Day 1 of WICT’s Leadership Conference closed with an inspiring gen session from a quartet of women of color in the cable industry. And it did not disappoint. The panel, presented in partnership with NAMIC and the Walter Kaitz Foundation, kicked off with some advice from each of them—given to their younger selves 20 years ago. “You don’t have to do it all yourself,” said Scripps Networks Interactive digital evp Tamara Franklin. “It’s very lonely that way… leverage the people around you,” and take advantage of all the resources that you have. Secondly, not everything is a competition. “It’s a lot more fun when there’s much more camaraderie.”

And third, make sure you focus on your health. Women of color need to be resilient within the corporate experience due to additional stress, she said. “If you are multilingual and you have an accent, that’s not actually a disadvantage,” ESPN’s Diversity, Inclusion, & Wellness vp Monica Diaz advised her younger self. “Think about your differences as assets, not shortcomings.” She’s even given that asset a name, the crowd learned: “I have ‘language capital,’” she quipped. Comcast Cable Operations & Compliance svp Susan Jin Davis reminded the crowd that it’s more challenging for women of color to get sponsors, “because it won’t necessarily happen naturally.” It’s important to make more of an effort with that. On sponsors, TV One content distribution & marketing evp Michelle Rice had a slightly different take: “Let’s be realistic: everybody’s not going be fortunate enough to have a sponsor.” She recommended building and focusing on your own network and remembering to be your authentic self, because you bring something to the table. Defining the unique experience of women of color, Diaz reflected on the strange dichotomy that they live with every day: “Are we representing [an entire group], or are we ourselves? Like it or not, I have to be myself,” she said, but she also embraces representing a group, in her case a Spanish-speaking Puerto Rican, as best as she possibly can. “You cannot dodge the ball” of representation, she said. Rather, it’s about finding balance between representing a group and sharing your personal experience. Davis, born in the US as a child of 1st generation Korean parents, concurred: “Whether you like it or not, you are representing… I just want everyone to know I, too, celebrate Thanksgiving.”

Jokes aside (and there were plenty), the panelists stressed that women of color should embrace their gifts. For instance, because Davis’ parents did not speak English, she had to learn “to be the best speaker on this planet, so I could speak for them.” And that, in turn, turned her into a great communicator. Franklin said she has integrated learnings from past jobs, when she found she was sometimes the last person to get the information, into her management strategy. “I think about transparency… I also think about clarity. Sometimes the goal post moves on you… I try to be very clear about that.” So what can people do at their companies to advance women of color? “When you’re in a leadership role and you have an opportunity to mentor, you should do it,” Rice suggested. Look to leaders in your organization to support you. Diaz said that real inclusion means leveling the playing field and including all—such as including the (few) men in the conference audience. “Development and inclusion is a 2-way street,” she said. It’s crucial to seek different perspectives and be intentional about it. And lastly, it’s about showing your value and standing up. An issue for some women of color, Davis noted, is that they may be too grateful for being in the company and they don’t ask for what they want. “Just ask for what you deserve.”

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