Powerful Women in Media: Take One


            I find it really interesting when I see a movie that portrays women in such a negative way, or more than likely from the gaze of a male, who is probably the network producer. It’s caused me to wonder… where are the women producers? Maybe if a TV show, or movie that displayed women’s issues what actually overseen by a woman, things might make sense a bit more.

            With that being said, I decided to examine the power of women in the media through four different women, Sherry Lansing, chair and CEO of Paramount Pictures, Cathleen Black, President of Hearst Magazines, Geraldine Laybourne, Chairman and CEO of Oxygen Media, and Judy McGrath, President of MTV. These women exemplify the reason that it’s crucial to have women in high positions in the media.

Sherry Lansing was the first woman to be in charge of production 20th Century Fox. She has headed hits such as Braveheart, Clueless, Runaway Bride, and The General’s Daughter; this is because she brought to the movies something that never was there before, the perspective of a woman. Lansing put her personal taste aside and thought about what “the people” wanted to see. One top filmmaker even said, “Sherry’s the first executive who succeeded by expressing her womanness, not by trying to be a guy” (guardianunlimited.com). This is very pleasing to hear because very often, women in high positions try to imitate the men in high power positions, rather than just being themselves.

When it comes to the question of whether Sherry Lansing has power in the media, the answer has to be yes. However, we ask “does Sherry Lansing holds as much power as men in similar positions”, I believe it takes more evaluation.

Cathleen Black is another important female player in today’s media. She is the president of Hearst Magazines, the world’s largest publisher of monthly magazines, and she oversees the financial performance and development of famous magazines like Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, and Harper’s BAZAAR (hearstcorp.com).

            Black also marked an important point for women in history when she became the first woman publisher of a weekly consumer magazine – New York, and also when she became the first woman President of Hearst Magazines. With an impressive resume that includes her being President and Publisher of USA Today, and being named President of the Newspaper Association of America in 1991, Black brings a certain female perspective to all of her endeavors.

She has the ability to be open-minded and look at all possible problems and solutions. One of Black’s huge successes has been promoting her titles worldwide. She owes a great deal of this success, in my opinion, to her female perspective. While marketing Cosmopolitan to countries like Russia and the Philippines, Black realized that specific changes had to be made to accommodate the women of these particular countries. She recognized that women in “third world” countries did not necessarily want to read the same things as American women. As a result, she created original editorial material for each region. Eventhough they were across the ocean, Black still related to her customers.

There is no question as to the power that Cathleen Black holds on a daily basis in the media. But then again she does not have the same power that a man would have in her same position. Although there were no offensive headlines to announce Cathleen Black’s appointment to presidency, I came across an interview in which she was referred to as a “top-ranking woman executive in magazine publishing (Outlook Magazine)”,and she was aksed how she felt about this title, she responded to esponded to the question, answering“I would rather not be known as the top-ranking woman anything. I’d rather be seen as an effective and strategic leader of a large organization, the same way one would describe a male executive”. She doesn’t want to be seen as successful, for a woman, she wants to be seen as successful, period, and her response reconfirms the fact that even women in extremely powerful positions are treated differently than men holding similar positions. I mean I’ve never heard a man being referred to as a “top-ranking man executive”, he is simply a top-ranking executive – sex need not be mentioned I suppose – you tell me.

~Sasha Sanders, Alum, Class of 2013

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