Catherine Combs

January, 2020


Joan Gerberding, Former AWRT President, on the Impact of AWM

Read Gerberding’s Remarkable Speech from the AWM Regional Conference Held in Austin on January 17

I’ve been invited here today to talk about the privilege of membership in the Alliance for Women in Media.  I’m not sure if it’s because I was national president from 2000 to 2003 when we were known as American Women in Radio and Television and we enjoyed record membership numbers, or if I’m just old enough to have lots of experience in telling stories about the good old days.  Maybe it’s both!  Either way, let me get started.

    I’m going to give you a little history about the organization, tell you some stories about my personal experiences, and, hopefully, inspire you to drive membership in this important organization. 

    AWRT was formed in 1951 as a response to the National Association of Broadcasters’ decision to dissolve its women’s division.  After the dissolution, and fearful that the concerns of women within the industry would not be given a voice, several female members of the NAB decided to form their own organization.  They inspired over 280 women to come together to create AWRT and determine its mission: “to provide a broadcasting organization for professional women in the radio and television industries.”  Now 280 may not sound like a lot, but remember, this was in 1951…and there weren’t many women in the work force, especially in media.

    Edythe Meserand was one of the founders and served as its first national president.  She began her broadcasting career at NBC Radio in 1926, but she had her greatest influence at New York City’s WOR-Radio, which she joined in 1935. There she achieved a number of “firsts” in broadcasting history:  she is acknowledged as the first person, male or female, to found an actual radio newsroom, she produced the first true radio documentary; and she organized WOR’s enduring Children’s Christmas Fund Drive. 

    AWRT continued to grow through the years, adding several hundred women from across the country to its roster.  But still, it was looked upon as “that women’s group” by most of the industry.  Well, of course, there were only a handful of women executives, there were no women sales managers, no female account reps, very few female on-air personnel, and certainly no women holding the positions of engineer, or program director.  In fact, the majority of women at this time were secretaries and receptionists.

    There were a few exceptions.  The first woman to have her own radio show was Kate Smith.  You may know her as the woman in the 1930s and 40s who sang “God Bless America” over the airwaves.  From 1937 to 1945 she hosted the “Kate Smith Hour.” She went on to host her number one daytime news and talk show until 1958.

    Then there was Pegeen Fitzgerald. She was another one of the first women on-air in radio, also at WOR. Fitzgerald began her own show broadcasting from her apartment in 1937 and became known as “First Lady of Radio Chatter”. On her talk show she covered numerous topics, and in the 1940s her husband joined her on-air.  The show was re-branded as “The Ed and Pegeen Fitzgerald Show”….notice who has top billing!  They became one of the most highly paid double acts in radio, earning about $160,000 a year.  In the 1940s. That would be about $2.9 million a year in today’s dollars!

    There were others:  Arlene Francis, Mary Margaret McBride, Bertha Brainard, and of course, Gracie Allen.  And then, came TV.  Although it was invented in 1927, television didn’t really become popular until after World War II. 

    When sitcoms were launched in the early 1950s, female “sidekicks” playing wives or secretaries or school teachers starred along with the men…and they were some of the funniest  women to ever fill a TV screen:  Lucille Ball, Vivian Vance, Gale Storm, Audrey Meadows, Eve Arden, Ann Southern and Gracie Allen.

    But for the most part, women were barely seen, much less heard in broadcast media.  There were no women in the wings directing shows, writing scripts, selling advertising, managing stations or, God forbid, owning radio or TV stations.

    AWRT set out to change all that.

    In 1960 it became the first professional broadcasting organization to establish an educational foundation to give scholarships to up and coming radio and TV women.  The Foundation held seminars, leadership conferences, educational forums and did everything in its power to advance women in the media business.

    In 1975 it began an annual awards program recognizing broadcast professionals in radio and TV who represented the changing roles, issues, and concerns of women. In 1997 those awards became known as The Gracies, named after the media pioneer who embodied the character of the awards, Gracie Allen.

    By the end of the 1990s, AWRT had several thousand members all over the country. We had chapters in most states, and we had become a well-known and well-respected organization.

    In 2001, the first year into my national presidency, we celebrated our 50th anniversary at a star-studded luncheon at New York City’s Tavern on the Green.  I’ll never forget that day.  For so many reasons.

    But first let me tell you a quick story.  All of us were working diligently on getting a book ready to be released for the 50th anniversary.  It was called “Making Waves, the 50 Greatest Women in Radio and Television” and it was due to be published in time for this luncheon honoring many of the women highlighted in the book. 

    We had asked all the living legends who were featured in the book to write their own personal essays.  Our Executive Director was overseeing the project, and one day about a week before the deadline to get this book to the typesetters, she called me:  “we have 49 of the essays in house and ready to go to the typesetters.  We’re just missing Lily Tomlin’s”.

    Well, it just so happened that Lily Tomlin was doing her one woman show, “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” at McCarter Theater at Princeton University.  Since my radio company headquarters was in Princeton, I knew the director of the theater quite well, so I immediately got on the phone, explained the dilemma, and asked him if he could set up a meeting with Lily in a day or two.

    The day came, I sat down with Lily and told her that hers was the only missing essay.  “We need 1,500 words by the end of this week”, I said.  She said, “no problem.”

    I waited and waited and waited.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and finally on Thursday I called her.  “Lily,” I said, “I really need those 1,500 words by tomorrow.”  She said, “no problem.”

