Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS, was influenced early on by the power of television, particularly by the show I Love Lucy and its namesake character, who represented an inspirational role model for a young girl growing up in a rural area—tall, funny and always striving for something more.
(Pictured: Paula Kerger, left, with ACE President Molly Corbett Broad.)
Later, it was The Mary Tyler Moore Show that captured Kerger’s imagination, featuring another strong female character who showed that women could be career-oriented and lead independent lives, Kerger recounted during her keynote speech March 8 at the ACE Women’s Leadership Dinner, one of the events held during ACE’s 96th Annual Meeting.
Saying that PBS strives to present positive images of women on screen and give women executives the opportunity to wield authority in its production and business operations, Kerger noted that she is PBS’ second woman president and that the nation’s largest non-commercial media organization has a number of women in top jobs.
However, as she said, top women executives are a distinct minority overall in the media industry.
Kerger told the audience of senior higher education leaders that colleges and universities have a special role in helping prepare future leaders and that women higher education leaders who have broken through the glass ceiling have an obligation to help mentor younger women following in their paths.
“As successful women, it is so important to mentor the next generation of women and help the new generation find its own voice and path,” she said.
As part of her speech, Kerger played a segment from the PBS show Makers: Women Who Make America about Kathrine Switzer, who in 1967 became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, finishing despite an attempt by a race organizer to throw her out.
ACE President Molly Corbett Broad, who has served on the PBS board, called Kerger a “practical visionary” who leverages new technology in ways that helps reach more people.
Also at the Women’s Leadership Dinner, Elaine Maimon, president of Governors State University, was presented with the 2014 Donna Shavlik Award. Prior to the dinner, at the ACE Women’s Network Reception, the 2014 ACE State Network Leadership Award was given to The University of Alabama’s Graduate Parent Support program.