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IWD 2022: Celebrating the women who make Event Genius

James Kilpin
8 Mar
2022
min read


In honour of International Women's Day and the spirit of celebrating achievement, we took the opportunity to ask just a handful of the incredible women at Event Genius what the day means to them, discussing the crucial work that still needs to be done to make the live events industry more welcoming, accessible, inclusive, and fair at all levels, as well as highlighting their proudest moments, biggest obstacles, role models and more.

Holli Bennett – Senior Client Success Manager

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

A celebration of how amazing and strong women of all races, shapes and sizes are, pushing the boundaries and smashing their goals.

What would you change about the live events industry for women if you could?

I would love to change the way women are treated at live shows, and make it a much safer environment for them. As someone who goes to shows and festivals on a weekly basis, I’ve had my fair share of unwanted physical and verbal attention from the opposite sex, and have been made to feel super uncomfortable. Making shows safer for women is imperative.

What barriers have you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?

This industry is dominated by men. It’s changed a lot in the last few years but overall it’s still very much an uneven split. I’m still trying to overcome these barriers in my own career by proving that I’m just as capable, if not more, than others within the company

What has been your proudest achievement in your career so far?

My proudest achievement in my career so far is definitely being shortlisted for the Unsung Hero award [at the Festival Supplier Awards]. It was a complete shock and I was so incredibly humbled to even be nominated, let alone shortlisted.

What advice would you give to women about their careers, particularly those interested in working in the live events industry?

Just keep pushing, don’t take no for an answer and prove your worth. It’s not easy, and comes with a lot of struggles but it’s so rewarding when you achieve your goals.

How can the live events industry attract more women?

Make them safer and more inclusive!

Paula Schvartzman – Business Development Representative

What does International Women’s Day mean to you? 

To me International Women’s Day is a day of activism. It’s a day to think about how being a woman will impact your life, a day to remember those women whose lives have been heavily impacted or unjustly taken simply because they were women, it’s a day to remind people that gender equality and intersectionality is a matter of basic human rights.

What would you change about the live events industry for women if you could? 

I’d change the culture and probably take out from the equation those people that think it is okay to discriminate against us and who believe we are there to entertain them. I would also change how we’re educated on how to deal with uncomfortable conversations surrounding gender, sexuality, race, disabilities, etc.. I would just make the industry (and the world if I could) a more inclusive and tolerant place.

What barriers have you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?
 

As a white woman from a fairly stable background, I am privileged enough that I have not faced significant barriers and I have had a lot of support from my family as well as mentors. I have faced sexist behaviour but that has not stopped me from believing that I can get to wherever I want no matter who I am. However, I know there are a lot of women out there who have not had the luck and the privilege I have, so I think my main challenge is how can I use my voice to create change and welcome so many other women from different backgrounds into this industry.

What has been your proudest achievement in your career so far?
 

My proudest achievement is being able to land a role in an industry I am passionate about, and doing so at a company where I feel valued and supported as a person first and foremost.

Can you tell us about a role model or mentor who has inspired you over your career? 

I only realised recently that my true role model is my mum. Not only in life but also career-wise, she is a woman in leadership who now represents an entire institution in Spain, and who has always bet everything on diplomacy, tolerance and communication. Though she is not in the music industry, I aspire to lead as she leads one day.

What advice would you give to women about their careers, particularly those interested in working in the live events industry? 

Believe you can get to where you want to no matter how hard it is to get there and talk to other women in the industry (reach out to me if you want to too!). You are so much more than a woman, you’re a person and a professional with amazing skills so never stop pushing yourself!

How can the live events industry attract more women? 

There are so many things we can do to attract more women but I think first and foremost we ALL need to accept that we live in a society where racial, gender-related, and ableist issues are deeply ingrained in the workings of how we interact with each other, and we ALL need to take part in the conversation, and LISTEN to the experiences of others who are not the same as you.

Jess McDonagh – Enablement Manager

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

The theme this year is ‘Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow'. One of my oldest friends likes to say that ‘we’re equal but not the same’ and I am here for it! No matter what your gender, you are of equal value and importance. This doesn’t mean that you have the same needs or viewpoints, or that you’re better or worse, but that you have equal space to share and be met with respect. 

It means supporting all the amazing women and organisations I see crushing it - whether that’s through winning or navigating failure, and doing their best to keep going, day by day. It means recognising all the men who stand up and hold themselves accountable as allies to all genders. It means being aware of the fact that my worries as a privileged white woman in Ireland don’t include human rights violations, at the same time as recognising we have a long way to go before equality - even in terms of safety at night - is reached. 

What would you change about the live events industry for women if you could?

There’s a lot happening in the events world with women at the forefront. Primavera’s last festival was consciously 50/50 in male/female performances.Sonar’s festival staff are 50/50. Mad Cool’s head booker Cindy Castillo Nunez is CEO and founder of Gigantic Music Management. Annie Mac Presents Lost and Found is one of the hottest tickets we do at EventGenius. I’d like to see more women and non-binary figures at the helm as the norm instead of the exception, and continued recognition of their deserving to be there.

Can you tell us about a role model or mentor who has inspired you over your career?

