Eight Female Leaders Honored at Gracies Leadership Awards


NEW YORK — Back as a first-time event, with virtual gatherings seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alliance for Women in Media (AWM)-hosted Gracies Leadership Awards luncheon saw accolades and honors bestowed upon eight female notables from across the media industry.

The Monday midday event at Tribeca 360° saw keynote speaker Soledad O’Brien
pay homage to the honorees, saying their work represents “stories not just of grit, vision, and opportunity, but of women helping women and celebrating women and the story of how those women didn’t forget that they got into media to elevate people and issues and struggles that were not in the spotlight.”

O’Brien continued, “When I look around this room, I know we are in great hands. So, let’s reach out to each other and make change happen, let’s have each other’s backs. Seven female leaders in media were honored at the event, along with the AWM Legacy Leadership recipient, Valerie Blackburn.

Blackburn began her remarks by referencing the pivotal role her family made in her life and career.

She said, “It’s difficult to articulate what AWM has meant to me professionally and personally- even though I am merely a blip in these 70 years, winning a student Gracie was a confidence booster and behind the scenes, these women are fabulous.”

Nancy Daniels, Chief of Content for NTets, Discovery, Animal Planet & Science Channel,
discussed leadership and what it means to her. “The best leaders that I encountered in
my career always led by example, they always showed up, they expect a lot, but they
also give a lot in return-mentorship, experience, and they give opportunity,” Daniels said.

In accepting her honor, Marie Donoghue, Vice President of Global Sports Video at Amazon,
said, “Being a woman in sports can be an amazing career, but it can also be lonely and
challenging. I’ve always relied on my own mini alliance, we came up together and
supported each other in so many ways, we lift each other up, amplify each other,
celebrate each other. Most importantly, we’ve got each other.”

Kim Godwin, President of ABC News, began her acceptance speech referring to the late
Gracie Allen and the meaning of grace. She continued in referencing the many “sheros”
in her life, commenting, “For every person who didn’t see me, there was one who did, for every person who denied me an opportunity, there was someone who gave me one, and
because someone gave me a chance, I have decided I will give others a chance, and
because someone invested in me, I will invest in others.”

Wendy Goldberg, Chief Communications Officer at iHeartMedia, spoke on the
importance of mentorship and focusing on the women around her.

“Instead of seeing it through my own leaders or mentors, I saw it from the people I had around me,” Goldberg said. “So, for me, this award is really about them- their generosity, their talent and their example … I’m inspired by them, I respect them, I’m often in awe of them.”

Following Goldberg, Chelsey Maddox-Dorsey, CEO of American Urban Radio Networks and A Wonder Media Company, said, “For me business is personal, disruptive, and a force for transformative change.” She spoke directly to all the women and students beginning their media careers, “My advice is, be curious, learn, improve- we need you, we need your creativity, we need your unique perspectives, we need you to take up the gauntlet.”

Debra OConnell, President of Networks at Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, said
during her acceptance that on Sunday she received a gift. “It was a T-shirt that said, ‘As Strong As The Woman Next To Me.’ I feel very strong with all of the women next to me today. We have the opportunity to share stories of strong exceptional women, and we take this responsibility so seriously to message to our communities, the importance of women representation and inclusivity.”

Also honored was Dawn Porter, Founder of Trilogy Films. She noted, “We are a small but
mighty group of strong women (and a very few men). I trace my earliest professional
inspiration to women like Kerry Smith from ABC News who showed me that integrity is
central to everything. The women I work with now are smart, capable and fun. I know
that I could never do everything I do without their wisdom and grace.”

The President of AWM/F, Becky Brooks, commented, “It is an exciting day to open this celebration of women who have reached the top. They are inspiring and showing how women continue to make an impact in executive suites and boardrooms.”

Heather Cohen, Chair of the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation, added, “This is a pivotal event for us because it covers all three of our pillars- it’s recognition, it’s education, and it’s connection. We shine a light on exceptional women in media — those who have shattered glass ceilings and proven their leadership.”

Sponsors of the event include Google News Initiative, ABC News, AURN-American Urban Radio Networks, Clear Channel Outdoor, Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, Hallmark Media, iHeartMedia, KatzMedia Group, Mattel, NCTA-The Internet & Television Association, Warner Bros. Discovery, and Sony Pictures Television.