Lisa Ling delivered a highly personal keynote address at WICT's Par Excellence Awards at The Cable Show (click here for complete coverage) during which she admitted to an obsession with The Brady Bunch and a life-long dream to "be on TV."
Her parents divorced when she was 7 years old. She said, "Growing up, TV was my favorite babysitter."
There were no Asian television personalities for Ling to identify with. But she found a kindred spirit in Marcia Brady.
"I wanted to be her," said Ling.
"I really thought that if I could get on TV, I could make a better life for myself even though no one on TV looked like me."
Ling noted that despite the rise of the Internet and multi-platform consumption, "television is still more influential than any other medium."
And with that power comes responsibility.
"In our efforts to create programming that will generate ratings, do we consider the impact our programming will have on the minds of young women, or young men for that matter?" she asked.
WICT's annual Par Excellence awards recognize gender diversity in the industry. This year's honorees read like a list of whose-who in the industry: NBC Universal's Bridget Baker, Discovery's David Zaslav, ESPN's George Bodenheimer, Time Warner's Glenn Britt, Cox Communication's Pat Esser, Turner's Phil Kent, Scripps' John Lansing, Bright House's Steve Miron, Comcast's Neil Smit and AETN's Abbe Raven.
Zaslav pointed to Discovery's many female GM's including Animal Planet's Marjorie Kaplan, Planet Green's Laura Michalchyshyn, Science Channel's Debbie Myers, The Hub's Margaret Loesch and OWN's Christina Norman.
Esser noted that promoting gender diversity is not just the right thing to do, it's smart business as women are an increasingly important consumer sector driving 65% of annual spending globally and 75% in the U.S.
Lansing, who was the third award recipient of the afternoon, got the biggest round of applause when said that "at some point we'll be at a conference like this and it won't be three white guys accepting the awards."
After the event Salaam Coleman Smith - a WICT board member and president of The Style Network, the premiere sponsor of this year's ceremony - acknowledged Lansing's point, adding that the gender imbalance of the honorees is not unusual for the annual event. WICT's view, she said, is to encourage more gender diversity, including at the very top of the industry, through inclusion.
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