    So, Friday afternoon I got an email from Lily and attached is her essay.  All 5,000 words of it.  I called her up:  “Lily, I only need 1,500 words, do you want to cut this down?”  She said, “no problem.  You can edit it.”

    Well, I spent all of the next day, and half the night cutting and pasting, deleting and counting words.  By Sunday afternoon, I really was rather delirious from reading the essay over and over again, and I just started laughing out loud.  “I’m editing Lily Tomlin!”  “I’m editing Lily Tomlin!”

    Needless to say, I got over the giddiness, finished the essay at 1,500 words, Lily approved it, and right on deadline, the essay was sent to the typesetter and the book was published just in time. 

    But let me finish my story about the 50th Anniversary party.  The luncheon was held to honor the women in this book.  The women who “made waves” and, in spite of all the things they had to overcome, became a success.  Things like executives (all men) who resisted giving them a job because women were supposed to be at home taking care of their houses, their husbands, and having babies.  

    Bankers who insisted that women had to get their husband’s signature to co-sign a credit card or loan application.  Those women who were fired because they were pregnant…bosses who were reluctant to allow women to have opinions, especially on the air. In fact, those women—many of my generation–overcame things that women today take for granted or maybe don’t even know about.

    So anyway, here we were at Tavern on the Green, the room is buzzing.  It’s filled with celebrities, the press, TV camera men and women, a few hundred people, mostly women, ready to sit down to lunch and start the program in a room that had glass walls and yes, a glass ceiling.  It was an extremely hot July day.  New York City was sweltering with record breaking temperatures.  And here we are, ready to honor some of the world’s most famous female icons…and the air conditioning stops working.  No AC, no fans, no nothing!

    Mary Hart from Entertainment Tonight was my co-host and the two of us were literally dying from the heat.  As we called the honorees up to the podium, you could see what a struggle it was for them to keep cool.  I mean, we were just dripping with sweat! 

    But, once they received their plaques, a copy of the book and were given the microphone, WOW!…they were just as cool as cucumbers!  Gracious, professional, funny, endearing. It was so impressive….Barbara Walters, Katie Couric, Connie Chung, Mary Tyler Moore, Candace Bergen, Cokie Roberts…It was breathtaking!  And it was a day I’ll never forget.

    So, time passes on and by 2003, radio and television were joined by digital media, the internet, cellphones, tablets, laptops, LED billboards, and so much more.  We started the discussion about changing the name of AWRT to better reflect the changing world of media.  Finally, after many fits and starts, in 2010 AWRT renamed itself the Alliance for Women in Media or AWM.  We now better reflected our commitment to all women in all types of media.

    And here we are 10 years later, 2020, and AWM is still flourishing.  But it’s also been sixty-nine years since the founding of this organization.  Of incredible media women laying the foundation for those of you who are here today. 

    Sixty-nine years of having to work twice as hard to get half as far, continually having to prove ourselves.  Sixty-nine years of doing the work, putting in the long hours, hopping the planes, running in heels to get the story, to meet the deadline, to climb the ladder.

    How great is this?! 

    Now, much of the history I just spoke about can be researched online.  But what can’t be found via Google, is the power, and the magic, and the friendship within AWM; the generosity and collective knowledge of its members, old and new. 

    Membership in this vital and vibrant organization should be one of the first items on the “To Do” list once a woman accepts a position in media.

    I mentioned before about some of the obstacles the founders and subsequent members had to go through way back when.  Well, let me tell you about some of the obstacles I had to face alone before I joined AWRT.

    From 1969 until 1973, I held several positions in advertising and media:  the marketing department of a major insurance company in New York City, an ad agency in Hartford, Connecticut, doing PR for The American Heart Association.  Finally, in 1974, I decided to move to Cape Cod.  I was 25 years old. 

    It being the 70s, like many other women in this decade, I was a vocal supporter of the Women’s Liberation Movement.  Being female and having to put up with a great deal of harassment as one of the few women in the advertising world at that time, it was a no brainer to support Women’s Lib, subscribe to Gloria Steinem’s Ms. Magazine, and march for equal rights.  And I did all of that.

    So, after buying an antique sea captain’s house on Cape Cod in 1974, and then taking a year off to restore it, I decided I needed to get back to my career.  I started perusing the Cape Cod Times and lo and behold, there was an ad for Account Executive at WCOD-FM in Hyannis, just 15 minutes away.

    I interviewed for the job in March of 1975.  And really, I nailed it!  I mean you know when you nail an interview. I had this job!  After an hour of conversation, the sales manager (a man) said this to me:  “I think you’re highly qualified for the job, but I don’t hire women because they’re too much trouble.” 

    I could feel the heat rise from my toes.  Being a lily white, freckled redhead, blushing was in my bones.  Anger, fear, shock, embarrassment, any of those emotions could turn me beet red in less than a 30-second commercial.  So red-faced, I said to him:

    “Well, you’re going to hire me!” 

    Over the next two weeks, I called him twice a day: once in the morning, once in the afternoon.  I left messages since he wouldn’t take the call “This is Joan Gerberding, I’m anxious to start bringing in advertising sales for you.”  “I may have missed your call. I’m looking forward to working for you.”  “When can I start?”  You get the idea.  I was relentless.

