Diversity Woman Magazine

FALL 2012

Leadership and Executive Development for women of all races, cultures and backgrounds

Issue link: https://diversitywoman.epubxp.com/i/91258

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Page 25 of 79

We Mean Business > Among the things we did was build a department around diversity, so [we] had some quantifiable metrics. We baselined where we were in terms of employment—number of people in various categories, such as people of color, women, and LGBT. Ten, in our TV entertainment division, we thought we were not getting enough scripts that had diversity front and center. So we created Americans when he became a starter for the New York Knicks and did so well. Just like when Obama became president and children of all different cultures and races were saying "I can be president," now kids of all races were saying "I could be in the NBA." My family is part Asian, so I can tell you all about the euphoria when Lin became a starter for the Knicks. What you put in front of viewers or sports fans will influence how they think of diversity. a development fund, which was in the seven figures, to encourage the develop- ment of diverse scripts and script writers, and also to bring in senior writers and ex- ecutive producers who were diverse. In addition, we developed two shows with diverse leading characters: Un- dercovers featuring a married African- American spy team, and Te Event, in which Blair Underwood played a presi- dent who was both African-American and Latino. We very much wanted a pro- cess by which racial and gender diversity were not adds-on, but integral from the inception of the project. I think we did a good job of that. And I finally got to retire, last year! DW: Why did you buy the Sparks? PM: Philosophically, sports is good for diversity, and financially, it was a good move for our family business. We felt we needed to get the Sparks to where it is a profitable team. We are now on the verge. I have been in management my entire career, either with TV news stations or in entertainment, so for me, there is not a great deal of difference between enter- tainment and sports. Both succeed be- cause whatever is put in front of the fans or viewers is what determines how suc- cessful you are. Success breeds success. Furthermore, what you put in front of viewers or sports fans will influence how they think of diversity. For example, look at the huge positive impact that Jeremy Lin had for Asian- 24 DIVERSITY WOMAN Fall 2012 DW: How is the WNBA holding up? What is its future? PM: Right now there are 12 teams, we have a rigorous schedule, and we are see- ing women basketball players who are more athletic than ever. In recent years we saw Lisa Leslie dunk, then Candace Parker, and now Brittney Griner. Tat level of athleticism will only bring more viewers to the WNBA, and people will see there is absolutely a reason why Title IX passed 40 years ago. Te outcomes have been spectacular. Girls and women are playing more sports. Of course, the results could be even more spectacular. While several profes- sional sports leagues have been launched for women, only one is still in existence. Where's the sponsor advertising sup- port? Players in the NBA get gobs more money than women in the WNBA. I'm not begrudging the NBA at all. I'm just waiting for that day when we can get there, too. DW: How does one get more people to watch women's sports—besides gym- nastics and ice skating? PM: You've got to do it with sponsorships and advertising support. If fans are told that this major sponsor is behind this team, and that sponsor puts that team on jerseys, yogurt, and cereal boxes, people will say this is really cool, I need to be there. One of the problems is that men tend to control the spending and market- ing budgets in businesses. DW: A few years ago, you had the idea to DNA-test African-American players in the WNBA to determine where in Africa they came from, and then de- velop a campaign to go there with TV cameras. Did that ever happen? PM: We did the testing on some of the Sparks players. Te goal of the initiative was to help African-Americans know where in Africa they hail from. Once you understand your history and legacy, that may spur you on to do even greater things. We still plan on testing more WNBA players of African descent and take them back to the tribal villages they are from and connect with the residents there around basketball. DW: Do you have any personal stories that were motivating factors in your life and career? PM: When I was a junior at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx, I wanted to talk to my guidance counselor about college. I told her I planned to go to an Ivy League or a Seven Sisters school. She laughed hysterically, and I was not pleased with that reaction. After she fin- ished laughing, she said, "Students like you don't go to a school like that." I said, "We better tell the cardinal they are keep- ing the Catholics out." I ended up going to Vassar. Having said that, I am on the board of trustees for the school. I delivered the commencement address this year—my grandniece was in that class. I got an amazing education and great values at Spellman. Te moral of that story is that if you can stay focused and committed, you can get around naysayers who try to discourage you. DW: What books are on your bedside table right now? PM: I have about five books on my bedside table, but I have no time to get through them! One is Happy: Simple Steps to Get the Most Out of Life, by Dr. Ian Smith. Another is Moonwalking with Einstein, by Joshua Foer, which is about innovative ideas. I tend to read two or three chapters of a book and then believe I know what it says and move on to the next book. DW www.diversitywoman.com

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