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Women In Event Tech: Mentors Matter

Women In Event Tech: Mentors Matter

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Within the past year, Alford has brought on two new members as part of our sales team, Candace Kemp, and Pam Schoen. As many are aware, event tech can be a male-dominated sphere, and we love to see women helping to grow the industry’s diversity, especially when those women are working at Alford. The current social climate is seeing a desire for women to pursue more roles in traditionally male atmospheres, particularly in tech. Because this greatly affects our industry, we want to join the conversation and be a port of call for women seeking event tech roles.

Being as Candace and Pam are some of our newest employees at Alford, we wanted to catch up with them to see what drew them to the event tech industry and how they’re adjusting to the burgundy culture.

Candace Kemp comes to us from a previous position as Account Executive for a company that specialized in trade shows. She credits her interest in event tech to her passion for music and the production of big stage shows. Candace is also a drummer for her Arizona based punk band, Innoculous, which plays once a month in venues like the Yucca Tap Room, Club Red, and Joe’s Grotto. When she isn’t playing in her band or traveling for work, Candace spends time with her three Corgis.

Candace has been in the event tech industry for 10 years now, with her current role being Business Development Manager. Her responsibilities include, “Building new partnerships and finding new business by way of prospecting and otherwise making those connections” said Candace. Curious to know what she thought about Alford versus previous companies she’s worked for, Candace noted, “There is a lot of transparency here that you wouldn’t find at other companies. Alford Media is not afraid to say how and why we do things and share those details with clients.”

One of the greatest barriers for women’s growth in the tech industry is said to be a lack of mentors. According to a survey by ISACA, 48 percent of women feel they lack a suitable mentor or female role model. These barriers only serve to prolong the lesser number of women in the tech industry. So, we asked Candace if she’s had any mentors over the course of her career, and how they may have helped nurture her skills. “Unofficially, I would say I have had mentors. Any director and director of sales that I have worked for, I’ve taken a piece of them with me throughout my entire career,” said Candace, “The best advice I’ve gotten was that you can be as proactive as you want, but you must learn how to best react in the moment of a challenge.”

In the spirit of mentorship, Candace shared with us what she felt would be indispensable advice for anyone interested in entering the event tech industry. “Expect the unexpected and be as thick-skinned as possible,” advised Candace, “Negotiating skills are a must, along with adaptability.”

Statistics from a 2015 study by the National Center for Women & Information Technology, states that 1991 was the peak year for women in tech roles, at 36 percent, but has since seen a steady decline. Candace, however, was hopeful about there being signs of an increased number of women in event tech roles, she said, “A lot of our clients tend to have women holding roles that are in charge of making those event decisions and I feel there’s some relatability there. Relatability for women to connect with other women.” Overall, in the meeting planner and producer fields of the event’s industry, there is a greater amount of diversity than in the technical realm. Candace also recognized that as a woman in the primarily male-dominated field of event tech, you can bring a different perspective and approach. Those differences offer the opportunity for better collaboration and new ideas.

Pam SchoenPam Schoen has had a diverse background in the event tech industry, starting out in a scenic role. As an artist, techie and overall handywoman, she loved to design, paint and literally weld sets into fruition. Pam is an avid outdoors-woman who owns and rides horses, hunts and often goes fishing on her property. She also enjoys watching football, Cowboys being her favorite team and plays in the Alford fantasy football league. Pam is a mother of three and enjoys drawing and reading in her free time.

Pam has been in the event tech industry since 2004 and has worked her way up over the course of her career, starting in scenic, moving to Assistant Producer, Producer and now Account Manager. Her responsibilities involve handling all aspects of financials while keeping the client satisfied and up to date on event details. When asked what drew her to this position with Alford, Pam mentions, “I was happy in my previous role and then Tom Alford pulled me aside and said he saw something in me. I hadn’t thought this would be something I wanted but I’ve always been of the mindset that when somebody you admire sees something in you, it’s worth giving it a shot. This role also gives me more flexibility as well as the ability to step away from the creative on-site show aspects of the event tech side, which has given me a much broader sense of the industry.”

According to Management Mentors, 80 percent of CEO’s polled stated they’ve had mentors during the course of their careers. Knowing this, we can assume that women would have a greater chance of advancing inside the tech industry if they were able to utilize a mentor, male or female. Pam has recently learned the value and importance of being such a role model. Coming from the Producer side of the industry, Pam has a unique perspective similar to our clients’ roles and can better anticipate their needs and questions. She is currently advising a few industry women, “Recently, some female producers have been asking me specific technical questions and they’re trusting me to advise aspects of their events,” said Pam, “After one of their shows, we sat down for a debrief and they listened to me and wrote down my suggestions. I couldn’t have known that helping these female producers was going be a part of this role, but I find it an exciting experience.”

We asked Pam what kind of advice she would give these women or any woman who desires to move up in the industry. Pam stated, “You have to know when to speak and you also have to have a strong sense of confidence. Be assertive and as powerful as any CEO sitting in front of you.”

More women in event tech are crucial for the industry to foster diversity and the improvement of equality standards. When we find that only 5 percent of women own startups, 7 percent of partners at top 100 venture capitalists are women, and that they hold just 11 percent of executive positions in Silicon Valley, we see a gender disparity. In the future, these percentages have to rise if we want to see a more inclusive workforce that young women are excited to join.

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