    On the Friday of the second week of my daily messaging, at 4:30PM, he took my call.  He said this: “I just spent the last two weeks interviewing men for this AE position, they were all assholes. You can start Monday.”

    Thus, began my radio career.  Oh, and by the way.  Within the first 6 months, I outsold him and every other AE on staff; 6 months after that, he was fired, and I got his job as GSM!  So, maybe I was “too much trouble” after all!

    When I finally discovered AWRT in the late 70s, I felt that I had died and gone to heaven. I mean here was a group of professional women who actually wanted to raise me up, not put me down.  Here were women who were going through exactly the same things I was going through.  Dealing with the same issues.  I had never had a female mentor before, but now I had hundreds of them, all over the country.  But on Cape Cod, I was the only woman in radio.

    So, in 1980, I accepted the position of Sales Development Manager at Nassau Broadcasting in Princeton, New Jersey.  There were hardly any more women there than on Cape Cod, but I felt that sitting between New York and Philadelphia, the number 1 and number 4 markets, I could grow my career and really make a difference.  And maybe, I could even bring more women into the business. 

    I started hiring them.  As AEs, PDs, news anchors, DJs, copywriters.  I became involved with the New Jersey Broadcaster’s Association, later becoming its Chair. 

    The first time I spoke at a NJBA conference workshop in 1980, I was the only woman there.  I had prepared a presentation on selling but seeing that I was the only woman in a room of over 50 men of all ages, I ad-libbed the first 15 minutes by actually demonstrating to them how to shake a woman’s hand!       You know, what I mean…when men shake your fingers or barely grab your hand for fear of breaking you in half?  I made every man in that room shake my hand the right way that day.          To this day a wonderful guy who was there at that workshop and who later came to work for me, tells me I should write a book and title it: “It All Began with a Handshake.”

    And still I kept coming back to AWRT.  I initiated Leadership Training seminars for women at the RAB. I became involved with the NAB.  And I brought some of what I learned in these organizations to the AWRT table.

    In the early 90s, I was presented with the AWRT Star Award for women’s leadership in radio.  I was named one of the “Top Six Sales Managers in the United States” by Radio Ink Magazine.

    And I kept getting invited to speak all over the country, not only to AWRT chapters, but also to women’s business groups and state broadcasting associations, at the RAB and the NAB. 

    In 1992, a groundbreaking book called “Megatrends for Women” was published.  The authors said this:  “the description of the characteristics of a manager of the future uncannily match those of female leadership.”  In fact, “every item on the experts’ list of leadership qualities—openness, trust, empowerment, compassion and understanding balanced with objectivity—describe the female leadership style.”

    I took those words to heart as I stepped up to higher and higher executive positions at Nassau Broadcasting.  And I put those words into action.

    I hired and promoted more and more deserving, talented women.  I made sure that they all had the core belief that when you work in an environment that promotes a positive atmosphere, it raises the standards for everyone.  And I paid for their memberships in AWRT as part of their employment packages.  It was the right thing to do.

    The members and directors of AWRT, and now, the Alliance for Women in Media have spent 69 years promoting and encouraging opportunities for women in media.  They’ve paved the way for women to bring a positive approach to leading our companies, our organizations, our colleagues, our peers…to success. 

    The shared experience of being a member of AWM elevates us all.  Vision, direction, autonomy, trust, belonging, having a voice, being represented, and joyful camaraderie:  these are the attributes that not only offer both women and men success, they are truly assets that allow all media companies to grow and flourish.  And these attributes are what AWM embodies in the very core of its organizational DNA.

    This is our message. This is what inspires us to Make A Difference. And as we each attain our individual goals it is our duty to turn around and reach our hands out to the next woman down the line…and the next one and the next one.  To raise each other up. We need to celebrate our diversity, our strengths, and our ability to keep our energies focused on the things that make a difference for women in media.

    We must recruit new members from each upcoming generation of broadcasters.  Mentoring these women, inspiring them, opening doors for them…and finding opportunities to help them and us create success for all women in media. 

    We need to continue to develop and refine programs that provide education, leadership training, outreach programs.  To advance the mission of AWM by increasing its visibility, its credibility, and, as a professional organization, by contributing to the advancement of the broadcasting and digital media industries as a whole. 

    In 2002, just after I was named “The Number One Most Influential Woman in Radio” by Radio Ink Magazine, I was invited to Capitol Hill to speak to the FCC.  I started that speech by saying these words:  “Mr. Chairman, Commissioners.  First, I’d like to say that I find it amazing that we’re sitting here today, in the year 2002, still having to discuss the issues of women’s equality in the broadcasting industry.  The same conversation I’ve been having since the 1970s.”

    Have we advanced since then?  Yes.  But we still have a long way to go. 

    Let me end today by reading from a company handbook written around the same year that AWRT first came into existence in 1951.  This chapter was entitled: “The Guide for Hiring Women” and there were 10 rules.  I’ll just read you a few.

  • Rule #1:  Pick young married women.  They usually have more of a sense of responsibility then their unmarried sisters, they’re less likely to be flirtatious and they still have the pep and interest in working hard.
  • Rule #2:  General experience indicates that husky girls are more even-tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.
  • Rule #3:  Give the female employee a definite day-long schedule of duties so that they’ll keep busy without bothering management for instructions every few minutes.  Women lack initiative in finding work for themselves.

