Amy Burton

February, 2023

Blog, Gracies Leadership Award

Lisa Setyon’s Experience at the 2022 Gracies Leadership Award

When I found out that I was selected to attend the Gracies Leadership Awards in New York City, a large smile illuminated my face; I simply couldn’t believe that I was going to have the incredible opportunity to hear from high-achieving women in the industry including keynote speaker, Soledad O’Brien, who has greatly shaped my decision to work in the journalism field.

For me being chosen not only meant that I was going to hear from powerful women in the industry, it also made me realize my worth. Growing up in France, I was accustomed to often being the only black face in the room ‑ and the one ­who people would routinely bet against. They assumed I wouldn’t succeed and, consequently, wouldn’t push me to do better. When I moved to the United States for my undergraduate and master’s degree and saw the larger amount of women of color in media, I regained faith in myself and felt motivated to succeed even more because I was not alone.

Attending the Gracies Leadership Awards reinforced that state of mind.

From the moment I entered the room of the Tribeca 360 11th floor, I felt inspired, proud and happy. There was so much diversity in the room but also so much power. The room was filled with the promise that the media industry is heading in the right direction. Since my selection, I’d read the honorees’ biographies at least ten times. That day, I read them again on one of the walls in order to keep reminding myself that it was a true honor to be at the Gracies event.

Shortly after that, I sat in the main room with the rest of the guests and the Google News Initiative team. We all chatted and networked for a while and the honorees’ speeches started shortly after.

I felt inspired by each and every one of the honorees and their journeys to success. I enjoyed them sharing not only the accomplishments in their lives but also times where things did not go as planned yet ended up working out. Sharing the good and bad made me realize that despite their accomplishments, these amazing women were also humans, like me.

I felt particularly inspired by Kim Godwin’s speech. Indeed, her speech on not being seen and being denied certain opportunities resonated with me the most: “For every person who didn’t see me, there was a person who did,” Godwin said. “For every person who denied me an opportunity, there was person who gave me one. Because people gave me a chance, I have decided I will give others a chance.”

As I heard Ms. Godwin’s speech, I started tearing up a little because it reminded me of so many times I had the feeling that I didn’t fit in. As bad as it may sound, hearing that a woman as accomplished as her has also had to endure some of the same things as me made me feel less alone. But it has also made me realize that oftentimes when I was being told that I was too angry, too obsessed with including more diversity in the workspace, I was making valid points.

Black women are often portrayed as being angry, being too strong to the point of being inhuman. One main thing that I took away from my experience at the Gracies Leadership Award is that when you fight for respect and for what you truly believe and want, you will find a way to get where you want to be. Some of the honorees said that a few years ago, they would have never thought that they could have had the job position that they have now. The media’s industry willingness to change things, to hire more people of color and accept more different points of view will keep leading to more impactful and powerful changes in the industry. To me, that’s one of the most significant innovations of the coming years.

Lisa Setyon is a recipient of the 2022 Google News Initiative Student Fellowship. She is currently a student at Stanford University, and we look forward to seeing how she continues to shape the world of media in the future.