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Cynthia Doty, VP-manager of operations for Warren, Mich.-based GM Mediaworks, has a large world map in her office.

"It's a reminder to me of how big the world is and how I shouldn't

limit my world," Ms. Doty says.

Ms. Doty, 35, describes her 12 years experience as an African- American woman in the marketing industry, including her current position in the organization that handles General Motors Corp.'s media, as "joy and pain."


The fast pace of marketing, meeting new people and chasing the deal are all reasons she enjoys marketing.

"I feel I can sell anything to anyone," Ms. Doty says.

But she has had to deal with frustrating limitations put on her by others because of her culture and gender.

"Not everybody is a racist or a sexist," she says. "Some people are just ignorant."

Ms. Doty grew up in Detroit, the oldest of five children in a single-parent home. She decided upon a career in business while attending public high school as an honor student. But she felt she lagged behind her peers after entering Michigan State University. She quickly caught up and earned her B.A. in marketing.

"One thing I make clear about my past," Ms. Doty says in a feisty voice, "is that I am not a victim, but a victor."


As a result, Ms. Doty is highly active in supporting minority students interested in marketing. She is a mentor for several programs, including a reading program at an elementary school, and serves on committees of the Adcraft Club in Detroit.

After leaving school, Ms. Doty worked as a media planner for Tracy-Locke, Dallas, and then Young & Rubicam, Detroit. She then worked as a media supervisor for McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Troy, Mich. In 1994, she landed at Mediaworks.

Working in the industry at times has been difficult because she usually has been one of few people of color on the professional staff.

"Even when I'm at a social function related to work, I am one of a few, if not the only one," Ms. Doty says. "I'm tired of being mistaken for the wait staff at parties."


Ms. Doty credits industry friends of her own age, experience level and cultural background with giving her the support she needs to grow. For the lack of parity with the cultural makeup of the general population, Ms. Doty reprimands the marketing industry.

"Knowing the music or having an occasional encounter with the culture or watching the news does not mean that you can communicate the advertising message effectively," Ms. Doty says.

"You have to speak the language and know what's in the heart," Ms. Doty adds. "People of color have an advantage in that we have had to operate biculturally in this country."

Living with a foot in each world, she has learned to scorn the label "minority" and catch phrase "diversity," and challenges people with her views of "affirmative action."


"I don't like the word 'minority.' I prefer 'people of color,'" Ms. Doty says. "I don't think there's anything minor about the contributions African-Americans-or any other culture-have made to this world."

Affirmative action, Ms. Doty says, is preferential treatment "based on contacts." Because business is based on relationships and contacts, many people of color don't have familiar people to help them make those networking connections. But affirmative action does not mean doing business with someone unqualified, no matter the person's cultural background.

"I've been told I'm too hard on some blacks," Ms. Doty says. "There are professional standards-so why should that change because I'm dealing with a black company? I try to be fair with everybody."

Ms. Doty believes that people should work together to make changes, particularly by giving back to their own communities to make a difference.

"I had an interesting talk with a former co-worker about the first O.J. [Simpson] verdict and the Million Man March. She couldn't understand the racial tension and asked me why couldn't we have a day of unity for everybody," Ms. Doty says. "I asked, 'Why don't you organize it?'"


Although Ms. Doty's views are sometimes seen as controversial by co-workers, she makes no apologies. Referring to the map on her wall, she says: "It doesn't mean I'm not proud of my heritage and background. It does mean I can learn to appreciate other people and other cultures."

The best place for making changes is with students, Ms. Doty says. "I tell students not to buy into the hate," Ms Doty says. "Walk over it, push it aside, get around it, step on it if you have to."

She constantly encourages future generations of marketing executives to read, work and contribute.

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