The Alliance for Women in Media (AWM) hosted the annual Gracies Leadership Awards luncheon on Thursday, November 21 to a capacity crowd at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Keynote speaker Elizabeth Smart eloquently gave an awe-inspiring address, sharing her captivating story of overcoming the trauma of her 9-month abduction, at the age of fourteen. Smart shared with the audience, “I don’t think that you are made by what happens to you. I think you are made by the choices you make after things happen to you.” She ended the speech, saying, “As I move forward with my life, I am dedicated to preventing what happened to me from happening to anyone else and continuing to empower women, and girls of all ages, as much as I can.”
Six female leaders in media were honored at the event, along with the Inaugural AWM Legacy Leadership recipient, Chickie Bucco. Highlights from their speeches include:
- Mary Berner, President and Chief Executive Officer, Cumulus Media, shared how she watched more and more females rise to the top in the magazine industry but said there is still work to be done in radio. Berner shared a quote by Maya Angelou, saying, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” She continued by saying, “At Cumulus, we know better, and we are working hard to do better.”
- Weezie Kramer, Chief Operating Officer, Entercom Communications, thanked those who have helped her along the way, and said, “Looking back on moments in my career, the times that I was able to help others find their super powers or help them achieve their ambitions, whatever that ambition may be, those are the moments that give me the greatest joy.”
- Rosemary Mercedes, Chief Communications Officer, Univision Communications Inc., thanked her mother for teaching her how to be strong, and proudly said, “It’s so easy to get caught up on headlines of the day – the ‘Me Toos’ and the statistics, which are not as great as they should be. But, when you expand your view and think about the century and where we were in 1901 to where we are today, it is such a wonderful time to be a woman. I know there’s work to be done, but it’s a great time to be a woman today.”
- Michelle Rice, General Manager, TV One, shared that as a child, she had big dreams. Rice continued her acceptance speech, saying, “So many times I have been the first – the first woman, the first person of color, the first woman of color. Maybe you have been the first. Be fearless. Your fearlessness will ensure that you will certainly not be the last.”
- Michelle Vicary, EVP, Programming and Network Publicity, Crown Media Family Networks, beamed as she told the crowd how much she loves the work she does. Vicary said, “In the last few years, our industry has undergone a seismic shift. Women are more empowered than ever before, and this is in large part because other women stepped up and paved the way. I have personally had so many female mentors that have helped me along the way.”
- Danyelle Wright, VP, Employment & Labor Law and Chief Diversity Officer, The E.W. Scripps Company,began her speech recalling her mother telling her from a young age that she should become a lawyer. She shared, “One particular word comes to mind when I think of why I do what I do – calling. My calling is to help people, to carry other people’s burdens, to stand in the gap, resolve problems, take the hits, and make things just a little better, even when it’s tough on me. That’s why I do what I do.”
- Chickie Bucco, upon accepting the Inaugural AWM Legacy Leadership Award, thanked her family, and said, “When I started, it was really the Mad Men days.” She continued, saying, “The people that I worked with and the people that I worked for were wonderful to me.”
“This is a really important event because what it does is really our three pillars – it’s recognition, it’s education and it’s connection,” said Becky Brooks, executive director of AWM. She continued, “What a gift we have that our education is Elizabeth Smart as a keynote speaker.”
Photos from the event can be found at graciesawards.photos.
Sponsors of the event were Ford Motor Company, CBS Corporation, Benztown, Cox Media Group, Crown Media Family Networks, Cumulus Media, Discovery, Entercom Communications, Katz Media Group, NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, Nielsen, TV One, Univision Communications Inc. and vCreative.
About the Alliance for Women in Media (AWM): The Alliance for Women in Media connects, recognizes and inspires women across the media industry. AWM is a diverse community – whether type of media, job or global location – that facilitates industry-wide collaboration, education, and innovation. Established in 1951 as American Women in Radio & Television (AWRT), AWM is the longest-established professional association dedicated to advancing women in media and entertainment. AWM harnesses the promise, passion and power of women in all forms of media to empower career development, engage in thought leadership, and drive positive change for our industry and societal progress.