Sara Seay is Director, Sales and Marketing, at Premier Rides. She is an active participant in IAAPA events and trade shows, and has seen the industry change first hand. "On the show floor, it has been interesting to see a transition where women are more involved in decision-making roles and are leading meetings, where previously it appeared that if a woman attended the show it was in a more reserved and passive role. It also seems there are more female job seekers with technical degrees," she says.

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?
There are many issues facing women in the workplace today, such as disparity in salaries, a focus on appearance rather than capabilities and accomplishments, and reduced opportunities for advancement and recognition. A Forbes article I recently read reported that fewer than 25 percent of senior management roles are held by women in most industries worldwide.
It’s challenging to answer simply “how the attractions industry can influence positive change” since the attractions industry encompasses so many varied businesses making the spectrum too broad for a blanket answer. The work environment at a park, for example, more closely aligns with that of the hotel and restaurant industry (only behind education and healthcare for women in management), where manufacturers and suppliers are more similar to the construction industry (lowest percentage of female leadership of all industries). The ratio of men to women varies between these subcategories of the industry, as do the educational requirements.

How have you seen the industry evolve in regard to gender roles?

Discussions regarding gender roles can be very charged. So many factors such as tradition and family culture, religion, politics, and even age play a role, and many of the most passionate voices may only know and vocalize their own perspective.

A few examples of the evolution I’ve seen in my lifetime are two (soon to be three) women serving as IAAPA chair, and that of the four regional vice presidents for IAAPA, three are women. 

I’ve also seen organizations make conscious decisions to support women, such as including requirements in their RFPs to include the support of minority and women owned businesses.

How have you built your network of women in the industry?
I am fortunate to work with many women early on in my career. Mentors who positively impacted me include men and women. Networking, in general, is what allowed me to find my way to Premier Rides. Remaining active in networking events, learning, and listening is key.  Making sure you exchange business cards with new contacts, taking notes to remember details about those you meet, and following up!

What is one piece of advice you’d like to convey to women starting their attractions careers?
Learn as much as you can from as many people as you can both men and women. Know that there are double standards at times, that life is not fair, and that you can still learn to navigate your way to success. Respect yourself and others. Read the industry news. Meet as many people as you can. Find a mentor. Ask questions. Get involved and participate in networking events, educational sessions, and conferences. Exchange business cards and follow up! Maintain the relationships and never burn bridges.

Creating Careers of Distinction

How do you invest in yourself as a leader?
Similar to the advice I’d give to those starting in the industry, I attend networking events, educate myself about industry news, and stay involved both in the industry and my local community. Great leaders can be found in all kinds of places and often not where you might think. Often it’s the staff of great leaders who can provide a window into what makes a great leader. I’ve learned a lot from volunteers of non-profits, business owners and operators, former and current NFL football players, those in government positions, and, of course, from my team.

What is your most cherished work principle?
Lead by example.

What do you consider your most significant career accomplishment?
I am pretty sure that answer lies ahead of me.  While I have accomplished much during my 25 years in the industry, I believe there are many more opportunities ahead of me…and I hope I’ve not yet “peaked."

What has had the greatest impact on your career?

The greatest impact on my career was leaving the comfort zone of living and working in Salt Lake City, a place I hold dear to my heart. By doing so, I was forced to grow both personally and professionally, which lead me to the opportunities that have allowed me to explore the world and to learn about different cultures around the globe.
What has been the greatest challenge of your career? 

One of the greatest challenges continues to be the underestimation of my knowledge, experience and abilities. Not letting it affect me is the most difficult aspect of that, but I work hard to consciously focus on the positive parts of my career. By looking at the big picture I know I’ve made strides toward the end goal.

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

Move Forward!


The Future of the Industry

Why did you join and choose to stay in the attractions business?
I was always the youngest: in my family, in my classes, and among my friends. Early on, I had a strong work ethic, thirst for education and a desire to gain independence. Lagoon hired a limited number of 14- and 15-year-olds each season, and that was my opportunity to grow. I was quickly promoted, and I am certain that was because the more I learned, the more my passion for the industry grew. There is something magical about knowing your job is to bring happiness to families.

What makes you most passionate about the industry?
Regardless of the many issues facing the world today, our industry is focused on fun and positive emotion. It’s exciting to be in an industry that creates visceral experiences. Everyone needs an escape or distraction, a moment to relax and to laugh, even during the most difficult of times. Our industry creates lifetime experiences and memories—no matter what part of the industry we work in, we carry the responsibility of making those memories positive ones.

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

It would be great to see in 20 years articles related to gender roles as nothing more than unrelatable history. It’s exciting to see how new technologies are developed and applied to make working in the industry more efficient, and to see how technology has changed the way we are entertained, as well.

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


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