Meet The Powerful Women Dominating The Media Industry
Breaking the glass ceiling is a never ending task for women in the workplace. Even the entertainment and media industry isn’t exempt from the glass ceiling. While the workforce gap is narrowing, men still dominate majority of senior level positions in comparison to women. This month, Foxxtales is highlighting several accomplished females in the entertainment and media industry who are also impacting and inspiring young women and minorities to achieve success in their careers.
These five businesswomen have made their mark in the industry and are continuing to work hard to pave the way for others to follow in their footsteps. Whether they began their career as an Executive Assistant, an attorney or entrepreneur they are successful “Boss Lady’s” that are currently dominating the industry as CEOs, VP’s and senior level executives while maintaining work life balance.
By Brianna Allen
Debra Lee, CEO & Chairman of BET Networks
It’s safe to say Debra Lee is one of the top influential women in the entertainment industry. A former attorney, Lee joined BET as Vice President of legal affairs. Under her leadership at BET, Lee has helped the network develop original programming such as, “Black Girls Rock” and “BET Honors” while growing the ratings and increasing advertising revenue. Also, under her direction, BET has increased the production budget by 50% and launched a new entertainment network, Centric in 2009, which is now called BET Her.
The Brown University and Harvard Law School graduate has been recognized by various publications and organizations in the media industry including being honored as the first woman to receive the Salute to Industry Icon Award at the Pre-Grammy gala, Hollywood Reporter’s 100 Most Powerful Women in Entertainment, and she received the Distinguished Leadership Vanguard Award by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. Lee was also inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame, The Cable Pioneers and the Washington Business Hall of Fame. In addition to leading BET, Debra Lee serves the Board of Directors for Twitter, Alvin Ailey Foundation, and the Marriott.
Lee told Forbes her advice to young women would be to, “First, find something you’re passionate about. Whether it’s a profession or a company, just make sure it’s something you love within the entertainment industry. No matter what, you’ll always have to work hard and I find that if it’s something you really care about, you’ll be willing to put in the time necessary.”
Frances Berwick, President NBCU Cable Lifestyle Networks
Frances Berwick is known as one of the networks longest-standing employees. During her career at NBCUniversal she has not only successfully worked her way up the career ladder, she has also increased original programming by 33% for the lifestyle brands, Bravo Media, E! Entertainment, Oxygen Media and Universal Kids. Additionally, Berwick has rebranded two of NBCUniversal’s main networks Oxygen, the crime channel and Universal Kids, the 12-and-under channel formerly called Sprout.
Under her leadership, E! Entertainment has remained successful as the leading pop culture powerhouse as well as Bravo maintaining its status as having the most upscale and educated audience. Berwick has also expanded Oxygen Media and shifted the network to a multiplatform crime destination for women. During her time at NBCUniversal she has been committed to developing quality, original programming for the audience. Her work has not gone unnoticed as she has been awarded two Peabody awards, three Primetime Emmys, the National Association of Multi-Ethnicity in Communications Award (NAMIC) and many more.
Bernadette Aulestia, EVP, Global Distribution, HBO
Bernadette Aulestia was recognized as one of the most powerful Latinas in 2017 by Fortune. If that doesn’t say Boss Lady, I don’t know what does. For over 20 years, Aulestia has been with HBO and has held various positions from Senior VP, Subscriber & Product Marketing, Senior VP, Domestic Network & Digital Distribution, EVP, Domestic Network Distribution to her current position over as EVP, Global Distribution.
Currently, she oversees the network distribution and platforms worldwide, including operations of HBO-branded networks in 67 countries. She is also responsible for HBO’s Affiliate Marketing group to ensure content is distributed to all subscribers via partners and digital distribution. In shorter terms, she is in charge of expanding HBO beyond traditional cable subscriptions to make sure consumers are using the streaming services, HBO Now and Go.
Amber Grimes, Senior Manager, Spotify
Amber Grimes began her career in the media industry after dropping out of college and becoming a full-time Executive Assistant to Vice President of Def Jam Records, Bu Thiam. Grimes refers to herself as “the student of the game” because she is constantly learning something new every day since she does not have a degree. After her career at Def Jam Records, Grimes decided she wanted to pursue something different. She began networking and forming relationships with individuals in the industry, which led her to the find out about a Senior Manager position opening at Spotify. As a college drop-out she knew she would have to work ten times harder to get noticed in the application process, which is why she decided to make her resume standout and it definitely worked.
In addition to working at Spotify, Grimes is the CEO of her own company The Cardi Brand Agency, which she has worked with Nick Cannon and Reebok. Grimes’ tells Forbes her advice to young professionals pursuing large media companies similar to Spotify is, “the possibilities start with you. You have to watch what you think, watch what you say out loud and how you talk to yourself. Your thoughts and your words are either going to build doors for you or they’re going to build walls for you.” She also mentions to avoid staying complacent and if you want to make a career change just do it!
Whitney Wolfe Herd, CEO of Bumble
I know we have all heard of (and probably used) the successful female-friendly dating application, Bumble. Whitney Wolfe Herd previously worked as the co-founder and Vice President of Marketing at Tinder, but decided to cut ties due to sexual harassment. Herd used her anger to conceptualize the idea of an app that allowed only women to make the first move, which would compete against Tinder. She agreed to partner with Andrey Andreev who already had his online dating network Badoo, which she used as the infrastructure of Bumble. She remained the founder, CEO and 20% owner. Now that’s a boss!
The way Bumble sets itself apart from other dating apps is by giving women control to make initial contact. The app is also more controlled, which decreases the amount of harassment and unpleasant experience faced by women. In December 2014, the Southern Methodist University graduate launched the app and had 100,000 downloads in the first month. Bumble is headquartered in Austin, TX and is now worth over $22 billion-dollars. It is the fastest growing dating app at a 70% growth rate compared to its closest competitor Tinder at 10%.