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Women in Engineering: Maria Laing of Mr. Master

She is a mentor, an industry advocate and a voice for budding engineers

Having kicked off in March 2024 for Women’s History Month, Radio World’s “Women in Engineering” spotlight, written by Assistant Editor Elle Kehres, features women in broadcast engineering roles and other technical positions, highlighting their work and growing careers in a male-dominated field. This is an ongoing feature, as women’s industry contributions extend far beyond the month of March. 

Maria Laing’s role with Mentoring and Inspiring Women in Radio (MIW) — a non-profit dedicated to the advancement of female leadership in radio broadcasting — only seems to be growing.

In addition to sitting on MIW’s board of directors, Laing is part of the team that steers the MIW Engineering Mentorship Program, which has recently expanded.

At the end of 2023, MIW and the National Association of Broadcasters Leadership Foundation (NABLF) announced the first “Launch” program recipient.

Maria Laing at the 2024 NAB Show (Credit: Elle Kehres)

Launch is a partnership between MIW and the NAB dedicated to supporting women in radio who are relatively new to the industry. The program targets the development and curation of talent — this year with a focus on the engineering side of radio. 

When it came to taking on the program’s first-ever engineering mentee, Laing was more than up to the task.

“I am a huge advocate for engineering — especially women in engineering — and worked to get engineering into the curriculum for the Radio Talent Institute, now the National Radio Talent System, who introduce students to radio,” said Laing.

With guidance from MIW, Laing is currently co-mentoring Lucretia Lee-Arceneaux — a broadcast IT engineer for iHeartMedia in Phoenix, Ariz., and an aspiring RF engineer — alongside Lou Taylor of 4Remotes. (Editor’s note: Lucretia Lee-Arceneaux will be featured in our next Women in Engineering spotlight.)

Having already received training at SAE Atlanta, Colorado Media School and the Colorado Broadcasters Association CBA Engineering Academy, Lee-Arceneaux was already well on her way to establishing herself as a broadcast engineer … but Laing said she was missing one thing.

“When we spoke for the first time and we started getting to know each other, I could hear that she had everything else, but she didn’t have a voice,” said Laing. “You know, I always have my voice. So I thought if she just had more confidence, that’s all she needed from me.”

MIW Lipstick and Lobster Dinner at the NAB Show. (L to R: Maria Laing, Lucretia Lee-Arceneaux and Lou Taylor)

When she’s not helping budding radio engineers, Laing serves as senior vice president of Mr. Master, which provides compliance and content distribution software solutions to radio groups, including iHeartMedia, Cumulus Media, Townsquare Media and Audacy.

During her 22-year tenure with the company, Laing spearheaded the creation of accountability standards for the terrestrial broadcast audio industry, co-founded Mr. Master’s Automation Import Manager (AIM) software and ushered in Mr. Master’s transition from a CD to a digital delivery service.

On top of her career, Laing is also very involved with the Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Broadcast Engineers. However, while she is deeply rooted in the engineering world now, that wasn’t always the case. 

Laing first walked into a SBE Chapter 47 meeting 15 years ago to “learn how to talk to engineers” for her work. She recalls what it was like to make an impression and find community amidst a sea of men.

“I put on a dress on purpose,” she said. 

And an impression she did make.

Just one year after joining, Laing was asked to be vice-chair for the LA chapter — a position she continues to hold today, in addition to being a Senior member of the SBE.

SBE Chapter 47 holiday party (L to R: Mike Tosch, director of engineering, Spanish Broadcasting System Los Angeles, and former Chapter 47 chair; and Maria Laing)

“Engineering in itself is discriminated against, especially women in engineering,” said Laing. “It is so important to advocate and bring awareness to this often overlooked field. It is an exciting time for women in technology.”

When it comes to supporting women looking to getting involved in STEM careers, Laing has a very clear message: “Remember you’re not an imposter. That’s important for women to remember, no matter what field you’re in.”

In her engineering mentorship roles, Laing emphasizes the importance of asking questions, remaining curious and drawing from the wealth of experience that already exists in the radio industry. 

“I know that engineers are really good in this way,” said Laing. “But you’ve got to ask the right questions. You need to go in there and not pretend what you don’t know. Knowing when to step back is also an important skill.”

SBE Chapter 47 Los Angeles Board of Directors (L to R: Alyson Cox, Director of Implementation at Mr. Master and Chapter 47 secretary; Matt Anderson, iHeartMedia engineer and chair of Chapter 47; Maria Laing; Dick Burden, Burden and Assoc/Chapter 47 Emeritus; Lance Harper, chief engineer and KPCC/Chapter 47 treasurer; Mike Tosch; Doug Irwin, iHeartMedia VP of engineering and Chapter 47 education chair)

Looking ahead, Laing said we must continue to support our engineers while training the next generation of professionals.

“Education is very important to our chapter,” said Laing. “We just recently hosted a sold-out Ennes Workshop and have been working on a program that offers mentoring to the members in our group that are interested in becoming certificated.”

Continuing her own education, Laing herself is looking to earn a Certified Radio Operator (CRO) certification from the SBE this year.

Los Angeles Chapter 47 education workshop with Burt Weiner on spectrum analyzing and TDR usage. (Oct. 2023)

And, of course, there’s always a need for more mentors. 

“We need to think about who we want to replace us,” said Laing. “We have to also educate kids — the younger group coming up — to at least expose them to it. Radio as a whole needs to have that happen. But engineering especially.”

Finally, while it can be difficult to make space for women in engineering and technical spaces, Laing expressed her admiration for engineers, their resiliency and the industry she has grown to love.

“I love them, and I’m grateful to them. Because I would not be doing what I’m doing right now if it wasn’t for them.”

Group photo at NAB 2024. (L to R: Cathy Orosz, SBE National education director; Chriss Scherer, SBE National member communications director; Maria Laing; Alyson Cox; Jim Ragsdale, executive director at SBE National; and Andrea Cummis, former SBE National president)

Want to nominate someone for the next Women in Engineering spotlight? Email Elle at [email protected].

[Related: “Women in Engineering: Jade He at Hofstra University“]