November 2, 2016
Each year, hundreds of entertainment and media professionals gather in New York City to celebrate Diversity Week.
Maria Brennan, President & CEO of WICT kicked off their annual Leadership Conference, followed by an opening session interview of Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee by Comcast’s Senior EVP and Chief Diversity Officer, David Cohen. At the end of the session, Cohen surprised her with a gift from Comcast and Charter that will make the East St. Louis, IL Community Center she runs an innovative tech hub. The Olympic medalist shed tears as Cohen announced that they would outfit the center with 20 new computers, wifi service and much more. Kersee, the Internet Essentials national spokeswoman, has been on the road with Cohen promoting the low-cost broadband service. During a follow-up interview with Joyner-Kersee, she shared more about the impact of such a generous gift.
Zimbabwean-American playwright, actress and star of The Walking Dead, Danai Gurira invigorated the whole crowd to whom she referred to as “a room of women who facilitate stories and storytellers.” Gurira made history with her Tony Award-winning play Eclipsed, which was the first all-Black, all-woman show on Broadway. Those facts about her work, said the self-proclaimed loud-mouthed girl, are connectors rather than separators. By telling authentic, well-crafted stories, “barriers will break between the black woman and the mainstream audience – and the connections will be undeniable.”
The no-holds barred discussion at the Leadership Lessons from Women of Color panel presented in partnership with NAMIC and the Walter Kaitz Foundation, kept the audience rapt. Moderated by Dr. Ella Bell, Founder of ASCENT-Leading Multicultural Women to the Top, the gems uncovered during the session were priceless.
Tamara Franklin, EVP Digital, Scripps Networks Interactive:
Don’t do it alone. Everything and every experience is not a competition. Particularly for people of color, make sure that you focus on your health. If you’re not healthy, you can’t be resilient and you won’t have the stamina to succeed.
Monica Diaz, VP Diversity, Inclusion & Wellness, ESPN:
If you are multilingual, and you speak more than one language and you have an accent – think about your difference as an asset. It took me years to know that I have “language capital.”
Susan Jin Davis, SVP Operations & Compliance, Comcast Cable:
Women of color are less likely to have sponsors. If you don’t have a sponsor, you’re going to have less of an opportunity to get ahead. You have to work harder at getting a sponsor because it won’t necessarily happen naturally. People gravitate towards people who are like them, who they can relate to. So you have to make a lot of effort to build relationships with people of influence, to make a personal connection to them from which sponsorship can happen.
Dr. Bell ended this question by reminding the audience to focus on the several elements. “Women of color come in thinking that we have to work twice/three times as hard. Remember, the formula is performance + relationship = Advancement.”
Michelle Rice, EVP, Content Distribution & Marketing, TV One:
As an African-American, there are certain assumptions that are made when you walk into the room. You get more comfortable in yourself as you get along in your career. What you bring into entertainment, into a business where we’re telling stories is that our experiences are different.
Monica Diaz: This accent that they keep saying I have, let’s face it – I’m never going to be 6 feet tall, or a 42” long – But when I walk into the room, I may be the only one and possibly the first one, as a Puerto Riquena that these people have had an experience with.
Susan Jin Davis:
There’s a lot of really strong assets that women and people of color bring to the leadership table. I was brought up by parents who didn’t speak English very well. They were immigrants. So I had to be the best communicator on this planet so that I could represent them and help them succeed in this country. I was sometimes resentful of my responsibilities. But now I have strong communication skills and that has brought me success. The things we think of as impediments can be the best assets we have.
Tamara Franklin: I think about my daughter and wanting her to work in a world where she’s judged by her merit. Someone dealt with it before you did it. The thing that gives me the energy is the next generation. Our industry will be better; our product will be better.
Ella Bell: This ties into servant leadership. It’s about leaving a legacy behind you. This is a historical moment for women. We need to walk into leadership spaces in all areas. Pulling your chair up to the table makes a big difference. … We’re bringing that special brand of spice.
Michelle Rice: Make sure that you’re not self-selecting out. I had learned to self-select myself out – it’s a great skill to have, except that it could derail your career.
Veteran journalist and host of the Discovery ID’s Hate in America, Tony Harris, served as moderator of the general session’s first panel. TV One’s Roland Martin, Co-Anchor of MSNBC Live Frances Rivera and CNN Anchor Fredricka Whitfield were the selected experts. Harris wasted no time getting the audience engaged with his first question – can Donald Trump win. From that point on, the panelists and moderator debated topics central to today’s news industry, such as the shifting boundaries. They also tackled the tendency of younger viewers to forgo traditional news media in favor of online sources, which while maybe faster to the punch, require less fact-checking. Ultimately, the three agreed on their most important role as storytellers who must abide by standards and practices and ultimately provide accurate information to all.
The Walter Kaitz Foundation was proud to partner with NAMIC and WICT to co-sponsor the L. Patrick Mellon Mentorship Program Luncheon featuring journalist, Elizabeth Vargas. Discussing her newly released memoir, the well-known personality discussed her battle with alcoholism and anxiety. Poised and in command, it was hard for many to believe her claims of insecurity. “I was terrified at NBC. I waited every day for someone to walk down the hall and say ‘what are you doing here?’ I was so insecure and so green, I was just lucky. Perhaps it was a God moment,” she said referring to that time in her career. She encouraged everyone in the audience to seek mentors as early as possible and reach out and ask for help as soon as necessary. Most importantly, she reminded them, “enjoy the journey.”
Music industry icon Michael Bivins was the featured speaker at the EMMA Luncheon sponsored by CableFAX, Scripps Networks Interactive and NAMIC. Bivins detailed his storied career, beginning with his record-breaking debut with boy band, New Edition. He spoke about the growth of the group and ended with a “single listening moment” which led him to sign the group Boys II Men, one of the biggest acts in R&B history. Bivins won the crowd over with his style and substance, sharing the top business decisions of his career. In an exclusive quote for the Kaitz Quarterly, he spoke about the diversity and the impact of technology for music-makers. “Music has always been diverse, but now that we have the internet, so many cultures can connect at the touch of a button,” he said. “If you have something to say or something to share, just put it in the universe at it will land where it needs to go.”