More than one guy did this. It was a different time and place, and if you were a woman who went to anything involving leaders in the music business, you would rarely see someone who looked like you.
When cable TV launched [in the early '80s], it was considered an unlikely experiment -- not as cool or as important as broadcast. Much like any new format, any new platform, the reaction was, “This is probably nothing.” But cable was hungry for content and didn't pay as well -- so there was a lot of opportunity for women and other people who weren't typical, who were willing to take a risk, who were driven to challenge the status quo.
There were a lot of us together [at MTV, where I started as a copywriter in 1981] with not a lot of resources and a lot to accomplish -- and we were all running into headwinds. As a woman, you could say 15 things before a guy would say one, and no one would hear it until he said it. But my feeling was, “OK, you have to say 16 things.” Minds and unconscious bias needed to change. As I gained privilege, I tried to share it. My company was new; there was no training for what we were doing. There wasn't a long history or a legacy to be hobbled by like there was in the music industry. Eventually, people would come to MTV Networks -- political figures, industry people -- look around and say to me, “There are so many women here!” Doing jobs not traditionally associated with women. Speaking with authority.
I remember being at rehearsals for the Video Music Awards in the 2000s and thinking, “Look at all the key production roles held by women”: Beth McCarthy-Miller was directing, Salli Frattini was producing. Everyone working that stage was a woman -- Carol Donovan and Kathy Flynn, Patti Galluzzi, and many more.
Change is slow. It takes time. But there is progress, and there is optimism. And we hang up our own coats.
-- As told to J.L.
BOZOMA SAINT JOHN
Chief Marketing officer, Endeavor