New York Women in Communications Matrix Awards Luncheon

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Last week I attended my second annual New York Women in Communications Matrix Luncheon. Attending live events in the age of Twitter brings up a conflict for me: I love the idea of sharing information as it happens, but sometimes I want to really listen to what’s being said. I made a valiant attempt to tweet during the event, but connectivity issues did not allow me to. My backup plan was to take good notes (using my trusty Evernote app) on the award recipients’ inspirational speeches.  Below are some highlights from the speeches.

Introduced by Ryan SeacrestBonnie Hammer spoke about achieving a sense of inner calm after a 40-year career. Bonnie said:

My drive to achieve now comes from a different place: it is subtle, quiet and gender-free.

Bonnie made an analogy to the skill and experience of seasoned football players who have a strong sense of what’s happening on the field during a game and tune out the noise, fear of judgement and self doubt.

Introduced by Barry DillerKara Swisher decided to “spill some Silicon Valley secrets,” with the caveat that she didn’t quite have two sources for them. It turns out that Sheryl Sandberg is a hologram and Marissa Mayer is an alien, along with most executives from Google who are from another planet called Xenu. Kara also described Google Glass as an accessory that renders anyone undatable and completely unattractive, concluding:

Google Glass is the only thing that renders supermodels neither super nor models.

On a serious note, Kara said Silicon Valley is mostly run by men, but women make up over half of internet users and should be more involved with the creation of the internet. She advocated for women to use internet tools to make their voices heard.

Introduced by ImanMindy Grossman has had a nonlinear career and believes that the obvious next step isn’t always the best one to take. Mindy left Nike to work with Barry Diller and the Home Shopping Network, Inc. (HSN) She advises young women (including her daughter) to look beyond what exists now:

Don’t look only at what’s in front of you today. Instead, focus on conceptualizing a new vision and leap into it.

Introduced by Tom CurleyJacki Kelley laid out three of her most important learnings:

  1. Learning is better than climbing —Jacki advises to seek the right people to work for rather than picking jobs.
  2. Celebrate the  ‘tough stuff’ — the things that are worth fighting for
  3. It is never just about business—the quality of our relationships is a barometer of our success. Jacki referenced Maya Angelou’s quote:

People will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

Introduced by Mika Brzezinski, Anne Finucane shared that she temporarily lost her hearing as a child, an experience that colored her world view. To Anne,

Listening is not an art, it’s a gift.

She overcame the affliction but the experience left her with an indelible understanding that someone with a disability can be made to feel invisible. Anne said she developed a heightened awareness of nonverbal cues, an ability she feels has been invaluable to her in understanding the people around her.

Introduced by Christine Quinn, Audra McDonald spoke about her quest to find a way to help her daughter Zoe who does not look African American, come to terms with her mixed heritage. To help Zoe, Audra showed her pictures of Eartha Kitt with her daughter, Kitt Shapiro who is blonde and blue-eyed and had an Irish father. Audra wrote to Kitt about Zoe, and Kitt replied that Eartha would tell her that she was proud to have a child who is a “walking United Nations,” belongs to every race and broke barriers. Kitt is “African American, Caucasian and Native American: a melting pot unto herself, a true American.” Speaking within the context of children of mixed race couples, Audra spoke about accepting ourselves as we are. Addressing this year’s Matrix scholarship winners, Audra urged the next generation of women to:

You are you.…Get out there…Change the world. Make it a better place…We need you!

Audra concluded her speech by singing the words to a poem by James Baldwin in her inimitable rich voice and crisp diction.

Introduced by Val Demings, Joanna Coles said she believes readers don’t want new media or old media but rather value good content: people love stories. Joanna told the story of how she launched her own magazine at the age of nine titled “It’s Your Choice.”  She handed out copies to her neighbors in Northern England, even going so far as to send a copy to the Her Majesty The Queen. A Lady-in Waiting sent a reply inquiring about further issues. Encouraged, Joanna pursued her dreams to achieve a career in publishing. In conclusion, Joanna said if she could go back to speak to her 9-year old self, she would tell her:

Dream big, and then get ready because your life will exceed your dreams.

As emcee, Joan Rivers shared some of her trademark pithy thoughts that made me laugh but that are too colorful to repeat here!

The live speeches (including Joan’s bon mots, of course) can be viewed via Livestream, but the video doesn’t capture the full experience of being in the same room while these accomplished, thoughtful and witty women shared their hard-earned gems of wisdom culled from years of experience. I’m glad I had the opportunity to hear these wonderful women speak at Matrix and will continue to look to them (and other industry leaders) for inspiration and guidance as I pursue my career goals.


NYWICI Honoree and Presenter bios

Official NYWICI photos on Tumblr and Facebook 

Updated May 1, 2013. 


Next year’s Matrix luncheon is scheduled for April 28.  


Categories: Communication, New York City, Our Times

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