Amy Burton

February, 2024

Blog, Gracies Leadership Award

Amber Tai’s Experience at the 2023 Gracies Leadership Award

As I stood in front of the elevator, my palms became clammy with nervousness. Hesitating for a moment, I finally pressed the button to the top floor of Tribeca 360. The anticipation was almost overwhelming as the elevator ascended slowly. Being an international student who had only arrived in the United States three months ago, I felt a mix of excitement and apprehension about the experience ahead.

When the elevator doors opened, I was greeted by a breathtaking view of the city skyline. Yet, even more impressive were the women I had come to see. They radiated confidence and expertise, inspiring me with their presence. Navigating through the event, I felt an immense sense of gratitude for being among such accomplished individuals. It was a dream come true to be part of this community and witness their success firsthand.

The Gracies Leadership Award event was more than just a ceremony; it was a symphony of voices, each narrating a unique story of struggle, triumph, and unwavering commitment to media excellence. The honorees, beacons in their respective fields, shared insights that resonated deeply.

Kay Olin, an icon in radio broadcasting, was the first I spoke to. She greeted me with a warm smile and listened intently to my background. In her award acceptance speech, she painted a picture of a journey marked by resilience and a passion for media. She emphasized the importance of mentorship, reflecting on her experiences as both a mentor and a mentee. Kay’s words were a powerful reminder that leadership in media is about elevating others as you ascend. Her speech moved me profoundly.

Rashida Jones, a trailblazer in news media, shared her vision of leadership that transcends traditional boundaries. Her powerful speech testified to the impact of diverse voices in shaping media narratives. Rashida’s ascent to President of MSNBC was not just a personal achievement but a significant breakthrough for women in leadership roles across the industry.

Rosalyn Durant, Executive Vice President at ESPN, added another layer to the narrative. Her speech focused on the dynamic and evolving nature of the media industry and the critical role of adaptability and innovation in driving success. Rosalyn’s journey in the traditionally male-dominated sports media landscape highlighted the importance of perseverance and breaking barriers. Her message was unequivocal: embracing change and challenging the status quo are vital for progress.

A common theme in all the speeches was the emphasis on change and evolution in the media industry. The honorees spoke of the challenges they faced, not just as professionals but as women in a competitive and often unforgiving landscape. They underscored the need for courage in confronting external barriers and personal limitations.

The speeches also celebrated the collective strength of women in media. The honorees acknowledged their responsibility to the next generation, emphasizing the need to create opportunities and foster an environment where young women can thrive and lead.

In conclusion, the acceptance speeches at the Gracies Leadership Award event were more than expressions of gratitude; they were a call to action. They urged us to embrace change, support one another, and continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible for women in media. The event was a reminder that while the journey towards gender equality in media is ongoing, the strides made by these remarkable women have laid a strong foundation for future generations.

Towards the end of the event, I found myself standing beside the stage, hoping for a chance to speak with any of the recipients. Fortunately, I met Durant and introduced myself. Far from being standoffish, she listened to my words earnestly and offered practical and insightful suggestions about navigating the industry in America. She encouraged me to pursue my passion relentlessly and to never give up, regardless of the challenges ahead.

I left the event feeling inspired and motivated, with a renewed sense of purpose. I realized that connecting with industry experts like Durant was crucial to my success, and that networking and building relationships were essential parts of the journey. I was grateful for the encounter and the valuable advice I received, knowing it would stay with me for a long time.

Amber Tai is a recipient of the 2023 Google News Initiative Student Fellowship. She is a Journalism student at Boston University, and we look forward to seeing how she continues to shape the world of media in the future.