I was recently out in Las Vegas for the 2008 NATPE Conference, and attended the Television Week Women in Syndication luncheon.
Aside from it being my first time in Vegas (which I hear is always something of a shock in itself), it was also one of the first events I had attended for some time that had as its primary focus the celebration of women's achievements in media. In fact, it was promised to be a celebration and examination of:
'how the female demographic viewing syndicated programming has evolved (and) how women’s roles on-air and behind-the-scenes have progressed and revolutionized the business.'
Read the full rundown here.
Among the esteemed panelists were:
- BARBARA “BO” ARGENTINO, executive vice president, advertising and media sales, NBCU Domestic Television Distribution
- LINDA BELL BLUE, executive producer, “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Insider”
- JOANNE BURNS, executive vice president, marketing, research and new media, Twentieth Television
- STEPHANIE DRACHKOVITCH, co-owner and executive producer, 44 Blue Productions
- LISA HACKNER, executive vice president, creative affairs, Telepictures Productions
Amazing. I was so excited.
But whilst, on balance, the luncheon was a positive event and a great idea by Television Week, and the food was pretty good and the room decked out nicely, the proceedings themselves failed to inspire, taking a somewhat darker turn when the panel talk was opened out to the audience about forty minutes in.
A rather angered woman stuck her hand up and, when called upon to speak, expressed her complete outrage at the way the panel discussion had primarily been angled towards the difficulty of balancing child rearing and a successful career.
"A man", she scathingly noted, "would never have to discuss such a thing when called upon to celebrate his professional career".
She did not stop there, turning her wrath then upon the moderator of the panel himself, TelevisionWeek Editorial Director Chuck Ross.
"YOU, GENTLEMAN!!" - she growled, "ARE PRECISELY THE PROBLEM!!!"
Poor Chuck. That was harsh. And Chuck took it well, all things considered, and even apologetically noted that originally a woman had been slated to moderate the panel instead of he, as though somehow his gender - not the formulation of questions and the pre-interview - had been the problem. As though he would have, with a different chromosomal composition, have had it play out much differently.
I will say that the attack - if I may call it that - was not entirely fair. It is widely agreed that these issues do indeed bear upon professional women, and therefore need to be addressed. The panelists themselves had agreed to the subject matter and it wasn't as though they were being sprung.
But the underlying point of it was - we had come here to celebrate stellar careers and achievements, and to discuss the future of media and the ways that women practitioners and creators were going to be instrumental in shaping it.
What we got, instead, was a sobering counterpoint view to the prevailing notion that a woman can have it all.
When pushed, Linda Bell Blue had admitted that her love for her career had meant that the only realistic option was to not have children - a sacrifice that she had willingly entered into, but a sacrifice nonetheless. Joanne Burns, in her wonderfully animated and affable way, echoed a similar experience, noting dryly that her mother still encouraged her to adopt.
Barbara 'Bo' Argentino had a stay at home husband - clearly not an option for many working women who were not at the pinnacle of success. Only Stephanie Drachkovitch seemed to have the elements in balance, although one might think she asserted the equality of the sexes too vehemently - claiming that she had never, ever seen an incident where gender inequality might have had a role to play. Which made what she had to say less plausible thereafter.
It got me to thinking though. And it got me to imagining, and wondering why there is still such a paucity of women entrepreneurs, or companies run by women which move in the same space as those run by men. I mean - all the elements are there - education, opportunity, inclination, experience and skills - yet something still seems to not quite be connecting.
And so WIMLINK was born. Borne of a desire to bring female innovators, achievers and dreamers together to create the new media and technology world, and help it grow. Not as distinct from men, but in addition to.
Let's see if something grows...