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“Women in Media to have relevance well into the future” With Becky Brooks

We want organizations like the Alliance for Women in Media to have relevance well into the future. This is less about having enough women in leadership positions in media companies, versus supporting and recognizing the ones who are out there doing incredible work every single day — there is always an important place for recognition. […]

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We want organizations like the Alliance for Women in Media to have relevance well into the future. This is less about having enough women in leadership positions in media companies, versus supporting and recognizing the ones who are out there doing incredible work every single day — there is always an important place for recognition.

As a part of our series about ‘5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society’ I had the pleasure to interview Becky Brooks.

Becky Brooks was appointed as Executive Director in June 2015. Her professional roles include spells as Vice President at the International SPA Association (where she began her career as an intern) and as Executive Director at Imago Relationships International. Becky’s background includes executive experience in governance, sales, publications, events and strategic planning — skills she puts to good use when juggling time with her family, including her son and daughter’s sports and activities, and working with an amazing group of women in media.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I grew in a close-knit family as the middle child (not surprisingly based on my path) with an older sister and younger brother and feel very fortunate. My parents were incredibly supportive in everything we did, as children and as adults. I remember asking my parents, at times, for advice on what to do in certain situations. “What do you think about this job?” “What about…” They would never just give me a direct answer and it made me crazy at the time. Instead, they would ask me questions in return so that I came up with my own solutions.

In hindsight, this was the most valuable lesson they could have given, and I now use with my kids and in work situations. Just giving the answer is easy; teaching how to think critically is the lesson I needed in the long-term. They were great parents.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Interestingly, a book that had the most impact on me nearly 20 years ago was by Duke University basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, aka Coach K, called “Leading with the Heart”. It’s important to note that I’m an avid sports fan, and specifically University of Kentucky basketball so that this is a book that has had a lasting impact is a big deal!

I read this book when I became a first-time manager and went from a peer to managing my peers. Many people have done this in their career and being in my 20s made this even more challenging. The connection Coach K made between sports and business truly resonated with me.

I also appreciate a book that can transcend time and this one does that for me. For example, two of “Coach K’s Tips” at the end of the chapter titled, “Handling a Crisis” say:

  • The worse the crisis, the more people will tend to think as individuals rather than as members of a team.
  • Successful crisis management is best achieved when people are truthful with one another -immediately.

This chapter of the book feels so relevant right now. Operating as a team when we are all working virtually is requiring us to be more intentional about relationships and not to just curl up in a ball in a corner that can feel enticing from time to time. It is important to admit we don’t know all the answers and are figuring things out as we go and have to admit mistakes when they happen so that we can fix them, together.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

I have two that I love!

First, Hard Work Prevails

Back to my family, this was my dad’s phrase. It was his mantra for everything we did — school, sports, music, work, and more. His story was that, while he wasn’t always the smartest person in the room, he was willing to work the hardest. When I moved into a chief staff officer role for the first time, my team from my previous job had the quote printed on a sign along with each of their signatures. It istill one of the most meaningful gifts I have ever received.

Second one, Hire people smarter than you and stand on their shoulders

My very first boss, Lynne McNees, (with whom I worked for 15 years and who is now one of my most trusted partners), talked about this when we were making new hires. When you take your ego out of the equation and trust that there are people whose brain can complement yours, and may be smarter, success is even more achievable.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership, to me, is setting the “why”, tone, direction, expectations…then getting out of the way.

At the Alliance for Women in Media, we like to say that we are a “small and mighty team”. My role is to ensure we all understand where we are headed and why, set the expectations (which always involves working hard and laughing a lot) and letting the members of my team get their jobs done. We have to work this way because we’re serving a community of ALL women in media and producing an important awards show. We stay connected on everything happening while each of us manages our own “lane” of work in order to get everything done.

In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?

Finding ways to relieve, or release, stress is so important.

We talk about work/life integration (versus balance). The difference to me is I am a chief staff officer, my husband works full time and we have two very active kids. Our goal is to attend every soccer games, swim meets, and other activities — that said, I’ve taken a call from a publicist to talk about the importance of the Gracie Awards while I’m there. That works for us because I keep the calls focused and go right back to family.

