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Suzanne Smith

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Suzanne Smith has been around long enough to know that when it comes to sports, gender doesn’t have to matter.

Considered a true pioneer for women in television sports broadcasting behind the cameras, CBS Sports producer/director Smith has had a hand in virtually every major sports broadcast her network has covered for the past 28 years. “I have a passion for sports, I love working live television,” says Smith. “It’s exciting to have that kind of challenge every time you go out to work.”

A four-time Emmy winner, Smith currently is the only woman in television producing or directing NFL telecasts, a distinction she prefers to shy away from. “During the games, I consider myself a director,” she says. “Not just a female director in the NFL.”

Smith points to a lack of female interest as one of the key reasons there are not more women in her position. “Quite frankly, a lot of women don’t want to do the job,” Smith says. She also mentions the perception that sports is a male-dominated environment can scare some women away, but argues that there are numerous factors, stating that it’s “a complicated answer to a complicated question.”

No stranger to grand events, Smith has directed Super Bowls (including producing the “Baghdad Bowl” segment from Iraq during Super Bowl XLI in 2007), NCAA men’s basketball championships and U.S. Open tennis; she is also a member of the network’s production team for the Masters golf tournament. In addition to her work for CBS Sports, Smith has directed the NBA playoffs for Turner Sports and the WNBA for Oxygen.

Along with her sports duties, Smith has directed a live Academy Awards special for WE Entertainment, a holiday special for Martha Stewart and Pavarotti in the Park, a live concert in Central Park and accompanying documentary.

As a way to get to know other women in the industry (and college students looking to break in), Smith formed the “Girls Nite” group with CBS sports analyst Leslie Visser and tennis legend Billie Jean King. “I love to be able to help people,” says Smith. “But I’m just one person, my experiences are only what I had.” Starting out as just a small group of her friends, “Girls Nite” has expanded into a network of industry professionals ranging from researchers to those in senior management in TV, radio and print.

“If you are surrounded by good people, you are able to produce and direct a good TV show,” says Smith. “Whether male or female, it doesn’t matter.”