Women at work
If you want to get ahead, get tough and get going, say some of TV's top names
By Susanne Ault -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/28/2001 7:00:00 PM
Women's taste in television "sucks"; there are still too many men in high places; sue if necessary.
Those were among the observations and suggestions 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 last week's wheeling and dealing at NATPE in Las 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 other times, 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 pointed out how she learned this lesson.
When she first got started with Judge Judy, the show's producers wanted her to appear at NATPE at a podium, signing copies of one of her books. That was fine, except that "they wanted me to sit there for hours," Sheindlin recalled. "I didn't know [enough] to say no."
After a while, the real-life and TV judge had to "lay down the law" in order to end the grueling chore. She 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 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."
Host of Spanish-language talker Christina, Christina Saralegui said that women 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."
On these points there was general agreement, but the conversation heated up when Goldberg blurted out: "Female taste in [TV and film] material sucks. I don't know what it is." Responding to 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.
Attempting to assuage 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."
After pointing out that thousands of women are losing millions of dollars in lost job opportunities, Allred suggested that women must actively fight discrimination through lawsuits or private mediation.
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