And last:

  • Rule #4:  Give a girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day.  A girl has more confidence and is more efficient if she can take some time to keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick and wash her hands several times a day.

    Today, in 2020, I say to you.  Let’s move our respective industries into the future.  Let’s demonstrate the power of women when we come together to strengthen, support and promote one another.  Let’s empower the entire media industry so that it truly reflects and honors the communities we serve. 

    Being a member of AWM changed me. It made me a better broadcaster, a better leader.  And it made me a better human being.

    So now you have a little organizational history, some of my personal stories and, hopefully, I’ve inspired you just a bit.  As I said at the beginning, membership in AWM is a privilege…and I ask you to accept the challenge of bringing in new members. 

    As we grow AWM membership, we grow our media industries and ourselves. We grow the pool of talented, ambitious and outstanding women who can lead companies forward.  We have work to do. YOU have work to do.

Catherine Combs

January, 2020


Alliance for Women in Media Foundation Extends Deadline for the 2020 Gracie Award Entries

Foundation announces Ziploc® Brand as Diamond Sponsor of the 2020 Gracies Gala

The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (AWMF) has announced that the final deadline to submit entries for the 45th Annual Gracie Awards has been extended until January 23, 2020.  The Gracie Awards, presented by the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation, celebrate programming and individual achievement by, for and about women in television, radio and interactive media.  Submissions from all facets of media are encouraged.  AWMF is also pleased to announce Ziploc® Brand as the Diamond Sponsor of the 2020 Gracies Gala. 

The women featured and honored at The Gracie Awards are the same hard-working, busy women Ziploc® brand helps to stay organized. With the launch of the fashionable Ziploc® Accessory Bags, busy women have the perfect solution to stay organized while on the go, with versatile designs, durable material and multiple sizes. As a trusted brand among women, Ziploc® brand is excited to partner with the 2020 Gracies Gala to celebrate women in media.

The Alliance for Women in Media is also proud to partner with its newest Honorary Trustee, Jinny Laderer, Co-founder & CEO, vCreative.  Laderer joins Jason Bailey, Sun Broadcast Group, Catherine Frymark, Discovery Communications, and Mark Gray, Katz Radio Group, as 2020 Honorary Trustees.

 “Each year, the Gracie Awards turn the spotlight on the best and brightest in all segments of the media industry, on and off the screen, by recognizing groundbreakers in radio, television and interactive media,” says Becky Brooks, AWM/F executive director. “As our biggest fundraiser of the year, the Gracies enables the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation to deliver on its promise of furthering the connection, education and recognition of women in media.  All of this is made possible by our amazing sponsors like Ziploc® brand and our Honorary Trustees.”

The 2020 Gracie Awards entry eligibility air dates are from January 1, 2019, through December 31, 2019.  Entry details, including pricing and updated categories, can be viewed at 

The 45th Annual Gracie Awards Gala will be held on May 19, 2020, at the Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills, A Four Seasons Hotel and the Gracie Awards Luncheon will be held on June 24, 2020, in New York City at Cipriani 42nd Street.  To learn more, visit

About the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation: In 1960, the Alliance for Women in Media became the first professional broadcasting organization to establish an educational foundation. The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (formerly known as The Foundation of American Women in Radio & Television) supports and promotes educational programs, charitable activities, public service campaigns and scholarships to benefit the public, the electronic media and allied fields. The Foundation also produces nationally acclaimed recognition programs, including the Gracie Awards®, a gala that honors exemplary programming created by, for or about women. The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, educational organization. For the latest news on the Gracies, follow The Gracies on Twitter and Facebook. For more information about the Gracie Awards and to submit your entries, please visit  


Catherine Combs

December, 2019


The Year in Review

By Becky Brooks, AWM/F Executive Director

At the end of each year, many of us stop to take time to reflect on what we have seen, experienced and learned, and then, hopefully, how to take that into the next year. It is often a time to also consider those historical moments that emerge, and in the case of 2019, it was significant. And each of you, the community of the Alliance for Women in Media (AWM), provide your own unique window for the world to see, experience and learn.

Increasingly, watching television, listening to the radio or to a podcast can feel overwhelming with divisiveness and endless opinions on just about every topic. Amid hearing those stories – a common theme that emerged at AWM in 2019 – is courage.

Courage was prominently in the background of the magnificent storytelling we experienced while reviewing content for the 2019 Gracies Awards. Just a few examples were Noor Tagouri’s podcast series Sold in America that researched the sex trade industry from every angle; Leah Remini executive producing and hosting a program, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath that revealed the truths of a religion in which she previously participated; Madison Lawson, a student from the University of Missouri, telling her story of living with a disability (and flying to New York to accept the award!) and LaDona Harvey on iHeart’s AM 600 KOGO reminding us in her interview, “I am NOT grateful, I am qualified”.

Each of these Gracie winners had the courage to tell a story. And many times, through courage also comes hope. Just this year: A record number of women were installed in congress; the largest class of African American women graduated from West Point; an entire community in Texas showed up to a funeral to support a man who lost his wife in a mass shooting so that he wasn’t alone; a group of women in Iran seeing their first soccer game from the stands, an activity that was once forbidden; and, a child hosting a hot chocolate stand to pay for a classmates’ lunch at school. That – is hope.

One of our favorite stories at AWM is the courage it took for a group of women in the 1950’s to form a group called the American Women in Radio & Television – now known as the Alliance for Women in Media. They created the path for the community we have today, and our current leadership continues to forge that path.

