For the third consecutive year, women seeking careers in communication at Florida International University learned from industry leaders across a variety of fields, including journalism, advertising and public relations during a daylong event at the school’s Biscayne Bay Campus.
The third annual “Women in Communication: Moving Ahead” conference, hosted by FIU’s Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver Center for the Advancement of Women in Communication, began at 9:30 a.m. with a speech from its namesake and director, former FIU dean and professor Dr. Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver.
FOX News Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President of News and Operations Sharri Berg delivered a morning keynote address promptly afterward.
Berg, who received a standing ovation upon completing her speech, described challenges she encountered at the beginning of her career as a sales assistant and eventual producer and how she gradually worked her way to the top.
“While I love news, I knew myself well enough and knew that [being a reporter] was not what I wanted to do,” she said. “So when you identify your passion, hopefully it’s something that you’re good at.”
Berg stressed the importance of a positive, confident attitude.
I have a secret: act like you belong,” she said. “It’s not hard to be good. Be the person you would want to talk to at the other end.”
When asked how she handled rejection while advancing in her field, Berg said she’d received 40 rejection letters early in her career but learned not to take anything personally.
“You have to take that risk,” she said. “Your passion for the business will take care of your confidence.”
At 10:30 a.m., Dr. Tracy Everbach, an associate professor at the University of North Texas’ Mayborn School of Journalism, took the stage to present the results of a survey she’d conducted that collected 898 responses from 22 professional societies in different digital and print media.
The results, among many, included 41 percent of female respondents saying they’d been passed over for promotion to management by men.
The top reason, according to Everbach: “There was a men-only culture in that organization that minimized the role of women.”
As the event’s morning session concluded, Candi Carter Olson, an assistant professor of Media and Society at Utah State University, led a panel discussion that included speakers Wells Fargo Vice President of Corporate Communications Rosanna M. Fiske, Palm Beach Post Manager of Digital Entertainment Strategy Samantha Ragland and Zubizarreta Investments co-owner Michelle Zubizarreta.
The panel featured conversations about career changes, how to gain respect in the communications field, taking initiative and staying motivated.
Fiske shared with the audience her No. 1 piece of advice for growing in a chosen career: Don’t sleep, and say yes a lot.
“When you’re building a career, you don’t even realize what you’re doing when you’re building,” she said. “So I would say [that] to be in a role where you’re happy with your life, you have to say yes a lot. You have to adapt, change and reinvent. If you’re not doing that, you’re not going to have a career. “
After an hour break for lunch, the afternoon session began at 1:45 p.m.
Shiv Tailor, a broadcasting student at FIU and one of the few male students in the audience, said the conference provided refreshing perspectives in an industry where gender discrimination is common.
[The speakers] set an example for all people—both men and women—who wish to pursue communication as a profession,” he said.
Noticiero Univision anchor Ilia Calderon was set to give the afternoon keynote address but was called away to cover breaking news at the U.S.-Mexico border. In a video she recorded for the audience, she shared her story as a journalist and highlighted the importance of being a leader in the field.
Similar to the morning program, the event ended with a panel discussion, led by FIU alum and Telemundo 51 reporter Nathalia Ortiz, featuring speakers Alina Falcon, senior vice president of daytime programming at NBC/Universal Telemundo Network; and Cynthia Hudson, senior vice president and general manager of CNN en Español and Hispanic strategy for CNN/US.
This time, the focus of the conversation was executive positions, satisfaction in the workplace and financial stability.
“You can’t demand anything if you’re not the person best suited to demand,” said Hudson. “You have to be the best advocate for yourself. Your job should not be the source of your happiness; your job should accompany that.”