Gina Romano is Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Americas and Canada, for Martin & Vleminckx. She was the first woman to serve as chair of the IAAPA Board of Directors. Romano grew up in the industry—her family owned Nellie Bly Amusement Park in Brooklyn, New York.

Thoughts on Women in the Industry

What is the most pressing issue facing women in the workplace today, and how can the
attractions industry influence positive change?

Inequity of family responsibilities. Double standards. Harassment in multiple forms.
It is still hard for most women to balance the demands of family and promotion in business
and professions.

Parks and attractions with all the training and people skills they provide to
staff members could include a type of “Supporting Each Other On the Job” as part of their trainings. It’s something we might think everyone would want to do.

Many young people need to open their eyes and minds to what is possible. I still hear men described as tough, assertive, thorough, no-nonsense, and women in the same kinds of positions as demanding, thoughtless, shrill, picky. A guy could fall asleep at a meeting and it would be funny. A woman wouldn’t dare.

How have you seen the industry evolve in regard to gender roles?
More men for quite some time have been very supportive in seeing that women get an
equal shot. As more women get involved in our industry, contrary to popular myth, we do try to
help each other out. I know some companies actively look to recruit female engineers,
inspectors, building managers, etc. The scope of work women could get into and succeed has

How have you built your network of women in the industry?

We all share the same issues so we can relate. We can laugh, kvetch, and cry about
the common experiences we’ve had. I have a great trust in my network of women in the
industry. I respect each and every one of them because I know how hard each one worked to
get to where they are and what they’ve had to put up with. The support we give each other
has been work and life affirming. All these aspects have created my network.

What is one piece of advice you’d like to convey to women starting their attractions careers?
Be yourself and work hard. Get help when you need it. Find experienced people who
can help guide you.

Creating Careers of Distinction

How do you invest in yourself as a leader?
I always work to keep learning. Listening is huge. I try to find commonality and what
makes people tick. I’ve taken a lot of leadership seminars, workshops, etc. Being really
interested in people, ideas, and seeing things through has been the best investment.

What is your most cherished work principle?

Love what you do.

What do you consider your most significant career accomplishment?
Seeing our little park in Brooklyn grow and take on a whole other provider of different types of
entertainments and service thanks to my involvement and IAAPA. Becoming the first female
President of IAAPA. At Martin & Vleminck I can keep learning, be challenged, and support the
amusement and attractions industry.

What has had the greatest impact on your career?

People I’ve met in the industry. One example is Boyd Jensen who taught me you could be
strong and smart and still be a nice person.

What has been the greatest challenge of your career?

Learning to keep my mouth shut. I have learned to focus and save my energy for what
is really important and where I can make a contribution and a difference. Being mindful of
listening has helped me overcome this challenge.

What was the greatest piece of career advice you ever received?

Have a sense of humor.

The Future of the Industry

Why did you join and choose to stay in the attractions business?

My dad needed help. He knew I always loved being in the park. After college, I had
other jobs but was always in the park helping out whenever I could. We made a decision to
give it a full-time go. I stayed because the work suited me. I’m a people person. I loved that
the business had so many aspects to it. The business became my life and my passion.

What makes you most passionate about the industry?

It is challenging and interesting work. I am passionate about entertainment and service. It is something great to be part of an industry that brings people from all walks of life together. It creates so much joy.

What is your vision for the industry in the next 20 years?

Our industry will create environments where people are participators. So much of
entertainment is for spectators. That is fine. What is unique and what I would like to see as
our future are venues where we are engaged. As we become more isolated because of
technology, we have the opportunity to use the technologies to get people to engage with each
other and what they are doing. More innovation and less cookie cutting.

I’d like to see our industry as the bastion of honoring childhood, the silly, the fun, as well as the educational. It seems like the world does not know what to do next to shorten and take childhood away. Our worlds should be places of magic, fun, and wonder.

​​Know a professional we should talk to? E-mail Prasana William, IAAPA manager, digital content and strategy.


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