Leonora Valvo, co-founder of Swoogo, and Marie-Claire Andrews, CEO at Morgo, on their experiences as women in tech and their new online initiative.
It’s never been more clear that women have significant challenges in the workplace – whether they work as an actress, journalist, teacher, airline pilot or are one of thousands of women working in the events industry.
While we all fight together for fair pay, safety and equal opportunity in the workplace, there’s a movement afoot to make sure that we also create opportunities: to immerse, lead and ultimately own the burgeoning event tech niche.
We spoke to two successful women working in events: Leonora Valvo, founder of etouches and co-founder/director of event tech Swoogo and Marie-Claire Andrews, director of operations for the Event Tech Tribe and CEO at Morgo. Both are energised about the opportunities for women in events and are behind the #womanineventtech movement.
Leonora: In the early 2000s I was transitioning a large event services agency into an event tech company and one of the biggest challenges I experienced was convincing a largely female talent base to embrace that transition. For some reason, perhaps because SaaS products were still in the early adopter phase, many women either couldn’t or wouldn’t make the shift.
But the fact is, to be a truly modern event organiser – whether you’re a wedding planner or someone who manages hundreds of corporate events a year – you have to, at a minimum, understand event technology and be comfortable with it. If that’s as far as you can go, fine. Figure out who on your staff or in your network L-O-V-E-S the tech and befriend her! You may not ever become the futurist as far as event tech goes but some of the warm feelings will undoubtedly rub off on you.
Someone who springs to mind as having nailed this approach – pragmatically exploiting the value that tech brings to events – is Katie Moon, director of events for SaaStr. She rigorously explores emerging technologies, puts her suppliers through their paces as only an expert can, and delivers awesome events as a result.
Marie-Claire: The challenge that women have in event companies is only themselves. Although, to be fair I had a completely different experience when starting an event tech company in New Zealand. The company, ShowGizmo, was grounded in tech from the start – it really was a tech company that happened to focus on events rather than the other way around. I had an influx of talented women in the tech space that wanted to join us – not the least because they didn’t want to work at other tech companies full of “bros”!
But Leonora and I aren’t the only example of what women in event tech look like. You don’t have to build or run an event tech company in order to be in event tech. People don’t always recognise that technology is a really fascinating opener to bigger possibilities in your job. It makes you massively employable!
Why we started womenineventtech.org
Marie-Claire: We started #womenineventtech after so many conversations – virtual (Leonora lives in the US and I live in NZ) and in person – about what’s missing for women in the industry we work in. We feel like the time is now. Across the globe there is an energy that’s ready to be galvanised. Women’s empowerment and equal opportunity is top-of-mind in the media and around board tables. We’re making sure it’s top-of-mind in the events industry and that we are moving the discussions forward so there are tangible outcomes in every area of our industry.
Leonora: We’re a community of people that believe there are more opportunities for women to lead in event tech than we see currently. Whether that’s starting event tech companies, programming event tech innovations, designing event installations – we don’t care.
Marie-Claire: Yes, we’ll know we’re successful when I receive 20 applications from female-led, not male-led companies for Event Tech Tribe membership, a collaborative ensemble of event tech specialists working together to make events better. We want to see many more female panelists and keynote speakers talking tech at events like IMEX, Confex, Event Tech Live etc. And, of course, we want to see more female investors making event tech deals! Most important is that we work together to find solutions that move us all forward, not just focus on our own careers.
Marie-Claire: Right now we’re crowdsourcing the needs and opportunities via our site, womenineventtech.org. We want feedback on what’s going on for women at all levels – from engineers to entrepreneurs and from sales to support – all functions of the event tech industry, across the globe.
Then, we will assess the right time to launch a conference and gauge interest in other products and services we can provide to support our tribe! Right now we’re pretty sure that the future will bring meetups, investor introductions, peer-to-peer coaching and, naturally, an event.
Leonora: We want to encourage others to transition to being tech confident. The event industry is full of women and event tech is a nascent niche in the industry; It’s growing fast: to US$9.28bn by 2020. So, now is the time for women to take charge and own the tech space. Don’t leave it to the men. We’re here to help!