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DE&I Spotlight on Carrie Ferenac

IAEE DE&I Committee Member Carrie Ferenac shares her perspective on how members of the industry can improve their awareness and support of DE&I within exhibitions and events.

By Mary Tucker, Sr. Communications and Content Manager

IAEE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) Committee Member Carrie Ferenac and her business partner, Marcelo Zolessi, co-founded Convention News Television (CNTV) in 2007 after seeing a need for digital content and live production in the exhibitions and events industry. Now, the company produces content for trade show organizers around the world. The videos they produce bring events to life and offer associations and for-profit show organizers a new stream of revenue through sponsorships. CNTV partners with IAEE, SISO, ECEF, TSNN and Tradeshow Executive to produce video content and live coverage of industry events throughout the year.

Carrie has an extensive background in broadcast journalism and management. She spent 11 years at the NBC affiliate in Orlando (WESH-TV). Now, she is entrenched in the events industry where she volunteers her time and energy to projects that move the industry forward. She is currently Immediate Past Chairperson of the IAEE Board of Directors.

Here, Carrie discusses why addressing DE&I in the industry is important, where she sees progress has been made and ways in which further advances can be achieved.

What inspired you to serve on the IAEE DE&I Committee?

I believe in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. I would never have thought that would become a political statement, but it has. I live in Florida, where the Governor recently eliminated funding for DEI initiatives in public universities. He is trying to discourage diversity, equity and inclusion, which is unimaginable to me. While I can’t directly solve the political challenges in Florida, I can make a difference by being involved in DE&I committees like this one. This issue is important to me, and I believe it’s vital to the success of the industry.

Oh, and in my opinion, it’s also part of just being a good human.

What has been your experience/observations with how the industry addresses DE&I?

I’m proud of our industry for making the DE&I conversation a priority. It’s part of the IAEE Strategic Plan, and most show organizers are embracing the need for change. The topic is top of mind, which is the first step. We are seeing more diversity in the lineup of speakers (fewer “manels!”) and new technology being released to include people with disabilities.

I was proud of our client, RIMS, who added closed captioning to their general session speakers, and CNTV is now adding text to the videos we created. These changes make the experience more inclusive for those with vision or hearing disabilities.

What overall advances would you like to see in the industry regarding DE&I?

I’d like to continue seeing more diversity at the top level of management. Associations boards should be representative of all members, and include people of different race, age, color, and sexual orientation. All too often, we talk about diversity and inclusion, but we aren’t making sure all groups are represented at the highest levels.

How do you think that companies can help advance DE&I?

I believe it starts with small changes. At CNTV, when we bought a new building for our studio, we created gender neutral bathrooms. It’s a small step, but something that makes all employees feel comfortable. We also eliminated the college degree requirements for many positions because it excluded many people who were otherwise qualified. We are now more vocal about issues in our state that impact marginalized groups of people, and we encourage all employees to vote by allowing them to do so on company time.

What suggestions do you have for individuals who would like to learn more about and/or help increase awareness and advances in DE&I within the industry?

Listen First. I’m working on listening to people who have different experiences that I do, so I can learn from them. Put in the work. Read the blogs, listen to the podcasts, ask the questions. It can be a tough subject, especially for cis-gender white people like myself, but we have to speak up. We have to be allies, and we need to continue to learn. When we know better, we can do better.

Learn more about IAEE’s DE&I initiatives and how you can play a role in advancing the industry!

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