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Editor’s Letter: Women in Events

POSTED

2 Aug 2021

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Written By Victoria Garside

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A key part of Gig Nation’s original concept was the inclusion of monthly editorial themes. Special feature articles centered around a specific topic each month. To highlight important topics of discussion, spotlight specific events, venues and event people, and try to push boundaries for the future of our industry in a collaborative forum.

The original plan was to launch Gig Nation at the start of July but, in practice, that wasn’t meant to be. The official launch was postponed to the end of July and so turned my focus from the July issue of our Editorial Calendar to our pre-determined August issue: Women in Events.

One or two of my inner circle, people whose counsel I wholeheartedly rely on and respect, warned me with the best of intentions that focusing solely on an entire gender for my maiden-feature issue might be segregating my audience straight off the bat. I could understand and appreciate the reasons behind this advice, stewed on it for a couple of weeks trying to weigh up the pros and cons in my own mind. I came to the realisation that my concern was very poignant in and of itself! Perhaps this was fate at work. “The August theme stands.”, I said. “Let’s kick-off with Women in Events.”

Let me be clear: Gig Nation is an inclusive platform for all genders, all people from all walks of life who work in public events. I wouldn’t consider my personal views on feminism as radical. I believe in gender equality, not women having more rights than men. But all evidence shows that, despite the undeniably major strides we’ve made together as a modern society, there is still work to be done. And with that indisputable fact in mind, damn right we’re dedicating our entire month to Women in Events – and you guys should especially take the time to read our features too!

Reflecting on my own career to date, I wouldn’t change any of my experience for the world. I am deeply passionate about our phenomenal industry and have had the absolute pleasure to work with so many interesting, innovative, and forward-thinking individuals as part of it – I couldn’t imagine myself in any other field where I’d be attributing so many #lovemyjob hashtags to my social posts!

That said, I have battled my own issues with my industry at times throughout the years. Working in the male-dominated world of set-building, staging and AV for the majority of my career, I have absolutely witnessed gender bias firsthand. I have been guilty of defending such biases too, putting it down to “it’s just the way they were brought up” or “it wasn’t intentional so it’s okay”. But the fact of the matter is, it’s not okay. Our staff writer, who writes our “Gender Gaps in the Events Industry” feature this month, sums it up best: “Cultural changes need to incorporate the unlearning of gender biases and stereotypes”. We all have a role to play in changing old, ingrained culture, and “not meaning to be” gender biased is just not an acceptable excuse anymore.

In my own experience, the idea of having a technical aptitude often had masculine connotations attached to it. Women do well in producer roles, operations, staffing, marketing, business administration, but there is largely a lack of female representation across the technical delivery aspect of events. Not just in the physically demanding roles like rigging, scaffolding, carpentry and so on, but also in technical white-collar positions; engineering, CAD drafting, production and technical management to name a few.

Jane Becker, a successful artist and scenic workshop manager, writes in her personal essay feature this month that “workshops are traditionally blokey places” whilst Jo McAvenna, a Gold Coast movie worker interviewed by Abi Tabone for our special feature on female riggers, calls entertainment rigging “the quintessentially male dominated trade”. It would be great to see a larger balance of genders across these industries in future.

You’d be hard pushed to find a single woman in these kinds of roles seeking sympathy or help, and they certainly aren’t interested in being victimised. I love how rigger, Gillian Huxley, put it in our female riggers feature, saying: “Truthfully I have never been ‘the girl over there’, or ‘that woman who does this job’ or the ‘token female’. I am pretty certain I’m a rigger.”

Her reaction is unsurprisingly steadfast. After all, to be a female succeeding in such a testosterone-heavy “trade” would undoubtedly take some ‘balls’, right!?

Incidentally, I watched a hilariously accurate TikTok the other week which beautifully described the gender bias we keep alive today by continuing to use the phrase “you’ve got balls”. And it’s so true when you think about it! Our culture calls you a “pussy” if you’re weak or feeble, but “you’ve got balls” if you’re strong or brave. In reality though, when you really take a moment to think about the anatomy of those gender-based words; men’s genitals are notoriously sensitive and easily hurt, whilst a female’s genitalia is strong enough to be (literally) ripped open during childbirth! You see the bias? It’s phrases like this that will take some real effort from all of us as individuals – me included – to “unlearn”.

Whilst advocating for gender equality is the underlying message of dedicating an entire issue to Women in Events, our primary directive is to showcase inspirational women, who are all industry role models in our humble opinion, and to help influence the next generation of female leaders who will be kicking major goals for our industry in future.

You will find this issue full of great advice and experiences from an eclectic assortment of influential females. Kate Smith’s advice on being a female leader in our industry is edifying. Discussing democratic management styles and the importance of paying attention to admirable leaders you’re working with right now, she explains the value of a little self-reflection to further your own career.

At the time of writing, I’m sitting at my desk in the corner of my living room looking out over Botany Bay in Sydney. I was musing how few airplanes I see these days from my balcony, but to be honest I’m far more concerned by the fact that we’ve just had our lockdown extended by another 4 weeks. Mental health is just as important as anything else, and it’s heartbreaking to see how isolation and the lack of event work during this pandemic has been wreaking havoc on so many lives and livelihoods.

It’s quite a contrast to the silly season ‘burnout’ that we’re all usually experiencing around now. Would I be crazy if I said I miss that? Well, yes that would be crazy. Jamming the majority of our work schedule into a seasonal few months, back-to-back events and all the unsociable work hours, the ‘burnout’ is a very real issue that affects our industry workers. Support Act’s National Welfare Coordinator, Anne Jacobs, writes an informative piece for us this month on “How to beat burnout”. I think we all can, and should, take a moment during this downtime to explore what each of us view as work-life balance, and prepare ourselves for when we do finally return to the madness!

As tennis star, Serena Williams, once said, “Every woman’s success should be an inspiration to another. We’re strongest when we cheer each other on”. In the spirit of that statement, I hope you enjoy this month’s special features championing our awesome Women in Events.

Come on boys, I challenge you all to get involved in this too! Write to me at [email protected] and tell what you think about this month’s features!

And stay tuned for next month when we turn our attention to the Environment. We’ll be exploring current environmental management in the events industry and how we can do better for the future.

All Photos: Unsplash

Written by Victoria Garside

Victoria combined more than 16 years of events experience with her love of creative media to found Gig Nation. She has worked in various roles across hundreds of events in her career. Some of her favs included Future Music Festival, Opera on Sydney Harbour, Foo Fighters in Concert, and Sydney NYE.

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