A wide-ranging discussion of the media and the role women play in the field drew 350 people to Maura Hall at The College of New Rochelle on January 17, 2013.
Sharing their experiences were Suzyn Waldman, Yankees radio commentator for WCBS; Paula Zahn, co-host of "NYC-ARTS" on Thirteen-WNET; and Valerie Salembier, an alumna of the School of New Resources, recently senior vice president, publisher, and chief revenue officer at Town & Country magazine, and now president and CEO of The Salembier Group.
Waldman, a pioneer among women in sports broadcasting, proved to be a crowd favorite with pithy and humorous responses to moderator Elizabeth Bracken Thompson's questions.
Asked if there was anything in her career she would do over, she said, simply, "Nothing." Then she added, "The only thing I regret is that I let my ex-husband talk me into selling our apartment in New York City."
On whether she had ever experienced gender bias: "27 years of it." Ever been told what to wear? "That's pretty much why I was in radio."
Their stories about fashion in the workplace, while funny, also illustrated the advances women have made in the past few decades. Waldman told of wearing a pantsuit to work and being ordered by then-Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to return the next day wearing a skirt.
Salembier shared the story of a human resources memo from 1967 alerting department heads of one employee's purchase of a pantsuit. "If she continues to wear it to the office, she needs to be told to cease and desist."
The three also illustrated the power of perserverance, and shared practical advice from their experiences.
Salembier went straight to work out of high school. "I figured I could do it my way," she said, and worked her way up from being a receptionist at Time Inc. The turning point for her was "when I began to understand that, that guy's job, I could do that ... and that guy's job, I could do that as well."
She does regret not getting an education sooner. She received an excellent education from the School of New Resources, says, "but I was working, I was supporting a husband. It was pretty tough on myself."
Zahn, who went to college believing she'd become a professional musician, switched to journalism after spending her junior year working for the BBC in Northern Ireland. She worked in the trenches of local journalism all over the country before moving up to network television, and while she concedes that her journey has not been completely smooth, she has no regrets.
"Falling on your face is a forward motion," she said. "Take those defeats and help leverage them into something better."