AWM has given nearly $20,000 in scholarships, created an online community forum for our members, interviewed more women (and men!) in media to relaunch our Gracie Interview Series to provide insight and education and heard first-hand the harrowing experience of Elizabeth Smart during her keynote at the Gracies Leadership Awards where we also heard from six inspiring and fearless leaders in our industry about their career journeys.

On a personal level, these stories give me hope and courage for the future. As my husband and I raise two kids who are seeing and experiencing life in a different way than we did – we can tell them the stories you have the courage to tell and encourage them to do the same. We have friends who have experienced unimaginable health scares and loss – yet our personal community rallies to support one another – just as we see happening in communities across the country.

AWM is committed to do even more in 2020. We will recognize story tellers, bring communities together through our membership and events and connect women (and men) in radio, television and digital medias who may not otherwise have known one another. We ask you to join AWM, submit your content for Gracies consideration, judge Gracie Awards, attend an event – stay connected.

Our challenge to you in the new year is to continue telling important stories and to give hope.

Cheers to 2020!

Catherine Combs

November, 2019


Alliance for Women in Media Foundation Announces 45th Gracie Awards Call for Entries Open

The Gracie Awards, presented by the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (AWMF), has opened the call for entries for the 45th Annual Gracie Awards Gala, May 19, 2020, at the Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills, A Four Seasons Hotel, and Gracie Awards Luncheon, June 24, 2020, in New York City at Cipriani 42nd Street. 

“Each year, the Gracie Awards celebrate and honor truly exceptional content by, for and about women.  It is our belief that recognizing expertise, courage and contributions across television, radio and interactive/digital media is essential to ensuring continued growth for our industry,” says Becky Brooks, AWMF executive director. “As our biggest fundraiser of the year, the Gracies enables the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation to deliver on its promise of furthering the connection, education and recognition of women in media.”

Serving again as chairs for the 2020 Gracie Awards are Mike McVay, president, McVay Media Consulting and Alliance for Women in Media Foundation board members Heather Cohen, executive vice president, The Weiss Agency and Annie Howell, co-founder and managing partner, The Punch Point Group. Vicangelo Bulluck, an Emmy Award-winning, seasoned veteran in awards production, has produced the Gracie Awards since 2016 and will return to produce the Gracie Awards Gala in 2020.

Each year, attention is given to evaluating categories, and this year that included adding a category for showrunners in television and creating more avenues for radio hosts/co-hosts by adding categories for Outstanding News Anchor and Weekend Host Personality.

Highlights of the 2019 Gracies included honoring outstanding and powerful talent such as: Leah Remini for Scientology and the Aftermath; Christina Hendricks & Retta accepting on behalf of the cast of Good Girls; Elizabeth Perkins of Sharp Objects; Angela Yee of top-rated Breakfast Club morning radio show; Rachel Bloom of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend; and, Hannah Storm & Andrea Kramer as the first female NFL sports commentating team.  Melora Hardin and many other presenters joined Lauren Ash from Superstore as our host and Sheryl Crow as entertainment for the night. 

The 2019 Gracie Awards entry eligibility air dates are from January 1, 2019, through December 31, 2019. Early Bird rates for entries end on December 12, 2019, at 11:59 PM Eastern. The deadline for all entries is January 16, 2019, at 11:59 PM Eastern. Entry details including pricing, updated categories can be viewed at 

To see more about the 2019 Gracie Awards, including the media release and past video, visit

About the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation: In 1960, the Alliance for Women in Media became the first professional broadcasting organization to establish an educational foundation. The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (formerly known as The Foundation of American Women in Radio & Television) supports and promotes educational programs, charitable activities, public service campaigns and scholarships to benefit the public, the electronic media and allied fields. The Foundation also produces nationally acclaimed recognition programs, including the Gracie Awards®, a gala that honors exemplary programming created by, for or about women. The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, educational organization. For the latest news on the Gracies, follow The Gracies on Twitter and Facebook. For more information about the Gracie Awards and to submit your entries, please visit  

Catherine Combs

October, 2019


Why are organizations like the Alliance for Women in Media so important today?

By Vanessa Arredondo, 2019 Emerging Voices Scholarship Recipient

Women are making significant strides in media and mass communications. More women are directing films, becoming war correspondents and taking on executive roles. But despite an increase of gender diversity in fields where there has historically been none, women are still vastly underrepresented and undistinguished for their accomplishments in news media.

According to the Columbia Journalism Review, only 16 percent of all Pulitzer Prize winners in the 100 years of the award’s existence have been women.

A lack of representation and acknowledgement make it necessary to have organizations such as the Alliance for Women in Media (AWM). Every year, the institution awards its Gracies Leadership Award to women who have made significant impacts and inspirational contributions to the business. The annual Gracies Awards recognize women who are making positive social changes by increasing visibility for women and their narratives in media and entertainment.

The organization, created by women for women, not only celebrates the various accomplishments of women in media, but encourages, supports, educates and trains the next generation who wish to pursue a career in the industry.

Educating and supporting women to pursue a career in media is a fundamental goal for the AWM—and for good reason. According to the Women’s Media Center (WMC), women receive 37 percent of bylines and credits across all news platforms.

