New York Women in Communications presented its 2014 Matrix Awards on April 28 during a packed Waldorf Astoria luncheon, which featured luminaires such as singer and actress Queen Latifah, ex-Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons, CNN's Christiane Amanpour, "Meet the Press" moderator David Gregory, feminist Gloria Steinem, New Yorker editor David Remnick, Ogilvy & Mather chairman emeritus Shelly Lazarus and singer/songwriter Mary J. Blige.

Interpublic Group hosted the program that was emcced by Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, co-hosts of the fourth hour of "Today."

Interpublic Sees Recruitment Opportunities

During his presentation, IPG CEO Michael Roth highlighted the importance of gender diversity at the ad/PR combine that houses Weber Shandwick, DeVries PR and GolinHarris.

Interpublic's Michael Roth hosted the 2014 Matrix Awards. Photos: Sharlene Spingler

He noted that his firm is one of seven Fortune 500 companies to have a board of directors that is at least 40 percent women. The 11-member group includes Jill Consodine, former chief of Depository Trust & Clearing Corp.; Jocelyn Carter-Miller, one-time CMO at Motorola and Office Depot; Mary Steele Guilfoile, ex-executive VP at JPMorgan Chase, and Dawn Hudson, former CEO of PepsiCo's North American operations.

Promoting the careers of women makes good business sense, according to Roth, benefitting the company during recruiting and in relationships with clients and other stakeholders.

Scanning the audience, Roth joked that such a sophisticated and talented audience represented an outstanding recruitment opportunity for IPG.

Procope Inspires Audiences

Jonelle Procope, CEO of the legendary Apollo Theater, inspired the audience by sharing her belief that both life and careers never follow a straight line. Most people's lives are on "auto-correct," she said.

Dick Parsons with Jonelle Procope before the event.

Procope told how Ella Fitzgerald was to try out as a dancer at amateur night at the Apollo in 1934. After watching earlier scheduled dancers perform, Fitzgerald got cold feet and wanted to back out. The harried director said that was impossible to do at that late time and asked Fitzgerald what else could she do. “I can sing a little,” Fitzgerald replied. The rest is history.

The Apollo chief began her career as researcher/reporter at Newsweek, but after three years she decided journalism wasn’t for her. She opted for law school, practiced entertainment law and did corporate affairs work before joining the Apollo and ultimately rose to board member.

Matrix honoree Wendy Clark of Coca-Cola

Parsons, a fellow director, approached Procope in 2003 with an offer to become president of the then-crumbling theater. Procope believes her hesitant decision to accept the post is what separates men from women.

A man, she said, would have jumped at the chance to run the Apollo, but Procope questioned whether she was up to the job. Her decision to accept the presidency turned into her proudest professional achievement.

In Procope’s view, if a job is unchallenging, that professional career is going nowhere.

WICI president Liz Kaplow

Steinhem Rocks House

Steinhem, who presented documentary producer Dyllan McGee, admitted to the audience that she’s not a fan of royalty, but was thrilled to meet Queen Latifah for the first time. That line brought down the house.

Matrix presenter Shelly Lazarus of Ogilvy & Mather

The feminist was McGee’s inspiration for her ground-making “MAKERS” multi-plaform documentary produced in conjunction with AOL and PBS about women who transformed American culture during the past half-century.

McGee initially approached Steinhem about doing a piece about her life and achievements in the fight for empowerment.

The activist and author refused McGee’s offer, saying the proposed documentary should be expanded to include other female pioneers.

The McGee/Steinhem collaboration also resulting a three-hour documentary on PBS and “Gloria: In Her Own Words” on HBO, for which McGee received an Emmy nomination.

Matrix Honor Roll of 2014

Mary J. Blige and Matrix honoree Queen Latifah

This year’s Matrix winners are:

Jane Mayer, New Yorker staff writer (see also Mayer Wows NYWICI's Matrix Gala)

Wendy Clark, senior VP, Global Sparkling Brand Center, Coca-Cola

Cynthia McFadden, senior legal and investigative correspondent, NBC News

Eileen Naughton, VP-global accounts & global agencies, Google

Dyllan McGee, founder/executive producer, MAKERS

Queen Latifah, musician/actress/record-label president/author

Jonelle Procope, president & CEO, Apollo Theater

Roth with honoree Eileen Naughton of Google and Kaplow.

Liz Kaplow, CEO of PR firm Kaplow, is NYWICI's president.

Kellen Co. handled the event, which presented 18 scholarships to young women either beginning or transitioning in communications careers.

NYWICI’s foundation has granted more than $1M in scholarships.