With Mother's Day in mind, here are three generations of women - grandmother, mother, daughter - who have all worked in radio over the last century. Renee Roth, Regional Vice President of Marketron, one of the media industry's leading providers of business software solutions and services, her mother, Jo-Ann Silverstein, one of the first women to get into the radio business back in 1975, and daughter Rachel Roth, who has followed suit and now works in digital radio. It's a personal story of mothers inspiring daughters and how the formula for success has changed over the years.
What does it mean to you to have three generations of women in your family working in the same industry?
Jo-Ann: Tremendous pride. To see my daughter not only soar in her career but excel in management and leadership roles has been every mother's dream. When she first came into the business people used to call her Jo-Ann's daughter. Within a few years I was referred to as Renée's mother. And now, to see my granddaughter climb into this industry is the best. It's an industry of passion and she has what it takes. She is part me and part Renée but with much more moxy. She is a shining star. I loved the radio business and I'm thrilled they love it too.
Renée: My love for my mom and my daughter fills my heart. To share this with both of them is one more connection we have in the world. We are so intrinsically connected now that we finish each other's thoughts at times. I'm so proud of the path my mom forged for me and now for Rachel. I can't wait to be introduced as Rachel's mother.
What sparked the decision to enter a career in radio?
Rachel: Well, I graduated university with a degree in psychology which I loved. But, I was poor so I took the plunge into sales! I've been around sales my entire life, and I love selling and building relationships. Turns out I get to use my degree everyday.
Renée: I was also around sales my entire life and ran from it early in my career. I felt being on commission wasn't stable enough for me - the risk was too great. It wasn't until I had matured a bit that I actually realized I could help people build their businesses. It was about relationships. I was offered a sales job at a new station and never looked back.
After 18 years in sales and management at the station level moving to Marketron was an incredible new challenge for me in the industry I knew and loved. As Regional Vice President I have the opportunity to work with broadcasters all over North America, large and small. I help them to streamline their businesses while providing services which increase revenue and and provide them with powerful knowledge about heir client base.
Jo-Ann: I was a single mother of three in 1975 and needed to earn more than an hourly wage. I figured if I could do this, I would build a career. I didn't know then how much fun radio was. I was thrown a phone book on my first day and thought well...I guess I should start at "A."
How did the other women in your family affect that decision?
Renée : My mother has always been my mentor and role model. If there is one thing she has taught me its persistence. She persisted to sell me on radio sales for years. And I mean many years. She never gave up. I think she just wanted the sale!
Rachel: While I grew up, I watched them both love their careers. I watched and shared in their successes and the friendships they created throughout the industry. I wanted that too. I also saw how hard they worked and that it wasn't easy.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Renée: Like many women, I have struggled financially, had children and made some mistakes - "life" as we call it. I think the skills we inherently have as women help us to lead: Empathy is a big one; an appreciation for change without fearing it; learning how to stay positive and celebrate the wins big and small. And not just our own wins but the wins of others. These are survival skills that we have honed by surviving tough times building our inner strength and character. It's ok to fail. It's not ok to stay down. My children have taught me that each of us is different and not everyone is ready at the same time for the same thing. I never understood that before. The same applies to leading and mentoring and client service. Each of us must be ready to take action.
How do you think the workplace has changed for women over the last century?
Jo-Ann: When I began 45 years ago, the only other women were secretaries and night cleaners. I was the first woman in sales. Gradually a few more joined and we celebrated when each new woman came on board. We were "the girls."
Renée: When I began 25 years ago there were a few women in sales, a few in accounting and promotions, very few on air except for traffic and weather and none in management. Radio has been a predominantly male industry for much of its existence, unlike TV where there are so many woman. I'm happy to say that change has been rapid although there are still too few women in executive positions. We are however seeing many more women in sales than ever before. I'd like to suggest that our "female" skill set helps us become great sales people and great leaders.
Rachel: I really don't see gender as an issue today. It's off my radar.
How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Marketron?
Renée: For over 20 years I've lived and breathed the daily stresses that my clients do. The challenges they face daily are my world. I have tremendous empathy and respect for the work they do. I know that their ToDo list is eight miles long. I get that the products Marketron delivers to them are so vital to their performance that they must be seamless, efficient and above all else, help not hinder their daily workload. Personally, I have been successful in leadership and management.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your careers?
Renée: Shifting my head from being a client to a vendor was both challenging and wonderful. I didn't have an in depth understanding (technically) of how the software worked. I had great knowledge of the business end and some fairly decent software experience from developing my own product but I'm not a developer or a coder. I struggled with that. However, Marketron has entire teams of people who are experts in those fields. I don't need to know how to code. I need to know how we can solve a problem. A big moment for me was realizing that you don't need to know everything. I'd like to think one of my highlights has been to help clients use our software as business intelligence tools that affect their management decisions. This moves the needle for them.