A study by the Pew Research Center determined that the percentage of white and male workers in U.S. newsrooms was higher than national workforce rates. The nation’s 135 most widely circulated newspapers have an overwhelmingly male and white editorial staff, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. This is all in spite of the fact that women continue to outnumber men in college and university journalism programs, according to the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

A lack of women in news means that many stories, especially those sensitive to gender politics, are reported with a male perspective. Studies show that men receive more bylines for articles about women’s reproductive rights. Additionally, a 2017 Washington Post Op-Ed states that, across all media groups, only 27 percent of the people quoted in a male journalist’s article were women.

Without female reporters, 50 percent of the population are less likely to be given an appropriate platform to speak. Equal representation can be easily achieved by hiring more women in newsrooms. Studies show that women are more likely to include women sources in their reporting. Increasing diversity in the newsroom allows for more well-rounded reporting.

Through organizations such as the AWM, women can network and meet talented, successful and up-and-coming women in the media industry who can guide them on how to start their careers or help them get their foot in the door. AWM allows women to raise each other up, look out for each other and celebrate the amazing things others might have overlooked.

Catherine Combs

October, 2019


Vanessa Arredondo, Ford Emerging Voices Scholarship Recipient

Vanessa Arredondo’s Scholarship-Winning Essay

I walked into the newsroom fifteen minutes after midnight, late, my apology ready at the lips. The lights were on; reporters and editors were frantically running around, yelling commands and information. The newsroom, that was usually quiet until reporters started trickling in at 3 a.m., was buzzing with excitement.

I had just walked into my ABC 7 Early Morning News internship half an hour after news broke of a mass shooting at the Thousand Oaks Borderline Bar & Grill.

As a student journalist, this incident has been the most significant media event in my life, because it is the first national breaking news story in which I was part of the news-gathering process, working alongside writers, editors and reporters. It provided me with a chance to put my knowledge to the test in a high-pressure situation, dealing with an incredibly sensitive subject. It also made me seriously consider how this career path can weigh on one’s mental and emotional well-being.

That night, I answered phone calls, monitored social media for official updates, watched the Air 7 helicopter feed in police rescue efforts, and contacted witnesses and families of victims to give us details about the incident. I tried my best to be sensitive, thanking people for speaking with me and wishing them well.

Thousand Oaks was about a half hour away. It was a city that people didn’t know about unless they had connections to the San Fernando Valley. To us, it was an affluent neighborhood, quiet and safe. Now it has become known for this.

My shift ended at 8 a.m., and I was off until Tuesday. I had a lot of time to reflect during that weekend, and I wondered: How do journalists do this every day? How can they see so much tragedy and continue with this career path?

The shooting in Thousand Oaks made me realize that anything can happen anywhere. For a while, I didn’t leave the safety of my home. I thought about the sarcastic mantra “If it bleeds, it leads,” and was reminded of the freeway accidents we covered and the gruesome caught-on-video attacks that we pulled from the internet.

I spoke to journalists and professors about covering tragedy, and many told me they had to desensitize themselves early in their careers. Some had to step away from their jobs for a period of time after a particularly harrowing event.

Because of this incident, I reflected on what measures I would take to care for my emotional and mental needs. It made me realize that sensitivity is not antithetical to good journalism. I saw that people want and need to be heard, and journalists can act as facilitators to accomplish that.

As I continue my practice as a reporter for UC Berkeley’s student newspaper the Daily Californian, I find myself gravitating toward stories that underscore issues in communities. I would like for my journalism to serve as a platform for those who are underserved and struggling, for those who aren’t being heard. 

Catherine Combs

September, 2019


“Let Your Life Do the Singing”

By Rashida Jones, senior vice president for specials at NBC News and MSNBC, and Gracies Ambassador

O Hampton, we never can make thee a song,

Except as our lives do the singing,

In service that will thy great spirit prolong,

And send it through centuries ringing!

At 17 years and seven months, I first sang this phrase with hundreds of other students who matriculated to my alma mater, Hampton University. It is part of our school song, a song students learn as Freshman and never repeat again until they walk across the stage at graduation. 

The concept is a weighty one. Build a profile that represents who you are, so people have a clear picture of your brand without you having to utter a word. At 17 years and seven months, I had no idea what song I wanted my life to sing. I had no concept of what mark I wanted to make in my field or in my community. 

But I learned early on the importance of this philosophy and it’s one that has stuck with me decades later.

Your daily actions color how people view your work ethic and character. Volunteer for a work project and your bosses see you as ambitious. Go out of your way to acknowledge your colleagues on their big wins and others characterize you as gracious and kind. The opposite can be true-get caught up in office gossip and your peers see you as petty and unprofessional. Show up to meetings late and unprepared and colleagues may think you are lazy and don’t care about your work.  

It is not all about impressing others. In fact, it’s not at *all* about impressing anyone. It is all about choosing to make decisions that reflect the best version of you that you can offer. Are YOU happy with the story you tell? Do YOU feel like you are being your best self? Does YOUR life pay homage to those who have sacrificed for you to reach certain heights? 

As you think about the song your life is singing, it’s important you maintain a sense of authenticity while creating purpose. Do not create an artificial version of yourself. You will never be able to sustain the caricature and it’s demoralizing to not be authentically you. You just have to own it and be purposeful in how you represent yourself. 

We’ll treasure the dear happy days

We’ve spent here in life’s preparation,

Yet go with brave hearts upon our chosen ways,

Of service to God and our nation.

