November 30, 2015

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First Mediaworks

6/10/02 I Gave Up On Women

I gave up on helping women. After being slammed by many women throughout the Radio industry, I discontinued a section called “Women in Radio,” which we had in this magazine more than a decade ago. I had started the column at the urging of some female industry friends who believed we could help educate women about dealing with issues they faced, but the heat was too much. A very vocal group of women told me I was doing them a disservice by bringing special attention to these issues. I also dropped a “Woman Broadcaster of the Year” award at the same time.

I couldn’t win. Dropping the column displeased those who had encouraged me to start it. Frankly, I too was displeased. For years as a broadcaster, I had seen women treated differently in Radio stations. I saw sexual harassment. I saw the glass ceiling. As an owner of stations, I made a point to hire women into key management positions because so little opportunity existed that I believed they would do a killer job, just to prove that they could. It was one of the best career decisions I had made.

Yet, at that time — not so long ago — you saw only a handful of women at the RAB sales management conferences. You never saw women at R&R conferences for programmers. Yes, some women were on the air; some women were in sales. Nationwide, however, there were fewer than 30 women in key management positions. A lot has changed in 16 years, yet many things are still the same.

My gut kept telling me I had been wrong to drop the special attention to women’s issues. At the encouragement of then-editor Ed Ryan, we created the “Most Influential Women in Radio” issue.
Since then, “MIW” has taken on a life of its own. Starting with a gathering of the recipients at a Radio Advertising Bureau conference, this group of influential women committed to an effort to help other women in the industry. MIW Joan Gerberding, president of Nassau Media Partners, exhibited tremendous leadership and organized meetings, conference calls and events. This year, the group formed a mentoring program for women in the industry. Together, we are working on a research study to identify issues (so Radio Ink and MIW can address them), and we are planning an MIW conference for Women in Radio.

Frustrated recently, Joan shared with me her plans for the group program and explained that all expenses were coming out of their personal pockets. She told me she had approached some groups and organizations for support, but progress was not what she had hoped. With that, Radio Ink made a commitment for a $5,000 donation, and that apparently opened the floodgates. NAB’s Education Fund jumped in and matched with another $5,000. Organizations and groups are beginning to see the value of helping women grow within their organizations. We’re hoping they too will step up to the plate and fuel this marvelous organization.

I want to thank the women who nudged me toward this effort years ago (you know who you are) and to thank Joan Gerberding for her leadership at a time when she is also running a business and is the national president for AWRT. It’s clear that her heart is in this movement. Thanks are also due to the women on the list (and many others) who are mentoring other women and creating an environment to educate people on these issues.

Though I still get heat from women who think this list and this effort is a bad idea, you have my commitment to continue. We still hear horror stories about the treatment of women in some Radio stations and organizations. Until the stories stop, we will continue.

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