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E4 Santa Clara: DEI Panel Brings Dialogue And Insight To Critical Issues

When it comes to cultivating diversity, equity and inclusion in the AV industry, it is everyone’s responsibility

DEI Panel at E4 Santa Clara (image credit: Grant Morgan/Future)

When it comes to cultivating diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace, it is everyone’s responsibility.

A major highlight during the 2023 Exertis Almo E4 Experience in Santa Clara, CA was the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Round Table Panel, titled: “How to Start a Dialogue about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in Your Organization.” It was moderated by Melody Craigmyle, Vice President, Marketing & Communication at Almo Corporation, and panel experts included Kim Lonas, Global Diversity and Inclusion Program Lead, DCC Technology / Exertis Group, Alesia Hendley Business Development Manager at Sennheiser, and Rob Voorhees, Business Development Manager for Exertis Almo.

The panel aimed to lead an open conversation about what DEI is and why it is necessary for companies and AV professionals to embrace and champion DEI to thrive – and they more than delivered.

“Diversity is more than gender. It’s more than race. There are a lot of layers to diversity,” said Lonas in her opening remarks. “We’re in the business of experience design and a lot of people take that differently,” Hendley added. “It boils down to creating an experience and being mindful of everyone in that experience, then being proactive. A company might not have any type of diversity yet, but design for the future, design for the culture that you want, I think that’s extremely powerful and we have the power to do that in AV.”

As the panel continued, the questions revolved around how AV professionals can take action to bring DEI into AV, and how AV products play a role in helping create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce.

“I think the most key components are building awareness and education, and furthering that education because it shouldn’t stop and start with HR,” said Voorhees. “The one thing that I’ve learned from my daughter who’s on the autism spectrum, and she’s getting out into the job market now, is she only applies at businesses that she thinks are going to be accepting of her. And I asked “How do you know if they’re accepting of you?”, and she said “I go on their website. I look at what some of their presses are about, are they already taking steps to get out there and get the message out.”

“I think the first thing is finding out what your company is currently doing,” Lonas added. “Do they have programs in place? You can start with your senior leadership, and you can start with your human resource department. A lot of time DEI will sit within human resources, but it shouldn’t be tasked to HR – it should be enabled by human resources. People within the company at different levels and different positions should be able to support the initiatives and find out what’s important to your company and then start the conversation and find out what’s the priority and how you can align because there are a lot of benefits to DEI in the workplace and from a customer-based standpoint.”

“People [shouldn’t] feel it has to be a task, there should be something that’s free-flowing and you’re able to discuss internally with leadership and not just HR,” Hendley agreed.

DEI is such an essential part of the modern workplace, and AV Professionals have a unique place to make a difference in their clients’ lives and workplaces. “We just have to be focused on ADA compliance – but not as an afterthought,” said Hendley. “There are a lot of other avenues to diversity and we have the technologies that we can implement into these spaces to help these spaces more inclusive. When you go into your client’s space, how are you looking at the technology you’re implementing into a space and are you looking at it from a diverse perspective? How is it affecting people that are sensitive to light? How are people that may be hard of hearing be included in conversations and feel a part of the company? I think sometimes it’s [DEI] been on the back burner when you’re going into a space and you think, “Oh, wheelchair accessible,” or if there’s a place with stairs, “elevators.”

“It’s about making for the customer experience or the end user really not just accommodating, but making it a great experience for them,” Craigmyle said. “In my opinion, that’s one of the great things AV can bring is that freedom for people or the enablement of them to be able to share in the experience.”

It’s always great to check out the latest tech at trade shows, especially the newest video cameras and displays with their stunning visuals, but, as Hendley counsels, “Always lead with the audio, it’s the most important communication. Everything that we do we’re honestly leading with the audio because that’s how we’re communicating across businesses, internally within our own businesses, with friends when we have online happy hour, right? We want to hear what people are saying so always lead with the audio. There’s a lot of ways to go about it, and I think it just depends on budget sometimes, too.”

You can watch the discussion in full with the video below, courtesy of Exertis Almo.

About Exertis Almo
Exertis Almo is the largest value-added North American Professional AV distributor offering its reseller partners the most expansive range of products, managed services, technical support and training to drive business growth and generate profits. Formed in 2022 following Exertis’ acquisition of Almo Corporation, Exertis Almo harnesses the combined sales, service, marketing and subject matter expertise of Almo Professional A/V and Exertis Pro AV to deliver customized business development strategies, programs and educational events that enable partners to thrive. With a highly-accomplished joint leadership team, more than 250 employees, 12 distribution facilities, and 2.7 million square feet of warehousing space, Exertis Almo provides the specialization and resources its partners need while maintaining the personal distribution approach they expect.

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