Two of the five women featured in the 2023 Mondo-DR article: Christine Jenkin (middle), ILDA President and Olga Eser (right), ILDA Board member. They are pictured at the 2015 Conference in Dubai, UAE. The other 2015 Board members are Abdulwahab Baghdadi (left), Brian Gonzalez (blue shirt), and Alex Hennig (orange shirt).
March is Women’s History Month in the United States. To recognize this, in March 2023 the entertainment technology publication Mondo-DR published interview articles with five female members of ILDA.
The interviewees give a variety of viewpoints about their experiences in the industry, and with ILDA. Below are links to the articles and a few selected quotes. The full Mondo-DR articles are brief and illuminating.
Thank you to the five women who participated, and special thanks to Olga Eser who made the Mondo-DR contact and organized this project.
Laser Safety Services, Oregon
Mondo-DR article published March 16, 2023
“I feel very fortunate to report that I have not encountered the typical challenges many women experience in their profession. LFI never hesitated to promote me to a leadership position. I would have to say that some of the male colleagues who worked ‘under’ me, so to speak, had a hard time accepting that I was their boss, but in time they came to appreciate that my role was to support their efforts in the field.”
“ILDA is a vital association for the laser entertainment industry… Through ILDA we can share ideas, and help each other with technical issues or safety concerns. Best of all we have an annual conference where we celebrate our industry with each other culminating in an awards banquet where our work is acknowledged by fellow laserists who truly appreciate what it takes to produce award-winning work.”
Roberta McHatton has served on the ILDA Board of Directors from 2017 through at least 2023 (the date of this webpage).
Artistic Laser Productions, California
Mondo-DR article published March 21, 2023
“Don’t think of entertainment production as ‘a man’s world’. More and more women are entering our industry (and are being welcomed by our male counterparts). Remember that as women, we tend to be more detail-oriented than most men, which is a vital part of creating and running laser shows.”
“Since joining [ILDA], we have made valuable contacts for buying laser songs, helping with technical issues, and referrals. It has also been a great source of current information on what the CDRH expects of us, where and how to report, etc. And lastly, I feel being a member has lent us a bit more credibility with potential clients. Even though most of them haven’t heard of ILDA, I’ve often mentioned the Code of Ethics we’re sworn to uphold. That one statement alone has put many a client at ease, assuring them they are working with professionals.”
EFFECT Laser Systems Ltd., Antalya, Turkey
Mondo-DR article published March 23, 2023
“The laser industry is a male-dominated industry and there are very few women-owned companies in this industry. Gender equality is a very real topic around the world, and especially inTurkey, women are left in the background when it comes to decisions and they are not included in decision-making and leadership positions. One of the difficulties I faced was that clients don’t feel very comfortable discussing technical details with a woman.”
“The impact of ILDA is enormous. Every year we have ILDA Conference, and it’s a great opportunity to meet new people from the industry and to see what is going on, and learn about the new technologies and products. You can find suppliers and partners, and members can discuss their problems and find solutions. This exchange of experience is precious.”
Olga Eser served on the ILDA Board of Directors from 2011 through 2022.
Phase Designs, Ohio
Mondo-DR article published March 29, 2023
“The laser industry is very welcoming to women even though in the past it was male-dominated. As I like to say, laserists are all connected by a coherent beam of light; no matter gender, nationality, sex, economic class, or race, we are all on the same wavelength. The only difficulty I think women can face in our industry is being typecast…. [T]he way to get around being pushed into a role is to find people who believe in your skills, or make your own opportunity to practice the skills that most interest you in the laser industry.”
“ILDA is the place I met the CEOs and lead programmers from around the world. It keeps me inspired and connected to the longer-term discussions of what is happening with laser entertainment. Also, each year new laserists are coming into the industry with new ideas and this is reflected in ILDA’s awards, which happen annually. I don’t think I would have been successful going freelance if not for ILDA, the trade association keeps me connected and always gives me opportunities to reach out to other laserists.”
Nisha Ramnath has won numerous ILDA Awards for her work, and is in charge of the ILDA Artistic Seminar at the annual ILDA Conference.
Mondo-DR article published April 3, 2023
“Being a woman in any of the technical entertainment industries is not easy; however, it is a bit more common today than it was when I started. I remember going to meetings and conferences where I was the only woman in the entire room…. That is my advice to all women in this industry. Do not give away your power. No one owns you. You’re smart and special, act that way and walk away from those who would take you down.”
“LaserNet and I consider ILDA to be critically important, highlighted by the face that if it was not for ILDA efforts, the United States regulating agency, CDRH, would have permanently banded outdoor laser shows back in the 1990s. That is just one of the many, many things ILDA has done for the industry. If you are in the laser display industry, then you need to be a part of this trade association – it only works to better the industry for all its members.”
Christine Jenkin is the 2020 ILDA Career Achievement Award recipient, served as ILDA President from 2011 through 2016 and was on the ILDA Board 2008-2016. Her background and laser achievements are listed on the ILDA CAA recipients page.
In addition to the five women above, there are many others who have made contributions to ILDA and the laser lightshow industry as a whole. Below is a brief list — not meant to be inclusive of all such women. If you do have other names to add, contact us.
Yulia Belyakova, Dreamlaser, multi ILDA Award winner
Alisa Biryukova, Dreamlaser, ILDA Award winner
Diana Coenen, LOBO, multi ILDA Award winner
Antonia Coppen, Greenwave Laser, ILDA Award winner
Anna Dmnitrieva, Dreamlaser, multi ILDA Award winner
Christina Fink, LOBO, multi ILDA Award winner
Elsa Garmire, PhD, laser scientist, pioneering laser artist, co-founder of Laserium light shows. Her Wikipedia page, and an interview with her.
Kelly Hamilton, LaserNet, multi ILDA Award winner
Daria Istomina, Dreamlaser, ILDA Award winner
Natalya Lobanova, multi ILDA Award winner
Joanne McCullough, ILDA Board Member 1986-1992, president of Audio Visual Imagineering Inc., multi ILDA Award-winning producer
Jennifer Morris, the 1992 ILDA Career Achievement Award recipient, co-founder of Image Engineering Corporation, and pioneer of digital imagery. Her background and laser achievements are listed on the ILDA CAA recipients page.
Anna Nadolna, Visual Sensation Laser Shows & Technologies, multi ILDA Award winner.
Kristin Nelson, XTRA Productions, 2020-2022 chair, ILDA Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
Anna Romanova, Dreamlaser, multi ILDA Award winner
Carol Seidel, ILDA Board Member 1995-1997, formerly Entertainment Products Manager at Lexel Laser and Omniscan Division Manager at Audio Visual Imagineering Inc.
Olga Savelyeva, Dreamlaser, multi ILDA Award winner
Alice Soboleva, Dreamlaser, multi ILDA Award winner
Sally Steranko, Image Engineering Corp., ILDA Award winner
Catherine Studenova, Dreamlaser, multi ILDA Award winner
Anna Usova, Dreamlaser, multi ILDA Award winner
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Top photo credit: Abdulwahab Baghdadi