notion of this idea that your voice matters seemed like a natural progression,” said Carol Campbell, the founder of Women in Consumer Technology, about all of the organizations teaming up for the event.
“We’re here as much as champions as anybody else because … it’s our job to find a solution,” Campbell continued. “Enough already about pointing out the problem—we get it, we totally get it. Now it’s like what are you going to do about it? And so that’s what I think—we got nowhere to go but up; and that’s not just tech, it’s culture.”
The series of panels and presentations attempted to dive deeper into the problems that Campbell alluded to, including things like identifying your own voice and understanding the impact of your voice in legislation, the marketplace, and pop culture. But the largest panel of the day sought to address diversity and inclusion in the workplace and the different ways that women can continue to make strides in their professions.
The panel—which was moderated by Consumer Technology Association’s senior vice president of political and industry affairs Tiffany M. Moore and featured Jackie Coats of Innovative Human Resources; Kimberly Hulsey, director for the in-house practice group at MLA; and Heba Mahmoud, senior manager of diversity initiatives at CTA—discussed a number of different components that impact diversity and inclusion in the workplace, from what it means in general to the role of men allies. All agreed that one of the most important elements to creating greater diversity is creating a strong base mentality toward the benefits of it and that is supported from the top down.
“If you want different results, you’re going to have to do things differently,” said Hulsey.
Examples brought up by the panel included ways to remove possible biases in the application process, whether that be gender, education, or other; efforts from companies like IBM to create apprenticeship programs to grow their own talent; and instilling an interest in things like STEM for women and people of color throughout their educational career.
They all did bring it back to the title of the conference, emphasizing the importance of recognizing and pushing your voice. “To thine own self be true,” said Hulsey.
Coats echoed her: “What makes us different makes us special … those special unique qualities make the world a better, beautiful place.”
“The number one piece of advice is to use [your voice]; as your finding it, use it,” said Mahmoud. “How many times do you wish I could have said that or done that and you’re sitting in regret. I think it would be much better to just do it and maybe sit in embarrassment for a little while and move on or never having to wonder could my voice have created an impact. So use it.”
The day-long conference drew interest from all over the country, with attendees coming from Florida, Indiana, Michigan, and more.
“There are very few opportunities for us to network with other women in our industry, so I think having a forum for that and being able to talk to people who have been in the industry for a long time, people who are new to the industry, it creates a nice networking pool that you can reach out to,” said Olivia Sellke, director of public relations and industry relations for CEDIA.
Campbell was also inspired from the success of this initial gathering, especially as it was not associated with another event like some Women in Consumer Technology events have been in the past. “I think we’re all pretty inspired and pretty happy with the results in terms of our vision and organization of it, and its attraction,” she said.
While there is no follow up event planned in the immediate future, Campbell indicated that there likely will be future opportunities for women to continue to have their voice heard like it was in D.C. this past week.