Many of you have had the privilege of meeting DMA’s Beth Corwin, either through taking her iLife course at Stanford or through her numerous hands-on sessions over the years at CUE Palm Springs. Beth has been a DMA instructor for over 8 years (since the beginning) and is also a member of DMA’s Board.
Earlier this month, I had the privilege of spending three days with Beth in Palm Springs at the CUE Conference. In addition to providing me with a personal introduction to the exciting world of iPhone applications, she told me more about her former days as a cameraperson for ABC. The more I heard and reflected on her challenges in this role, the more I realized that Beth is a model and an example to girls and women who are trying to succeed in male-dominated fields. I recently asked Beth to tell me more about her experiences, and just like I suspected, she overcame some very tough experiences to be the success that she is today.
Although we see many more women in the media today, it was not the case more than 30 years ago when Beth first began her career in broadcast engineering. After surprising her college instructors (and all the men in her classes) by passing every technical exam she took, she went on to seek a job with two major networks, NBC and ABC. At NBC, she was told that they don’t hire women for engineering jobs. At ABC, she used her initials as her first name (BT) and was granted an interview, but upon meeting her, her interviewer started asking her questions about her typing ability. She finally landed a job in Washington, DC as a staff assistant to the Congressman on the Appropriations Subcommittee, which funded the FCC. After working there for two years, she got a “temporary vacation relief job” with the Baltimore ABC affiliate. Things in television were changing. Because of numerous nationwide discrimination lawsuits, suddenly every TV station wanted to have a “token woman.”
Over Beth’s decades of experience with ABC, she worked as a videotape editor, soundman, live truck operator and cameraman. Her business card for many years said “cameraman,” never “camerawoman” or “cameraperson.” When asked if she felt she was treated differently in these roles for being a woman, she recounts stories of men who refused to work with her because they did not want to take orders from a woman. She recalls a sign that someone gave her early on in her career, “a woman has to be twice as good as a man just to be thought half as good.” Despite the challenges, Beth’s talent and perseverance won out.
Fortunately for many girls today, the challenges are not as overwhelming as the ones Beth faced, largely because women like Beth have led the way. There are fewer jobs now that are still considered exclusively male jobs. After all, as Beth explains, “women have proved themselves in combat – flying helicopters, fighting in war and playing in professional sports, so people know there are women who can stand toe to toe with men.” When asked what she might say to girls today still facing a challenge, she says, “Go ahead and do it, if it’s something you want to do. Find a mentor. Keep your eyes open, as it’s still tough. Be prepared. Be better. Be smarter.”
For these and many reasons, the Digital Media Academy has been fortunate to have Beth as an instructor and friend to many. Phil Gibson, President of Digital Media Academy, has this to add about Beth: “Without Beth, DMA would not be what it is today. She has given her time in numerous ways over the years and has played a major role in the growth of the company. She is also one of our favorite people, and we are privileged to have her on the DMA team.”