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Editorial: The TV Girls Club

Last week in New York City, some of the most powerful and accomplished women of the TV and media industry helped ‘B&C’ realize a goal we set out last year: To celebrate the “Girls Club” for the television industry.

Such boldface names as Rachael Ray, Glenn Close, Maria Bartiromo, Gayle King, Erin Andrews, B&C Hall of Famer Peggy Green, Pam Zucker and Arlene Manos helped us debut “Keynotes & Cocktails: Women of New York” to a standingroom- only crowd at New York’s Roosevelt Hotel last Wednesday.

The women of this industry quite literally ordered up “Women of New York.” As soon as the last words were spoken at our inaugural edition of this unique new event last summer, “Keynotes & Cocktails: Women of Hollywood,” speakers and attendees alike started asking for an East Coast version.

At the time we launched “Women of Hollywood,” with the support of such leaders as Disney/ ABC Television’s Anne Sweeney and CBS’ Nina Tassler, we were responding to what we felt was a need to serve the women of our industry that became evident after conducting extensive anecdotal research among women of all levels and many different sectors of television.

We had also taken good note of Newsweek’s big report last spring, in which the magazine concluded equality in the workplace for women remained a myth. That conclusion came as Newsweek looked at the state of women in the workplace four decades after 46 females filed a landmark 1970 gender discrimination case against it.

By last year’s turnout for “Women of Hollywood,” where we sold out a massive Hollywood hotel ballroom amid the dead of summer vacations, the women of our business confirmed our hunch that we needed more that just another power list. We know there are women who have made it, and we will continue to celebrate them. But women in TV who haven’t reached that pinnacle crave information on how to emulate those people, and how to discover their own way upward. They want access, insight, and also a safe place to talk candidly so they can feel comfortable asking what they have to ask—and those at the top can feel comfortable answering.

That’s why we took the unusual step of making the event off-the-record and stacked the lineup with people our industry was clamoring to hear from. Speakers and guests from last year’s edition have been talking about it ever since, and now this year’s “Women of New York” attendees are doing the same.

This proves to us that the concept of bringing women together to swap stories and tips about things we can all relate to—no matter our role or level—has a real place in the lives and careers of the women in this community.

As we noted in this space last year—when we called for a “Girls Club” of TV—the dedication among so many industry organizations, events and programs to promote diversity in our industry continues to pay off. And as many industry power lists prove every year, lots of women have terrific jobs at the top of the TV and entertainment business. But it’s a ridiculous understatement to say that there’s room for improvement in opportunity for women.

We still agree with the Newsweek story, which pointed out that just as the first black president didn’t wipe out racism, a female at the top of a company doesn’t eradicate sexism. So, as long as that balance remains a myth—and we know that it is—we as a community will continue our ongoing efforts to make television one of the best industries for women to thrive in.

Yes, the term “The TV Girls Club” and its allusion to Boys Club might seem misleading. This is in no way an exclusionary exercise. Men are welcome and invited.

And the women of the community are welcome and invited to continue offering their feedback about what they desire out of the “Keynotes & Cocktails” series. We recognize the need for these efforts to be relevant.

So as B&C plans the return of “Keynotes & Cocktails: Women of Hollywood” in Los Angeles this summer, we look forward to your input on how to keep moving this “Club” forward.