Interview with Carys Green: Gender Equality and Diversity in the AV Industry
At Shure, we are strongly committed to Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access which continues to extend across all areas of the Shure community and is not bounded by country, region, facility, or division. We embrace and celebrate our differences worldwide and focus on creating a more diverse workplace in every department and at all levels of our company.
One of our goals at Shure is to achieve gender equality within our company on a global level, empower the industries we are a part of to do the same and create a safe workplace for our associates and stakeholders from all genders. As part of this effort, we had an interview with Carys Green, AVIXA Women’s Council Leader in the UK and currently our first and only Regional Sales Manager in Western Europe. This fact and Carys’s experiences in her 15+ years career show us that as Shure and as the whole AV industry, we have a long way to go, but we are in the right direction.
Simay Köker: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Carys Green: I’m currently based in the UK and I recently started working as a Regional Sales Manager at Shure. I studied human geography which is about people and places and includes elements from sociology, politics, travel and tourism. Although I enjoyed my degree, I didn’t feel enthusiastic about doing something in this field after university. I applied for different graduate training schemes and I started the one for John Lewis which is a large department store chain in the UK. I really enjoyed being this close to customers as I’m a people person but after 18 months, I decided that retail wasn’t the environment I was looking for due to the late night and weekend shifts, especially since I was in my early 20s at that point.
I started speaking to some recruitment consultants about new opportunities and one of them offered me a job at their company. I did IT recruitment for 3-4 years and then I started working for Maverick, an audio-visual distribution company as an account manager. This was my first role in the AV industry in 2005 and I really enjoyed working there, especially the atmosphere and working in a busy sales environment. The team was really friendly and the technology was really new to me. The very first interactive whiteboards were just emerging at that point so it was a very exciting time. I loved that the technology was always emerging and changing to better serve customers and end-users needs.
I had my first son in 2007, which was the same time that Maverick went into administration and were bought by Tech Data and unfortunately, I was made redundant. Following this, I worked for another distributor for a few years and then for several System Integrators, predominantly in the meeting room space. I was mostly working on projects to supply meeting room solutions with screens, audio, video conferencing, the whole package. I got to work with a broad depth of different clients over the years such as charities, schools, high-end large corporates. I enjoy seeing how technology can help people in all these different environments.
Then in June 2021, I started working at Shure. My role here is to look after 5 of our direct accounts in the UK and to focus on Higher Education. We’ve already got good relationships in higher education and there is a number of universities that use our products but we haven’t previously specifically focused on higher education and there hasn’t been a person to look after this sector. James Hill saw this need and now this is a new role for Shure, which means that it’s a role to make my own and it is very exciting. I reach out to different universities, attend different tradeshows and events, work with PR and marketing teams to push Shure content and thought leadership into publications and online media that people in higher education look for their research and information.
Simay Köker: Sounds exciting indeed. Would you say that it was a coincidence that you got into the AV industry or have you always had this interest in technology?
Carys Green: I’m not particularly tech-minded. I was made redundant; I needed a new job and the recruitment company I was working with had a role that seemed like a good fit to me. However, once I got involved, I found out that I really enjoyed working with technology and I’d still say I’m not the most technically minded person but I can talk to the end-users about what they want and what they want to achieve. Then I can go to the application engineers, explain what the end-user needs and build a solution. I kind of act like a “bridge” between the end-user and the technical teams.
Simay Köker: Coming from a totally different background - what kind of challenges did you face when you first entered the industry? Did you feel like some of these challenges were related to being a woman?
Carys Green: I think the first hurdle was to get up to speed with the technology. But I had some great mentors at Maverick and I got my CTS certificate within the first year of getting into the tech industry. I would say some of the most senior males I have encountered – mostly customers rather than colleagues – did make me feel inferior. They would direct questions to male colleagues instead of me. But over time, as I grew more confident, I learned to respond to that better. Rather than taking it personally, I would go to them and ensure that they know how capable I was and that being a woman is not a barrier to being successful in the industry. I have never been rude to anyone but there were some occasions where a colleague has made me feel uncomfortable and had made a joke out of it to point out in a lighthearted way that those opinions are outdated. Unfortunately, as women, we need to work harder and promote ourselves to be taken seriously.
