The media industry must prioritise mentorship and ‘intentional inclusion’ to encourage more women to join the sector, according to panellists speaking at Microsoft’s Women in the Media session at NAB Show in Las Vegas, USA, this week.
The discussion, which was hosted on the Microsoft booth on 18 April, featured Nina Skorus-Neely, digital advisor for Microsoft; Margaret Rickard Rubinacci, senior director of strategy, growth and partnerships at MediaKind; and Kari Grubin, membership services director at Trusted Partner Network (TPN).
Panellists began by discussing women in leadership positions, highlighting how they have historically attempted to adjust their preferred working styles to fit into traditionally male-dominated industries like the media sector. However, they also noted that since the pandemic and the acceleration of the hybrid work culture, more women have been gaining greater confidence in the worth of their own unique talents and perspectives.
“There’s value in leadership traits traditionally associated with women, as well as men,” said Rubinacci.
Traditionally, the onus has been on women to adapt how they dress or act to be accepted as ‘professional’ by their male peers, but this mindset is shifting. Women in the media industry do not want to simply fit in; they want to be recognised for their own unique and valuable contribution as a woman – and for this to be accepted as the new standard.
“Since the pandemic, there’s a lot more forgiveness to be yourself,” said TPN’s Grubin.
In trying to bring balance to minority voices in the workforce, Microsoft’s Skorus-Neely mentioned the inevitability of unconscious bias in the industry. Grubin added: “We all have unconscious bias, but we can try to intentionally include people [who are different from us in some way],” said Grubin. “When we take all of the things that are different out of the equation, we can start to focus on what we can achieve together.”
Allies are needed to help drive this shift, according to Skorus-Neely. “Opportunities in this industry need to be open to all, and not exclusionary. There’s only so much that people can do by ourselves – we need people outside to help.”
Rubinacci cited “a great example of allyship in action” from the previous night at a NAB Show event. Eric Manchester, principal end-to-end architect at Peacock TV, brought a woman who was just starting out in the industry to join a table with myself, Rubinacci, Microsoft’s chief technology officer for media and entertainment Andy Beach, EZDRM’s co-founder and chief operating officer Olga Kornienko and other influential figures from the media technology industry. What had started as an act of kindness and mentorship on Manchester’s part resulted in an informal night of industry-specific networking that would have been invaluable to any young person at that stage of their career.
Concluding the discussion, Skorus-Neely said that mentorship like this is greatly needed and, as “it’s in our nature to help”, that we should encourage younger women to ask for assistance if they need it. She then asked the rest of the panel to share tips on what established professionals in leadership positions could do to help inspire the next generation of younger women in the industry.
“You need to be able to raise your hand,” said Grubin. “Don’t just talk! Volunteer to help. Find where your passion is and be a mentor in that area. Inspire others. If we’re brave enough to lead by example, we can become role models for the next generation, but if they don’t see it happening, they may not know it’s a possibility.”
Rubinacci referenced an earlier point about intentional inclusion, saying: “Reach out to someone who’s different from you in some way. Schedule a Microsoft Teams meeting with them, or go get a coffee together, and just talk. And then, if you have some power, and you can pull them up, or pull them in – do it!”
NAB Show is taking place from 16-19 April 2023 in Las Vegas, USA.