Women In The Media What event began the emergence of women as true players in the media? Was it Sherry Lansings appointment to President of 20th Century Fox in 1980, becoming the first woman to head a studio? Was it Cathleen Black in 1979 becoming the first woman publisher of a weekly consumer magazine, New York? Or did the real power for women in the media come later with Geraldine Laybourne reinventing childrens television on Nickelodeon or Judy McGrath sending MTV into 265.8 million households all over the world? Do women in the media, in fact, really have any power today? This paper will 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. Sherry Lansing received a Bachelor of Science degree from Northwestern University in 1966. After graduation, Lansing taught English and math at Los Angeles public high schools. She quit teaching to become a model for Max Factor and Alberto-Culiver and also held minor roles in a couple of movies. She is often quoted for calling herself a terrible actress.
Still interested in film, Lansing took a few classes at UCLA and the University of Southern California soon becoming an executive story editor for MGM. Only two years later became vice president at Columbia taking charge of such films as The China Syndrome and Kramer vs. Kramer (gmu.edu). Sherry Lansing made history when, in 1980, she became the first woman to be in charge of production at a major studio 20th Century Fox. Lansing brought to the movies something that had never been introduced before, the perspective of a woman. This in no way means that Lansing only backed chick flicks.
It means that she kept herself in touch with viewers. She put her personal taste aside and thought about what the people wanted to see. Lansing has been quoted several times about her delight in attending the movies. In fact, she attends movies to get a genuine feel for what people really think are good movies. She listens carefully to the comments made during and after a movie.
Her female perspective allows her to see things from more than one angle her own. One top filmmaker said, Sherrys the first executive who succeeded by being a woman, not trying to be a guy. She can be maternal, she can be sexy, she can use her femininity to be manipulative, but shes always, brilliantly, a woman (guardianunlimited.com). Today, Sherry Lansing sits on the board of directors of Teach for America and the American Film Institute. Governor Davis appointed her as Regent in March 1999 to a term expiring in 2010 and she currently serves as Vice Chairman of The Regents (upoc.edu). On top of all this, Sherry Lansing has headed hits such as Braveheart, Clueless, Runaway Bride, and The Generals Daughter. If the question is whether Sherry Lansing has power in the media, the answer has to be yes.
However, if the question is whether Sherry Lansing holds as much power as men in similar positions, I believe it takes more evaluation. Take for instance the comment made by a top filmmaker about Lansing. He takes all of the stereotypes about women and simply applies them to Lansing. Thus saying, Sherry Lansing is diversely stereotypical. Is this comment a compliment? Lets examine it.
The first line of the comment appealed to me. It is true, in my opinion, that many women feel they have to act masculine in order to succeed in the business world. However, this is a direct result of the environment and the fact that this man is oblivious as to why women act masculine in the business world made me skeptical of his comment. He confirmed my skepticism by adding that Lansing could be maternal, sexy, and manipulative all stereotypes about women. The fact that she had mastered each stereotype and knew when to apply each, to him, made her a brilliant woman.
Another instance concerning Sherry Lansing is the headline run in the New York Times after the announcement of her promotion to the head of 20th Century Fox Productions. The headline read, Sherry Lansing, former model, named head of Fox Productions (guardianunlimited.com). This headline was run fourteen years after Lansings modeling experience. She was a model for a mere three years of her life, had been in the film industry for almost ten years, yet the headline made no mention of her experience as Vice President of Creative Affairs at MGM or as Senior Vice President of Production for Columbia Pictures. Cathleen Black is another important player in todays media. Black is president of Hearst Magazines, the worlds largest publisher of monthly magazines.
She oversees the financial performance and development of world famous titles such as Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, and Harpers BAZAAR. Hearst currently publishes 99 international editions in more than 100 countries (hearstcorp.com). Cathleen Black also marked an important point for women in history when she became the first woman publisher of a weekly consumer magazine New York. Black has quite an impressive resume with President and Publisher experience at USA Today and being named President of the Newspaper Association of America in 1991. In 1996, Black became the first woman President of Hearst Magazines (hearstcorp.com). Black, like the other women discussed, 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 Blacks 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 across the ocean did not necessarily want to read the same things as American women. As a result, she created original editorial material for each region.
Even though they were across the ocean, Black still related to her customers. Cathleen Black has gone down in history as the first woman President of Hearst Magazines. However, one has to read much further to find out about her actual accomplishments. Is this because it is enough for people to hear that she is the first woman president of a company? Cathleen Black could have been fired a week after her appointment and no one would be the wiser. I must admit that there is no question as to the power that Cathleen Black holds on a daily basis in the media. But I again must in …