CEO’s Serve as Mentors at Diversity Event in Boston

BOSTON – In the world of television broadcast news, it can be challenging to move up the ladder when you are a woman. Change that to Asian-American woman, and it can be downright impossible.

Liz Cheng, now the General Manager for Television at WGBH in Boston, can still remember the obstacles she faced as a woman trying to build her career in journalism. She was one of 24 CEO’s invited to share their stories of success and failure during the Tales from the Top – C-Suite Speed Mentoring Session held at Boston’s Federal Reserve Bank on May 31st.

“So when is the reporter arriving?” she was once asked by the head of a correctional institution that she interviewed early in her career. That question was followed by her subject’s request for a cup of coffee.

Cheng got the coffee and then politely told her interviewee that she was indeed the reporter and that she had a list of topics she would like to cover. After a few seconds of stunned silence, the man agreed to all of her demands and even offered a tour of the maximum security area, something typically off limits.

“I got everything on my list,” she told a group of eager listeners who ranged from recent college graduates to seasoned professionals. “Use humor to gently let people know what they’ve done is not the right thing.”

As a producer and executive producer, Cheng received local and national recognition including a national Primetime Emmy Award nomination, two National Association of Broadcasters Awards, two National Association of Television Programming Executives honors, three Gabriel Awards, an Action for Children’s Television Award, a Parents’ Choice Award, and many New England Emmys. But all of those professional accolades didn’t matter to one staffer who made it clear they would not take direction from a woman.

That certain union worker refused to play footage at her request in the studio. He would only do so when a male staff member made the same request. After filing a grievance and seeing no changes, Cheng had no choice but to confront the worker herself. Women have to stand up any challenges to their authority or risk losing respect, she said, but it should be done one-on-one and in a kind way. His behavior changed after their talk.

Other tips Cheng provided for women looking to move forward in their careers – long hours are a necessary evil if you’re serious about getting to the top, but make sure someone knows the time and effort you are putting forward. Cheng recommended using a monthly roundup report to logs hours and show employers where effort and resources are being spent. Also, hold firm, but know when to show good will to others. During one meeting, a colleague asked for part of Cheng’s budget, instead of digging her heels in, she offered to loan staff for special projects.

Mentors are also the key to gaining that corner office, said Quincy Miller, Vice Chairman and Chief Banking Officer of Eastern Bank, who also served as one of the evening’s guests. “Having a mentor, having a coach, having someone to look to has been critical in my career. If you have a mentor, feel blessed, but the person who has to drive your career is you.”

As a member of WINiT, did you know that the advice of industry professionals is at your fingertips through our Mentor Program? Participants are paired with mentor volunteers and through self-scheduled meetings, work on professional/personal development, enhancing business skills and share experiences.

Are you an industry professional with more than 10 years of experience who could provide guidance to someone just starting out in the travel, meeting or event and exhibition industry? Or are you just starting your journey in travel (a minimum of two years’ experience is required) and seeking advice on the next step for your career path?

Click here to view some frequently asked questions about the WINiT Mentor Program and read testimonials from those who have started defining goals with the help of their mentors.

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