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Engineering Women: IBC Plays Host to a Powerful Force for Change

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At IBC in Amsterdam earlier this month, I had a chance to witness firsthand the power of networking.

Two different gender-specific events took place during the show, and I was lucky enough to represent Streaming Media at happy hour held by Women in Streaming Media (WSM), an organization our editor Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen first wrote about after last year's IBC.

As one of the four founding co-hosts for the Streaming Media Advanced Forum (SMAF) monthly webcast, I’d been familiar with WSM through the conscious choice made by Eric, Mark East, and Dom Robinson—the other three founding co-hosts—and myself to fill half the guest slots with WSM guests over the past year. The effort is in line with my personal philosophy, having three bright biological daughters that I’ve encouraged to pursue any technical goal they set their minds to, as well as a fiancée who—together with her late husband—were both graduates of mathematics programs and parents of two bright young daughters that share their aptitude for math.

Yet I wasn’t prepared, when my fiancée and I stepped off the elevator at the IABM suite at RAI Amsterdam for the WSM event, to see just how far we’ve come in the past year.

Attendance for the WSM event, as shown in the accompanying picture, was very strong, and the list of companies represented reads like a “who’s who” of the streaming industry.

Alicia Pritchett, president of WSM, noted that the next event—to be held in New York City, in late September—already has 250 registrations.

Pritchett, along with her co-founder Peggy Dau, noted that there’s also no exclusivity to the WSM brand in terms of events. In fact, at the IBC event, Ms. Dau encouraged women in attendance to host their own WSM events around the world.

“We encourage women interested in facilitating events/meetups in their cities and around events they are attending to reach out to us to help make introductions to other women to support,” says Dau.

The biggest news from WSM at IBC was the launch a mentoring program.

“Nandini Sen, director of media services architecture at PBS, and Megan Wagoner, VP of sales at Vimond, have founded Women in Streaming Media's first Mentorship Program,” says Pritchett. “On the launch date, September 26, Megan and Nandini will host a webinar to walk through the program details and formally begin the program. We will provide updates on progress throughout and present a final report after the 6-month program duration.”

Personally, having been mentored in both technical and professional fields, as well as serving as a mentor for others, this approach seems to be one of the better ways to help grow new talent within the streaming industry. It also solves a longstanding problem that I saw not only in streaming, but also before that in the videoconferencing and non-linear editing: how to connect islands of capable female engineers and managers who felt isolated from one other.

While Wagoner was not able to attend the IBC event—she told us on SMAF that she is expecting in October, so was unable to travel abroad in September—her enthusiasm for the program was palpable.

“We are so honored at the caliber of women who have committed to devote their time and efforts to this program,” said Ms. Wagoner. “We can't wait to see the positive impact this mentorship program will have on all of those involved.”

Besides the New York meetup in late September, WSM is also hosting a breakfast at Demuxed on Oct 23 from 8-9am. More details on the organization can be found at womeninstreamingmedia.org.

In addition, Kaltura also sponsored a gender equality happy hour at IBC, and has launched a petition calling for companies in the video sector to make gender equality a focus. Streaming Media is a supporting partner of the petition, and we'll have a follow-up report on the initiative soon.

Photo courtesy of Alicia Pritchett

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