The ode ends with a charge to each of us to serve. When painting the picture of who you are and what you represent, if your greatest accomplishments do not reflect what you have done to help others, then you still have a lot of work to do. As women, it is our responsibility to ensure we are doing everything we can to help others find their purpose and help script the songs they want their lives to sing. It is our responsibility to bring someone else along for the ride.

Catherine Combs

August, 2019


Tracey Quezada’s Winning Entry for the 2019 Ford “Empowering America” Scholarship

Tracey Quezada, the winner of the 2019 Ford “Empowering America” Scholarship, submitted this video profiling Danielle Castro, a transgender, Latina activist. Tracey is pursuing a Masters in Journalism at UC Berkeley.

Tracey Quezada’s Winning Entry

Catherine Combs

August, 2019


(Dis)ability is Not Inability

By Julia Morrison, 2019 Loreen Arbus Foundation & AWMF Scholarship Winner

If all determination is through negation, then disability is not inability, nor is it a lack of strength, desire or resolve. (Dis)ability is an opportunity to explore what it means to be a human being in all of our infinite glory. The Latin prefix dis- means ‘apart’; disability as apart from ability, but not as mutually exclusive. What may constrain a person in one area may liberate them in another through the gift of profound insight. Some of humanity’s most important discoveries were born from the minds of those who struggled with disabilities, people whose experience of time & the universe were unlike the experiences of others. Among those who have contributed groundbreaking insight to humankind include dyslexic Albert Einstein, who gave us the theory of relativity; theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, bound to a wheelchair & dependent on a computerized voice, transported us to other dimensions of space-time with a theory of cosmology; A Beautiful Mind mathematician John Nash Jr closed gaps in game theory with his internal life rich with numbers & schizophrenic characters; Thomas Edison, America’s greatest inventor of the motion picture camera, electric light bulb & more, made use of a hearing aid; & life-long disability advocate Helen Keller, who touched the lives of millions with her unparalleled vision for peace & radical progress even though she couldn’t see or hear a thing. I believe that Ability is a philosophy of life rooted in the spirit of the scientific method, for better it is to try, fail & try again, then never to have tried at all.

Language is the key, but where is the door? The words we choose to define our lives, ourselves, & each other are inextricably tied to the outcomes we receive. Words take shape, giving form to ideas like seeds give sprout to trees in an old growth forest. My speech impediment led me to study my voice & language, practices that serve me well as the artist, actress & writer I am. I may not have pronounced clearly my ‘R’s’ until the age of thirteen, but that didn’t stop me from speaking poetry as a child or my truth loud enough to send the man who molested me years earlier to prison in third grade – the same year I started speech therapy. To some, I could have been from New England, while others insisted I spoke like a baby. Random kids I’d never seen or met before would demand I entertain them a few sentences as I’d try to pass in the hallway. They’d sneak in one more laugh, meanwhile I’d find another time & place pretending to be dinosaurs with a few friends on the school’s front lawn. But even my best friends couldn’t resist the temptation to interrupt me mid-sentence to showcase their best rendition of “I park my car in Harvard yard” & wait for me to say it in turn. “C’mon, say it: I pahk my cah in Hahvahd yahd”, they’d push until I’d cave like the prehistoric bones in my velociraptor body.

The year preceding my graduation from speech therapy was wild: my brother & I were homeless, Columbine happened, Clinton faced impeachment & my Grandma died while the whole world watched, anxious with anticipation as Y2K came & never showed up. But I was used to things & people not showing up by then. As someone who overcame my impediment later in life & a child of foster care, I was surprised to learn that 70% of children in the foster system struggle with an impediment or disability. I am beyond grateful for my school for identifying my speech impediment & getting me the therapy I needed. I even looked forward to the hour I’d spend every Friday during my Physical Education class working on my speech while my peers ran a mile around the racetrack. Instead I got to be inside perusing images, shapes, colors, & syllables while practicing my ‘R’ sound in a small room wedged between the main office & the boys’ bath woom – excuse me: room. To this day I slip up in speech when I’m anxious, but my therapist taught me there is nothing we cannot achieve when we take our time & articulate our target outcome into a series of clear, identifiable steps. Figuring out how different parts of my tongue fit into the corners of my upper cleft & met my individual teeth was like finding a whole new landscape within myself – a body map defined yet free from border. In facing my struggle, I discovered new parts of my Self.

I believe in the power of film to ignite social change, catalyze catharsis for self-growth & most importantly: heal. I hope to use my story to help people. Music, myth & metaphor are the three most powerful signatures in the world, which is why I cherish the art of cinema. I aim to maximize my focus over these next few years in my educational career so I may pay this debt forward in the aspiration of helping others. My next great challenge is to honor the girl I raised to turn the page & deliver her story to the big screen. As an actress, artist, & activist, I can appreciate that some of the greatest moments in our lives have the power to render us disabled: the butterfly in our stomach that takes our breath away, the cries of a man as he screams “I can’t breathe’ that render us speechless, or the depressive spell that seeps into every facet of our lives & cripples our spirit. Whether it be physical, that moment we jumped & took a risk, or something intangible, extreme vulnerability harbors an ancient wealth, 1 a secret gem unique to each individual that only she can mine, for in the struggle of its discovery holds the truth behind what makes the human spirit the most dynamic force in the world, as the butterfly strengthens its wings breaking from its cocoon to fly.