However, the biggest challenge I have encountered in my career was when I was returning to work after being made redundant. Normally after maternity leave, it's quite common to negotiate a part-time position or flexible working hours. Since I had to find a new job, it was extremely difficult to find a job with these conditions and it was very hard for me to work full-time with a baby. I was in the end lucky to work with companies that allowed some flexibility but it took a long time to find them.
I think in the last 14 years since I’ve had my first son, the options and conditions have improved, both for mothers and fathers. Now families can balance responsibilities more rather than everything falling on the mother. Now I’m at Shure when my boys are older, Shure is being very supportive and realistic about flexible working hours. If you need to drop your kid at school, this is not a problem as long as you do your responsibilities. Also, the pandemic has taught people that home working and flexible working totally work.
Simay Köker: Do you have any tips on how to get more men engaged in the gender equality conversation? Are there any specific strategies that AVIXA Women’s Council follows?
Carys Green: I do feel that a lot of men still don’t understand the issues that women in this industry or even in the broader business world are facing. They may think that they are inclusive and talk to everyone at the same level. We need men to join the conversation to understand the issues we are all facing and we have to encourage them to attend our events, otherwise we are just talking to ourselves. We already know what the issues are and we need men on board to help us address them.
We have predominantly female speakers at the AVIXA Women’s Council events because we want to hear from inspiring women who have done well in their careers, to hear their stories and how they’ve overcome issues. However, it’s important to hear from male speakers as well. Perhaps there are women who they have mentored or helped grow in their careers. This can help attract more men to the events.
Prior to me being involved in the AVIXA Women’s Council, there was a movement in the UK called “Women in AV” which was started and grown by Abigail Brown. I knew Abigail through the industry and then we became very close friends. At first, I was thinking “Why do we need a women’s group? I want to be recognized for my own abilities and skills, and not because I’m a woman.” Since I was close friends with Abigail, I still went to the events to support her and I actually gained so much from it with the different people I met, the amazing speakers we had along and it did give me a lot of confidence that improved my network. 7-8 years ago, we would have around 10 people in our events and after a period of time, we got to a point where we had over 100 people. Once it got that momentum, men started attending as well and started taking notice.
Very sadly, Abigail passed away in 2019 and there was a group of us that really wanted to carry on her work. We continued with The Women in AV for a while. In the meantime, the AVIXA Women’s Council was doing a lot of great things in the US so we approached them about doing an AVIXA Women’s Council chapter in the UK. With their support, we were able to get a lot of resources, a proper internet portal, access to training and so on. We encourage anyone across Europe to attend our events online or physically. There is also a chapter in Germany and I hope there will be more across Europe in time.
Simay Köker: Is there something you know now, as a woman with 16 years of experience in the industry, that you wish you had known earlier in your career? Do you have any advice for young women who are just starting their career in this industry or dreaming of it?
Carys Green: I wish I had known that I am capable, I am good enough, I can be a great mum and I can have a successful career alongside it. I wish I had believed in myself more and pushed myself forward. Abigail Brown was a huge influence for me on this. She was such a positive, inspiring person who is always looking to support people, introduce people who she thought might be a good connection for each other. Since meeting her, I’ve got a lot more self-belief and the ability to promote myself without feeling “Am I good enough?”.
I would advise young women who are starting their careers to surround themselves with positive people, people who inspire and encourage them. Grow your network within your company and the industry and always be true to yourself. Watch the inspiring women around you and soak up what they are doing. There are a lot of successful women in senior roles at Shure and we have such a great role model in our CEO Christine Schyvinck. It’s about being confident and believing in yourself and your abilities and not being knocked down by other people, which can be hard sometimes. However, if you believe in yourself, you can prove to others that you are more than capable.
My final point would be don’t afraid to fail, we always make mistakes but what really matters is how we respond to them and how we learn from them.