By R.V. Baugus
Jenny Stephens, principal and director of marketing for Denver-based Perkins&Will, has the distinct pleasure of guiding a panel discussion at the popular Empowered Women in Leadership session that takes place at VenueConnect20 on Friday, October 30 at 10:30 a.m. There is no better way to conclude this year’s virtual IAVM conference than attending what is annually one of the biggest draws at VenueConnect.
Panelists include Sporty Jeralds, CVE, University of South Carolina; Kim Pegula, Pegula Sports & Entertainment, Buffalo Bills & Buffalo Sabres; Philida Bill, Ovations Food Services, Colorado State University Football Stadium, and Francesca Leiweke-Bodie, Oak View Group.
Stephens and the panel have been prepping with excitement for the session, but for a minute she spoke with us to share some thoughts about what attendees can expect.
First, can you provide our attendees with a synopsis of some of the topics the panel will talk about?
This event is committed to inclusion. We encourage anyone of any gender identity to attend. The event focuses on the empowerment of women, including women-aligned transgender and non-binary individuals. Men and allies of women are also very encouraged to attend.
This is a “Who’s Who” of panelists! With so much great information to share, what will the format of the session be as far as the time panelists speak versus opportunities for the audience to engage and ask questions and make comments?
The first 45 minutes of the session will be prerecorded. The two moderators and I met and developed an outline of the potential questions that was distributed to the panelists in advance of the recording. There is no script; the questions will be asked in a random order and a few “back pocket” questions have been crafted allowing the moderators to call an audible if they see an opportunity to advance a topic or direction. On the day of the panel we will all join the session live, the pre-recorded portion will be played first, followed by a live question and answer session that will be facilitated by the moderators but will address live discussion from the audience.
Every year this is one of the most popular sessions at IAVM. Let’s talk about some of the strides women have made in leadership and after that, please share some of your thoughts on opportunities for continued advancement.
I think much progress has been made in the leadership of IAVM member venues since the time that I have been involved in the organization, but like so many of our country’s efforts right now, there is still a long way to go. I believe there are nuances in viewpoints and communication that have be eliminated before equality can take place as defined. We still hear conversations about how progressive organizations are for promoting women to lead roles … or someone being defined as the “female CEO”. When organizations promote someone because they are the most qualified for a job they should be viewed as being smart or strategic, not progressive. Ruth Bader Ginsberg was known to have chosen her words deliberately and specifically. It is claimed that she saw the use of adjectives as an indication that the correct noun had not been chosen. Think about female CEO in that context.
Our particular industry is one that might be considered “late coming to the party” when it examines the role of women in leadership at venues as well as within IAVM volunteer leadership. What are some practical ways that women can make a greater impact and move into these types of roles?
My response to this question is one that I use to guide most things and is quite simple. Work hard and ask for what you want. If you are told no then find out why and make the appropriate adjustments, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Anyone whose career path does not include some missteps along the way is not putting themselves out there or being honest with themselves. That being said, when you ask for something, you should not ask if you don’t feel confident you have earned it. I don’t like diversity for diversity’s sake, but rather diversity that is the right choice based on the situation and the qualified candidates.
Another piece of advice I would give is enjoy the journey. It can’t just be about success; it also has to be about personal fulfillment and fun. When I am working with younger people in my office, I encourage them to not chase the end but to be hard working, loyal, and honest in their steps along the way and the end goal will come.
It is 2025. Where would you like to see women in that year when it comes to leadership positions and being major decision-makers within organizations?
In 2025 I would love to see a percentage of women in leadership positions in equal proportion to the percentage of women in the workforce. And, if the venue operations and management industry does not have a represented number of women or minorities entering the career, it is the responsibility of the organizations to recruit, educate, and provide opportunity.
To learn more about VenueConnect 2020, or to register, please CLICK HERE.