When #MeToo inspired waves of women to speak out about sexual harassment, including in the ad industry and within agencies, the floodgates opened—and they won’t be closing anytime soon. Honorees at the Matrix Awards, hosted by New York Women in Communications at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, made that clear on Monday when they took their moment on stage to comment on everything from pay equity to fostering other women in the industry.
Emceed by Today co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, the event highlighted the achievements of notable women in media. This year’s winners included MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, Academy Award-winner Halle Berry, Combs Enterprises’ Dia Simms, Estee Lauder’s Alexandra Trower and Snap Inc.’s Betsy Kenny Lack, among others. Also honored were New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor, Emily Steel and Megan Twohey, who recently won a Pulitzer Prize for their work uncovering sexual harassment and abuse surrounding former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and movie producer Harvey Weinstein.
The women spoke about their inspirations, their support systems and the lessons they’ve learned along the way, but one theme rang true throughout the evening: the importance of asking for what you need, unapologetically and authentically. Here are some of the best insights from the leading women in media about the importance of trusting your gut and being resolute in the workplace.
In a video clip that played before her fiance and Morning Joe co-host, Joe Scarborough, introduced her, Brzezinski said she’s made “every mistake in the book” in her career. “I apologized my way into the room,” she said. “I complained about expenses. I had all these family problems that I brought to the table—I never brought my data to the table. I never held out. I never said, ‘You know what? Not gonna come to work if you’re not gonna pay me.’ Everyone else around me did these things. They were men.”
Berry encouraged young women to trust their intuition above all else. Believing in your own gut and staying true to it, even if others don’t, doesn’t ensure instant success, she said.
“But it means you’re always going to learn the exact lesson or get the exact accolades or the exact check that you’re supposed to get for yourself,” she said. “And never compare that to anybody else.”
She added that the #MeToo movement has “drastically” affected the acting industry. “When I sit in these rooms with male executives, guess what?” she said. “Men are now saying, ‘We do want the right person for the job, but if we’re going to interview eight people, let four be men and four be women.”
Guthrie said that while “so much has changed in the past year in our industry,” it’s important to “not tire until we attain a workplace for our sisters and our daughters and yes, ourselves, where we are on equal footing with our colleagues—in opportunity, in respect, in pay. No more, no less, this is the goal.”
She expressed her hope that women can work together toward that goal with “the right combination of firmness, kindness, gentleness, pushiness and grace.”
“I admit that’s a hard balance to achieve, and we won’t always get it right, but we’re women,” she said. “Aren’t we used to juggling the impossible?”