On my last day in speech therapy, my therapist paused, expressing concern about my ‘-ing’ sound. I let out a sigh resounding throughout the hallway, closing the door behind me as she pulled out a deck of cards I’d never seen before. I read them off for her one at a time:











“How’s that,” I begged her, “is that good enough?”

She smiled & said, “You’re good to go”.

Catherine Combs

June, 2019



TODAY’s Sheinelle Jones to Host and Pop Artist Brynn Elliott to Perform
on June 26 at Cipriani 42nd Street

The leadership of the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (AWMF) announces that Erin Moriarty, “48 Hours correspondent, will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 44th Annual Gracie Awards Luncheon to be presented to her by Susan Zirinsky, president and senior executive producer, CBS News. Hosting the luncheon will be another television news veteran, Sheinelle Jones, co-anchor of “Weekend TODAY and co-host of the “3rd Hour of TODAY.” The annual Gracies Luncheon set for June 26 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City honors individual achievement and outstanding programming at the local level for television and radio, public radio and students in television, radio and interactive media.

The Gracie Awards recognize exemplary content created by, for and about women in all facets of media and entertainment. Given this year to Moriarty, who has covered some of the biggest crime and justice stories for three decades for CBS News, the Gracies Lifetime Achievement Award honors a woman in media who exemplifies and embodies the essence of the iconic trailblazer, the late Gracie Allen, the namesake of The Gracie Awards.

“The Gracie Awards celebrate the bravery of storytellers to share relevant, compelling content while pushing boundaries to create an environment of equality,” said AWM/F Chair Christine Travaglini, President, Katz Radio Group. AWM/F Executive Director Becky Brooks added, “Throughout her 40-year journalism career, Erin Moriarty’s well-researched, diligent approach to covering stories about crime and justice, about consumer issues and much more has been consistent and illustrates why she is so worthy of this Lifetime Achievement Award.  Through the Gracies, we are incredibly proud to honor and celebrate outstanding talent and content by, for and about women.”

Highlights of Moriarty’s award-winning career include:

  • Moriarty earned a law degree from Ohio State University in 1977.
  • In 1986, Moriarty began her career at CBS News as a consumer correspondent for “CBS This Morning” and “CBS Evening News with Dan Rather.”
  • She has served as correspondent on CBS News’ “48 Hours” since 1990.
  • She also reports for “CBS Sunday Morning.”
  • A three-time Gracie Award winner, she has also won nine Emmy Awards.

Due to her training as a lawyer, Moriarty has covered some of the most important social and legal issues in the last three decades, including cold cases, DNA testing of evidence in death-row cases, wrongful convictions and spousal abuse.  She was also part of the team that covered the Newtown, Conn. elementary school shooting, which earned CBS News a DuPont-Columbia award. 

“This is an incredible honor to receive this Gracie from the Alliance for Women in Media,” said Erin Moriarty. “It is truly humbling to be recognized with this award and to join the list of notable women who have come before me. It is because of this organization that I, and so many others, have flourished in our profession.”

Gracies Luncheon host Sheinelle Jones is a co-anchor of NBC News’ “Weekend TODAY, a co-host of “3rd Hour of TODAY and she hosts “TODAY’s” digital series, “Through Mom’s Eyeswhileco-hosting “Off the Rails”, a Sirius XM radio show with NBC’s Al Roker and Dylan Dreyer.  Jones joined “TODAY” in 2014 and has since covered breaking news events and human-interest stories.  Prior to joining “TODAY”, she served as co-host of FOX’s “Good Day Philadelphia.”

“It’s an honor to host the Gracies and to be among the most inspiring, empowering and talented women in our business,” said Jones. 

Performing at the Luncheon will be singer-songwriter Brynn Elliott.  In the past few years, Elliott has signed with Atlantic Records, graduated from Harvard University and played over 250 shows.  Brynn has performed on the “TODAY” show, MTV’s “TRL”, and “Live with Kelly and Ryan” and has spent the last year touring with artists such as Why Don’t We and AJ Mitchell. 

The National Gracie Award honorees were recognized at the Gracies Gala, May 21, at The Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills. A full list of recipients may be found on the Alliance for Women in Media website. For more information about the 2019 Gracies Luncheon or to secure tickets, please visit HERE.

About the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation and The Gracie Awards – The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (formerly known as The Foundation of American Women in Radio & Television) supports and promotes educational programs, and scholarships to benefit the media, the public, and allied fields. The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation has created partnerships and joint initiatives with the Emma Bowen Foundation, NCTA, NAB and other organizations that are philosophically aligned with the mission of the Foundation. In addition to giving $20,000 a year in scholarships to deserving female students, the Foundation also produces nationally acclaimed recognition programs, including the Gracie Awards that exemplary honor programming created by, for and about women. For more information about The Alliance for Women in Media, please visit: and follow on Twitter, Instagram (@AllWomeninMedia) (#TheGracies), and Facebook. Sponsors of The Gracies Luncheon include Beasley Media Group, CBS Corporation, Cox Media Group, Cumulus Media, Discovery, Inc., Entercom, Hofstra, iHeartMedia, Inc., Katz Media Group, Lerman Senter, NAB, NBC, NCTA – The Internet and Television Association, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Tegna, Townsquare Media, and vCreative.