The Third Annual Women of Excellence in the Arts held at the Riverside Theatre on Tuesday night was as excellent as its panelist, six outstanding female captains of industry and standout artists. These six women, Tony Award winners Lillias White and Melba Moore, CEO of Monami Entertainment, Mona Scott-Young, radio host of Power 105.1 Malikha Mallette, casting director Winsome Sinclair, and musical producer and television executive Jacquie Lee, spoke in detail about their collective and individual professional struggles as women in male dominated industries.

“Know your worth, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate” was a popular theme first so precisely articulated by Scott-Young who, along with Jacquie Lee, went on to speak about climbing the corporate ladder and being under-appreciated by past employers despite outperforming their male colleagues. Along these lines, Moore and White, who seemed to have the most fans of all the panelists in the audience, promoted self-confidence and self-dependence.

“Trailblazing is lonely, but what keeps me going is the younger generation,” said Sinclair to preface a series of anecdotes about working with her team of interns on various project. Scott-Young also spoke extensively with great enthusiasm about her work mentoring young entrepreneurs and media professionals in the industry.

Prompted to speak directly about feminine sexuality in male dominated industries by the questions of one unnamed audience member – a topic each of the panelist briefly touched upon but never thoroughly discussed – the ladies encouraged women to be assertive and own the power they have as equal partners in any professional situation they encounter.

The audience was readily receptive their words and especially excited by their encouragement, responding to their remarks on this issue with roaring applause.  Yet, their experiences were pointed out as limited in collectively representing the spectrum of female experience in male dominated industries when composer Dionne McClain-Freeney shared her concerns with the panelists’ comments as a woman who is seen as less feminine in the traditional sense but still faces similar discrimination.

Despite the rough reality of McClain-Freeney’s comments, the panelists’ experiences were arguably representative of minority workplace experiences overall, as entrepreneur Doug Banks stated, “It’s not just about being a woman – as a black person their truths are my truths too, despite gender.”

The panel was followed by a VIP reception where guests extended the panel conversation, and engaged with and congratulated the panelists.

– Darrel

For additional coverage, check out the Columbia Spectator.