The passing of actress and producer Mary Tyler Moore last week ushered in a flood of memories to anyone who grew up in the ‘70s enjoying the many great sitcoms of that era. But beyond being funny, some actually delivered a message.
For All In The Family, it was Norman Lear’s ability to break down bigotry, racism, and stereotypes. With Good Times, it was a positive and funny depiction of African-American families. In MAS*H, it was sarcastic humor cleverly revealing the horrors of war.
And for The Mary Tyler Moore Show, it was a message to young women and girls they could be single and successful in a traditional workplace, all the while managing the male-dominated environment with skill, humor, and grace.
The Mary Richards character was effective, smart, and clever, deftly working with the quirky news team at WJM-TV in Minneapolis to produce a show each day. Mary was always capable and determined, often holding the group together.
And it’s significant that four decades later, the media world has become considerably more populated with women executives, often at the highest levels. That’s especially the case in radio.
Mary Berner (Cumulus), Caroline Beasley (Beasley), Ginny Morris (Hubbard), Mary Quass (NRG), Kim Guthrie (Cox), Cathy Hughes (Radio One), Beth Neuhoff (Neuhoff Communications), and others have all made their way to radio’s corner offices – an all-time high representation of female leadership in the industry.
And there are the many women in senior management positions in both commercial and public radio, as well as other sectors, including Weezie Kramer (Entercom), Erica Farber (RAB), Jody Evans (PRPD), Julie Talbott (Premiere Networks), Kerri Hoffman (PRX), and leaders of state broadcasting associations like Karole White (MAB), Michelle Vetterkind (WBA), and others.
I have a feeling many spent their Saturday nights watching Mary Richards navigating that crazy newsroom, a job that paid less than a secretarial position. She was struggling to impact the media workplace back when many of these female execs were growing up, and now they’re running the show.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show was at the leading edge of many major issues, such as gender roles, income inequality, pre-marital sex, and simply the way co-workers interacted with one another on the job. Over the past week, we’ve seen clips from the old shows, and the difference between then and now is stark, almost embarrassing. Today, the show’s impact is on display at the top of many of the organizational charts of today’s radio companies.
But aside from those who have attained leadership positions, you can feel the effect of women in the radio workplace in even the routine meetings that take place every day. Just as the casual banter between Mary, Murray, and even Ted, shifted the focus of many conversations in the WJM newsroom, women in radio at all levels have brought an entirely different spirit and point of view to everything from music meetings to strategic sessions to sales meetings.
Last week, many had the chance to reminisce about that famous Mary Richards hat toss on Nicollet Mall that opened each show.
Hats off to the women in radio who are changing the industry.
I’m sure we missed some of the best and brightest women in radio. Please use the “Comments” section below to add to this post.
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