The Women In Hifi group continues its march forward following its inaugural meeting at High End Munich with a gathering at this year’s T.H.E. Show Newport Beach

This year marked my triumphant return to THE Show in Newport Beach after missing last year due to being 36 weeks pregnant (they get nervous about you flying at that point, for some odd reason). It was a show marked by a slower pace for me, since I brought my eleven-month-old daughter Ciara with me – but also a show marked with a new sense of camaraderie. Inspired by the success of the Women In HiFi meetup at Munich High End, myself and some other members of the Women in Hi Fi Facebook group took it upon ourselves to organize a stateside get-together.

In the end, we didn’t quite top the size of the group at Munich – we only managed to coordinate with six women (six and a half, if you count Ciara!) for drinks at 5:00 on Saturday. There were certainly more women than that in attendance and working at the show; as I made my rounds on Friday and talked to people, I made a point of extending invitations to the women I encountered. While I had always been aware that there were more women in hifi than most people realize, even I was somewhat surprised when I realized just how many women were present! The greater difficulty in coordinating was that we were all, well… working! Women like Cookie Marenco of Blue Coast Records found it hard to leave their rooms or abandon other meetings, but we still had a very nice representation from many different parts of the industry. Women in Hifi THE NEwport Beach

(From left to right: Colleen Cardas, of Colleen Cardas Imports, Lori Ann Clark of Danville Signal, Kathleen Thomas of AudioQuest, Kimberly Stahl of Purist Audio Design, and Kirsten Brodbeck-Kenney and Ciara Kenney – audio journalist and audio baby, respectively. Not pictured: Marjorie Baumert of Rocky Mount Audio Festival)

Conversation ranged from the usual chat about the crowds at the show and how much traffic folks were seeing in their rooms, to the wisdom of using “booth babes” (or the lack of wisdom, as the case may be), to the particular challenges in being the parent of a young child and traveling to shows. As a relatively new mother, I particularly appreciated having a chance to compare notes with other women who had juggled new babies and work, trying to figure out whether bringing the nursing baby along was more or less disruptive than trying to find someplace to pump! There was a lot of raucous laughter and some good-natured ribbing of male friends who would occasionally try to drop by the table, only to be told that this gathering was for “V’s only!”

For me, it felt like a very big change from the first few shows I attended, when I didn’t know very many other people in the industry at all, and often felt like an oddity or a unicorn: men have often apologized to me for discussing audiophile concerns in my presence, assuming that I was the bored wife along for the ride. Once, upon being told that yes, I was in fact an audiophile, a fellow who was probably a bit too deep into his cups asked me for a “chromosome check,” jokingly implying that I could not possibly actually be female. It was refreshing to be reminded that the guys who make those jokes are increasingly out of touch with what’s really going on in the industry. One woman who attended the group remarked later that it was “the nicest part of the show” for her, and I would concur; it was great to feel that I was among peers. I hope that this will be the first of many Women in HiFi meet-ups at US audio shows – and I suspect that next year we’ll need more than one picnic table!

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Kirsten Brodbeck-Kenney

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