My mother was my first inspiration. She studied and set up her own business as a state-certified child care provider, with two small kids of her own. She’s fostered children, sat on school and child protection boards, coached them for community sports and been involved in local Church groups. Despite being religious herself, she’s open-minded and respectful of all religions, creeds and beliefs, and doesn’t lay on that Irish Catholic guilt!

I feel like her example was going after whatever it is that you really want – not necessarily fearlessly, but in spite of your fears – is possible without compromising your values. It might be hard work, but you CAN do it and you SHOULD do it.

What advice would you give to women about their careers, particularly those interested in working in the live events industry?

You need to be tough to work in any field in events – it’s fast paced, long hours and a million things can and will go wrong. That said, ‘having a thick skin’ is becoming less necessary. I’m seeing more space for women to be themselves, and less need to hide or recess their work, alongside less tolerance of sexism. It’s the best industry in the world, whether you’re into tech, engineering, logistics, data, or the love of live events themselves you can find a role, so don’t hesitate to speak up, speak your mind, put in the work, and most importantly, enjoy it.

Alex Chum - Client Success Manager

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

 International Women's day stands as a reminder for me. A reminder to celebrate, acknowledge, support and give thanks to those who have made an impact on my life, not just on a personal and professional level, but also globally. There are women every day fighting on our behalf right now, who's ideas, inspiration and actions will positively impact future generations of women. 

What would you change about the live events industry for women if you could?

More women in senior management positions. A lot of the event teams I have worked for in the past, middle management roles were dominated by women, but I kept seeing a pattern of top level management positions being held by our male counterparts, and I didn't really see many I could aspire to or ask for mentorship in that respect.

I'd love to see easier access to funding pathways, grant application support or even internal support from businesses to pursue impactful ideas. Some incredible female-led projects were developed during the pandemic which are now coming to fruition as the industry gets back on its feet. One such is the 'Respect & Reset' female-led project, who travelled to Saudi to confront harassment at SoundStorm MDLBEAST. That's a real change, having a real impact for women looking to go to events safely - which is worth mentioning is a global issue in events, not just in that region. 

What barriers have you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?

There have been times on site, where as a woman leading predominantly male teams i.e security teams, or build crews for example, where I really struggled to lead effectively. Up until my mid 20s I had a crippling fear of speaking in public so delivering a daily briefing to a large rowdy group, or heated confrontation was my idea of hell, and was a real mental barrier. So finding my voice and shutting off that feeling of being an imposter was a real turning point for me. These days I can roll off a briefing in my sleep, and scream at the scariest crew boss on site if needs be :)

What has been your proudest achievement in your career so far?

There are too many proud moments where I look back and think, 'Wow, we really did that'. So many times where my teams would be running on no sleep after working all night, or building sites in horrendous weather conditions, times where I would hide myself away and hit breaking points due to the stress of making the tough decisions. So I guess my proudest achievement is hanging in there for all these years to a career and industry I love, when I wanted to give up a thousand times, and to keep finding the drive to progress.

Can you tell us about a role model or mentor who has inspired you over your career?

There have been a group of women throughout my career who I will always shout out: Lou Moore from Boomtown who gave me my start in festivals, and an absolute weapon when it comes to access control. Crushes data for breakfast. Jaz House from Glastonbury, a force of nature that makes you want to push yourself to be better, by watching her smash through a workload that would strike terror in most. Judy Bec, someone who can look at a total disaster unfolding and come up with a plan to fix it with a calm only experience can bring. I could go on as there are many but those are the MVP's who imprinted on the way I conduct myself today.

What advice would you give to women about their careers, particularly those interested in working in the live events industry?

Never ever be made to believe that your time is not valuable. There are those who will take advantage of the fact you're just getting started in regards to pay and hours. Know your worth, and know employment law. Network in industry groups online and in person - the great thing about our industry is that it's filled with amazing people willing to give advice, support and opportunities. Also, and I can't stress this enough, invest time into becoming an Excel genius.

How can the live events industry attract more women?

Approximately 80% of the event workforce are women, so I don't think the industry struggles in attracting talent. What we do need to focus on is diversifying, investing in, developing and elevating the female talent we already have so they are able to reach those top jobs. 

We as a whole also need to continue closing the gender pay gap, by businesses being more transparent and fair with rates of pay, and also by developing and enforcing industry pay guidelines especially for freelancers. It's 2022, so pay the ladies, or lose talent. No brainer right? Duh.

Victoria Huzzey – Customer Experience Director

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It stands for showing how far we have come as a world but also how far we have to go within the working industry.

What would you change about the live events industry for women if you could? 

There needs to be more senior women within roles across the industry to give other women the chance to shine.

What barriers have you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?
 

Having children has made it so sometimes it’s not always possible to be seen as equal, as it’s not always been possible to progress as wished due to putting children first. However, staying positive, and proactive has enabled me to get to a position I want to be in.

What has been your proudest achievement in your career so far? 

Becoming a customer experience director and being supported by an amazing team that I feel I can help to achieve our goals.

Can you tell us about a role model or mentor who has inspired you over your career? 

A lady who was about to retire when I started was firm but fair and taught me to treat customers and colleagues how I would want to be treated this has helped me throughout my career

What advice would you give to women about their careers, particularly those interested in working in the live events industry?

Be positive, helpful and strong! Earn respect don’t demand it.

How can the live events industry attract more women?

Be flexible and open to support all requirements that come with being a woman.

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