By Andrea Keating
Founder and CEO
As I write this article, I am sitting in a business conference with 47 men—and three women.
This is actually a change from the first time I came to this conference (or almost any other conference in the video industry) a few decades ago. Back then, I was often the only woman in the room.
Granted, I knew what I was getting into 30 years ago, when I landed my first job in the video industry.
After all, what we do at Crews Control is quite technical. And, for better or worse, that means it’s an industry dominated by men.
Admittedly, when I was younger, I wasn’t so comfortable being the only gal in the place.
I would nervously scan the conference and meeting rooms—looking hopefully for the one other women that I could buddy up with. It’s only natural, I think, to look for that which is familiar when you are in uncharted territory.
In recent years, one, or maybe two women were also present. I’d make my way over to where the women were, and easily strike up a conversation. I always felt so at ease.
Today, however, I feel differently about being a woman in a male-dominated business. While it was fun and easy to hang out with my very interesting, smart, and educated female video peers—I realized was that I was alienating myself from the other 99 percent of the people in the room.
Not only was I isolating myself, but I was stereotyping the other attendees just because they weren’t my gender. Once I got clear on the fact that I was missing out on some great opportunities, I changed my MO.
After all, it’s just as hard for a gentleman to walk up to two women talking, as it is for me to walk up to a group of men. Right?
So now I take a new approach. When I walk in a room I look for folks with whom I have other things in common, and who don’t fall into my comfort zone. Yes, this is Networking 101, but it took me a little while to catch on to the power of boldly meeting strangers.
I still get a tad nervous, but I don’t let it stop me. While I always paid close attention to the discussion during conference sessions, I now boldly approach the speakers and panelists, and follow up on a question asked, or an opinion that had that sparked my interest. And I do this with both men—and women.
And that’s why it is my honor to serve on the Board of Advisors for the University of Maryland’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship.
As University of Maryland alumns, my husband and I have been a staunch supporters of the school since we graduated in the 1980s. When I was approached to sit on the Board of Advisors for this prestigious department in the business school, I was honored.
Mostly, though, I was excited to meet the students attending the business classes. What were they learning? How was it different than what I studied decades ago? What cutting-edge research were they privy to? And, how could I best mentor them, given my experience starting and growing Crews Control?
I must say that since I took my seat on Sept. 6, the experience has been incredibly rewarding. First and foremost, I love the Dingman Center mission.
“Our mission is to make entrepreneurship accessible by offering resources that take a person through the whole life cycle of starting a business,” explains Asher Epstein, MBA ’04, and the immediate past managing director. “We want students to experience business success, and we do this by actively supporting student-run enterprises, offering events that bring regional entrepreneurs and students together, and becoming a focal point for developing campus-wide entrepreneurial activities.”
I also appreciate its initiative, to help students build their ventures, create experiential learning opportunities, and provide access to capital.
As a result, I chose to sit on the Pitch Dingman panel, which includes helping students:
- Meet with successful entrepreneurs
- Practice presenting ideas
- Receive actionable feedback
- Build a business
- Show progress to compete for start-up funding
Twice a semester, students can compete for $2,750 in start-up funding at the Pitch Dingman Competition. Everyone is welcome to attend Pitch Dingman Competitions as an audience member.
I also look to Elana Fine, managing director of the Dingman Center, for guidance.
“It’s Andrea’s passion for business that makes us so happy that she has agreed to be on the Dingman Center’s Board of Advisors,” Fine recently said. “She doesn’t take her commitments lightly, and that comes across in the work she does with our students. They all are greatly appreciative for her feedback, and are already learning so much from this incredibly experienced entrepreneur. We are thrilled that this is a three-year position, because she is going to be able to impact so many budding entrepreneurs.”
That vote of confidence makes me happy—not just because I thoroughly enjoy working with Digman, but because I realize that my contribution to the students is valuable.
One thing that I’d like to change, however, is the number of women whom I see pitching business ideas.
While the men have great plans for the businesses of tomorrow, I’d like to make it my mission to encourage more women to step up and be fearless. After all, if I learned to do it, we all can.
Questions, thoughts, ideas? Send me an email: Andrea@CrewsControl.com.
Andrea Keating founded Crews Control in 1988 as the first film-and-video-crew staffing agency.
Since then, the company’s focus has been to match each client with the perfect local crew for each specific shoot.
“That means we can offer our clients the quickest response time when they need to book a crew, and then provide the most dedicated customer service in the business,” she says.
Click here to learn more: www.crewscontrol.com.