What advice can you offer to women who want to start their own business?
Renée: Be positive! Be persistent! And do it! Everyone has great ideas, the difference is in those who actually do it/ create it/ launch it while others are still thinking about doing it. Tell your story to everyone and seek advice. What's the worst that could happen? I don't understand people who don't share because they think someone will steal their idea. Gather information and then start talking. Don't be afraid to re-invent yourself...it's just a new layer of you. The only thing stopping you is you.
What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
Jo-Ann: To be humble. To appreciate people. To listen more than you speak. You have two ears and one mouth, you should be listening twice as much as you speak.
Renée: I think it's natural for women to take things personally. In business I believe this stops a lot of women from moving ahead. I've learned not to take business things personally. It's served me well. Also, if you're not good with change- do something else. Given our world today I don't know any business that isn't changing.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Renée; Ok, mom we have to tell the best work/life NOT balanced story! When Rachel was born...
Jo-Ann: I thought it was brilliant, I was everywhere I needed to be.
Renée: I was in labor with Rachel, my first child and my mother's first grandchild. I was well into it for hours and my mom of course was at the hospital. There were no cell phones in those days and she was pretty edgy about work she had going on. When I was about to give birth, I had decided to invite my mom into the delivery room. Of course she came in and proceeded to ask the nurse if she could use the phone on the wall. She did, and as I'm screaming and pushing, my mom is closing a deal with a client on the phone! He must have asked what the noise was because all I heard my Mom say was, "Oh this is a radio station, crazy things go on here all the time. Should I bring the contract over in the morning?" How's that for work/life balance?
Jo-Ann: There was no work/ life balance. The term didn't exist. I had to out perform, out sell, out create and work twice as hard.
Renée: The delivery room is pretty extreme no? I admit that my work/life balance teetered for many years on the work side as well. Being in management I felt much the same as my mother. My kids definitely got the short end. I was always tired and worn out at the end of the day. So I probably wasn't the most joyous mom on the block in the early years. I'm not sure there is such a thing as balance. Something always suffers. I was also a single mom and was driven to support my family come hell or high water. I made the choice to succeed. Now, I've learned to shut my phone off, take time for me and my family. I'm much more fun.
Rachel: I need balance in my life so I'm going to make sure I find it. I don't know what that looks like yet but I've learned from my mom that it's important.
Renée: That's great Rachel. See? Something great has come out of my bitchy days.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Jo-Ann- Dare I say managing your time? Take time for yourself without guilt. Guilt is such a wasted emotion.
Rachel: Overcome the misconception that men are superior to women. We need to get on with it- together.
Renée: I agree with Rachel. I'd like to add that from a leadership perspective, women do not have to act like men to succeed. We are women, born leaders and using our womanhood in leadership roles is very powerful. Also, we need to support other women in the workplace. There is no longer room for women being gossipy and catty about other women. Put your big girl panties on and get over it.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Jo-Ann: My father was my mentor and his words have never left me. He gave me the green light to be strong, capable and go after my dreams.
Renée: My mom's mentoring has made a huge difference in my life. Her mentoring has been much more than professional, it has been life coaching. Human coaching. It's priceless and profound. I can only hope that I have been able to share this with my children.
Rachel: I have been mentored by two very strong women. My mom and my Bubbie. They have encouraged me to be myself and to give back and not to fear newness. They are my "go-tos".
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Jo-Ann- Eleanor Roosevelt. She wasn't a beauty like those celebrated in her time but her beauty came through her wisdom. She gave of herself to others and surpassed all with truth and kindness. Golda Meir is another one I admire. She ran a country from her kitchen table at a time when men ruled the world without question. But she got it done.
Rachel: I love Oprah. She remains true to herself. She shares herself and by her strength she empowers others. Also, she once said "you can ask anyone any question if you ask with respect and integrity." She inspires me.
Renée: Hillary Clinton. Beyond her political beliefs, this woman has lived and worked in a predominantly male environment, especially as Secretary of State. She has done so with grace and brains and has negotiated beyond any gender gaps of old. Madeline Albright- I loved this quote, "There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women."
What do you want Marketron to accomplish in the next year?
Renée: Marketron is already a leader in our Industry. We need to continue that leadership as changes affect our partners in traditional radio with alternative ways to deliver content. We have great software tools to support and assist them as radio evolves. I feel it is my responsibility to help our partners grow their businesses efficiently and effectively using our tools. It also must be said that I work with great people who are experts at what they do. Together we are committed to serving our smart, capable broadcast clients . That makes me happy.