Women's taste in TV sucks; there are still too many men in high places; sue if you have to.
Those were among the candid observations of a panel of high-powered women giving advice about how others can plug into that power.
Everybody wants to be a high-rolling executive, especially during this week's wheeling and dealing at NATPE in Vegas. But several of TV's most successful women, including Whoopi Goldberg and Judge Judy Sheindlin, said women have plenty of work to do to achieve that goal.
During Wednesday's opening session, "The Women of TV," hosted by American Women in Television and Radio, the panelists had a lot of advice for the women of NATPE about how to accomplish their career goals. Sometimes the panelists agreed on a strategy; at others, they butted heads. Yet most nodded those heads at the observation that men still have the advantage.
"We work in a male dominated business. Just walk the floor of NATPE," said the no-nonsense Sheindlin, adding that if women stand up for themselves and give as good as they get in jockeying for higher positions, they should make out fine in the TV world.
To illustrate her point, Sheindlin remembered how she learned this lesson.
When she first got started with Judge Judy, the show's producers wanted to appear at NATPE, standing at a podium to sign copies of one of her books. That was fine, except that "they wanted me to sit there for hours," recalled Sheindlin, "I didn't know [enough] to say no."
After a while, the real-life and TV judge had to `lay down the law' so she could put a stop to the grueling work, and decided to tell each signee to go up to "the four or five [Judge Judy-related] suits huddled in a corner" and try to interrupt their conversation.
Eventually, one of the `suits' got so annoyed that he went up to Sheindlin and asked, "Don't you like signing your books?"
Sheindlin responded, "I only like to sign my name on one thing - the thing that says `for deposit only.'
After cheers from the session audience died down, Goldberg explained how she too is her own boss and that's how it should be for all women.
"If you can face yourself in the mirror the next morning, you can do anything that you want to do. They said don't do Star Trek: The Next Generation, and I said, "Are you going to pay my rent? I'm going to do Star Trek," Goldberg said.
Host of spanish-language talker Christina, Christina Saralegui said that woman need to gain more financial smarts.
"We don't know how to ask for a raise like a man. We'll say we're having a baby," which isn't as effective as when men rattle off convincing statistics like "I am due more money based on such and such percentages."
The session's moderator, Extra host Leeza Gibbons, agreed, "Women tend to personalize things. In business negotiations, we can talk too much. Our high emotional energy can work against us."
These points are interesting, but the conversation heated up when Goldberg blurted out: "Female taste in [TV and film] material sucks. I don't know what it is." Answering gasps from the audience, she said that she doesn't really like working with women because they can get too competitive and are afraid of agreeing with strong women like herself.
"They're trying too hard to keep you off their ass," Goldberg said.
Smoothing out any hard feelings, Gloria Allred of Power of Attorney, said: "It's important to have people like Whoopi . It's important to have more voices, more diversity, in TV."
Yet Sheindlin countered that "she was amazed when she found out how many women TV executives are far more talented than the men who are generally in control. She added, "I'm not being disrespectful to the men, but if we had women in more positions of power, we would have better programming."
As far as how woman can get those positions, Allred joked, "Do you want leaner thighs? Let's go out on the streets and march for our rights! We'll get our rights and have leaner thighs as well." But seriously, folks, Allred, a well-known attorney who fights for women's causes, lamented that "quite a bit of" gender discrimination still exists in the workplace.
"Where are the women who can be gray haired on TV - that don't have to fit a pornographic image of what women should look like?" asked Allred.
After pointing out that thousands of woman are losing millions of dollars in lost job opportunities, Allred suggested that women must actively pursue discrimination through lawsuits or private mediation. - Susanne Ault
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