To prepare for that call, or another tough call or decision, I step away for a couple of minutes in advance. I’m a person of strong faith so if I’m going to have a difficult conversation, I specifically pray for wisdom and clarity of tongue. And to release stress — move my body! Exercise helps me, even if it’s just a walk.

Finally, in big decisions, find a partner. This requires having relationships with those we trust and asking their opinions.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

I have the honor of serving as the Executive Director for the Alliance for Women in Media and our Foundation for five years. We are an organization whose foundation, the “why” behind creation is diversity, equality, inclusion and race. This group that was founded 75 years ago, focused on women in a corporate setting and is all of those things.

AWM, for example, has enjoyed its longevity because there is still plenty of work to do in all of these areas. And while it certainly is at a “boiling point”, perhaps we are finally ready for the conversations — the real conversations — and opportunity to incite more awareness and work toward true, sustained change. We are proud that the AWM is connecting the next generation while adding more diversity, inclusion, race and equality for women in media as well as celebrating the storytellers who are literally on the front lines of media today.

Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience working with initiatives to promote Diversity and Inclusion? Can you share a story with us?

The Alliance for Women in Media actively promotes diversity and inclusion for women in media and has done so for 75 years. We have scholarship programs to financially support young women wanting to enter media programs and the Gracie Awards that recognize talent and programmers in front of and behind the camera and microphone.

This quote sums up why what AWM is doing matters and is making a difference:

It was an honor to be selected as an Alliance for Women in Media Foundation scholarship recipient. Last year, I was a determined high school senior who sought to attend Howard University. However, finances and proximity to home was a concern for my family. This scholarship was a generous and meaningful contribution to my ability to pursue a higher education at an illustrious out-of-state institution. As a Muslim African-American young woman who is considering a career in media, a field that far too often lacks in diversity, it is easy to feel unappreciated and unworthy. My experiences after completing my first year at the “Mecca” have taught me a level of resilience and persistence that I will never forget and surely apply in future career endeavors. I thank everyone at the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation that helped kickstart my journey towards success.

Sokhna Fall

Senegalese-American

Rising Sophomore, Howard University

This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?

Diversity of thought brings greater representation when seeking solutions. Diversity of thought comes from bringing together people from different backgrounds, gender, races and experiences.

According to an article earlier this year quoting statistics from Wall Street Journal research ranking diversity and inclusion among S&P 500 companies:

Companies with above-average diversity produced a greater proportion of revenue from innovation (45% of total) than from companies with below average diversity (26%). This 19% innovation-related advantage translated into overall better financial performance.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society”? Kindly share a story or example for each.

Let’s approach this as a “five suggestions…” versus steps as there may not be a step by step — “if this then that” to keep moving forward.

  1. Hire people with different backgrounds, gender, races and experiences.
  2. Seek feedback from people with different opinions than yours.
  3. Listen to discussions.
  4. Read more on relevant, important topics like D&I — and/or watch documentaries covering the topic. There are some incredible pieces that have truly opened my eyes and broadened my perspective.
  5. Speak up and defend the need for true, sustained change.
  6. We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

I am, by nature, an optimistic person. However, every person’s view of “resolved” is based on their present circumstance. So, do I expect a “resolution” for every person and scenario we’re experiencing? Not by definition. I do see that an evolution is happening and will continue. That is encouraging.

We want organizations like the Alliance for Women in Media to have relevance well into the future. This is less about having enough women in leadership positions in media companies, versus supporting and recognizing the ones who are out there doing incredible work every single day — there is always an important place for recognition.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Without blinking an eye, the first person is definitely my mom. She passed away unexpectedly nearly three years ago. She was a teacher, encourager, truth speaker and she made everyone in a room feel important. She’s unavailable and can’t be tagged SO, the second person is Malala Yousafzai. She is a woman with courage, faith, brilliance and she is a connector. I would love to sit and listen to her answer many of these questions! She is a wonderful example of someone who is a teacher to the world, even at a young age — proof that there are no age barriers in your ability to have positive impact on society and the world.

How can our readers follow you online?

The Alliance for Women in Media is on social channels @allwomeninmedia and would love to engage with readers there!

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