Missing the Boat On Diversity

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From afar I've been reflecting on CES's missteps in not including women among the ranks of this year's keynote speakers.  What is peculiar about the omissions is that women make up such a significant proportion of the media and marketing industry's leading decision makers.

During my 4.5-year stint as the President & CEO of Symphony Advanced Media, I spent just about every waking hour in front of senior research and strategy executives of all the leading network and cable broadcast firms, TV studios, agencies and to a smaller degree leading marketers, not to mention keeping close tabs on our measurement and analytic competitors.  Without question, the most senior, influential people I met with throughout the industry are mostly women.  For example:

  • Our first major supporter was NBC, and everyone knows that Alan Wurtzel, one of the industry's best guys ever, was our champion.  But ever since she moved from Turner, Linda Yaccarino has set the tone for NBC's neverending quest to enhance measurement and analytic innovation in support of effective selling.  She continues to plow new ground for both NBC and the larger industry.
  • At ABC, our main contacts were Cindy Davis and Lisa Heimann (Lisa has since moved on to NBC).  Both Cindy and Lisa were dynamic, thoughtful and great partners who pushed us hard to continue to innovate.
  • We were brought into Viacom by Colleen Fahey Rush who appreciated that we were doing something very difficult, but something that the industry needed.  She introduced us to many other Viacom stakeholders and helped us to expand our offering to more effectively respond to Viacom's and the industry's needs.
  • Amy Carney brought us into Sony Pictures Television.  Sony didn't always like our coverage of some of their SVOD programs, but I found Amy and her team incredibly constructive, fair-minded and insightful in helping us more accurately represent the industry's evolving landscape.
  • FX Networks never became a client, but Julie Piepenkotter met with us on several occasions and spent a lot of time with me to deeply understand how we did what we did so that she could effectively communicate our approach to her management.  She was always an upbeat, straight-shooter, something a vendor always appreciates.
  • Warner Bros. was another company that chose not to sign up with us but we met with Liz Huszarik and her great team several times and appreciated the rigor and attention to detail they all brought to the party.
  • One of the hidden stories of Nielsen, where I worked from 1999 to 2012, is that women are largely responsible for the continuing success of the Watch business.  Megan Clarken, who was my boss when I oversaw Nielsen Online's business in Japan from 2009 to 2011, is now President of Nielsen's entire global Watch business, and will no doubt be CEO of something big one of these days.  Other stars include Jessica Hogue, Kelly Abcarian, Sara Erichson, Catherine Herkovic, Terrie Brennan and Angela Talton, and that's just a partial list of people with whom I spent more time.
  • Jane Clarke has accomplished something amazing over the last seven years with the Coalition of Innovation in Media Measurement (CIMM).  SymphonyAM was the recipient of one of CIMM's grants in 2012 and 2013, and I've appreciated how Jane continues to push the envelope in helping the industry understand how cross platform measurement and analytics are progressing.
  • Some of the analysts/executives at Symphony Advanced Media that were responsible for the buzz we created in a few short years included Kerrilyn Curtin, Jei-laya Hassan, Laura Grover, Elif Akcali and Kym Franks.  And our product delighted clients through the great oversight of Shankari Panchapakesan.  All have gone onto great new chapters in their lives and I know we'll being hearing more from all of them in the years to come.

Two additional points.  First, this is just a short list of the people that I've gotten to know well within my area of expertise, and of course the list of major female contributors in our industry is much, much larger.  Second, and most important, these women are making massive impacts within their companies and the industry, and regardless of their respective titles everyone knows they are the people who bring highly strategic things to life.

Coming back to the CES snafu, here’s the rub.  However appropriate it was to call CES out on this, it seems to me that the media and marketing industry’s diversity challenges run much deeper than this episode.  While our industry clearly must work harder to ensure that women fill more of its executive roles, things are more dire when it comes to the representation of people of color.  One of my hopes for 2018 is that the executives who were so quick to call out CES about the female keynoter snub spend even more effort within their own companies to make their companies, and our industry, truly diverse.

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