Women in Entertainment 2016

Hollywood's Most Powerful Women Reveal How They Take the Lead

8:15 AM 12/29/2016

by THR Staff

Powerhouses from Ellen DeGeneres ("I get very close to people") to Netflix's Cindy Holland ("Speak the f--- up"), along with 32 more from THR's Women in Entertainment Power 100 list, share the secrets to making your voice heard when it matters.

From left: Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Ava DuVernay and Ellen DeGeneres
From left: Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Ava DuVernay and Ellen DeGeneres

The Hollywood Reporter's annual Women in Entertainment Power 100 list this year included the powerhouses behind networks, studios and the year's biggest shows, from The Walking Dead producer Gale Anne Hurd to Taraji P. Henson to Universal Pictures' Donna Langley and ABC Entertainment's Channing Dungey.

As part of the annual feature, THR asked the women a series of questions about their careers, morning routines and the best thing about working in Hollywood.

Below, 34 of the women who made the list share their secrets for making your voice heard when it matters. — Farnoush Amiri


  1. 1

    Bonnie Arnold

    Co-president, feature animation, DreamWorks Animation

    John Shearer/Getty Images

    “I raise my hand and clear my throat; it does work.”

  2. 2

    Gail Berman

    Chairman and CEO, The Jackal Group

    Getty Images

    “Come prepared to have a point of view, and then follow-through. The real work happens before the meeting begins.”

  3. 3

    Mary Berner

    CEO, Cumulus Media

    Courtesy of Adrienne Grunwald

    “I come from a big, noisy family, and being heard was an essential survival skill learned early on. The boardroom is not all that different from the Winnetka-Berner dining room. My parents put a high premium on listening. If you master that art, your own words will be far more resonant, relevant, important and impactful.”

  4. 4

    Frances Berwick

    President, Lifestyle Networks, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment

    Courtesy of NBC

    “I like to do a British accent.”

  5. 5

    Ellen DeGeneres

    Host and producer, The Ellen DeGeneres Show

    Todd Williamson/Getty Images

    “I talk through a megaphone in every meeting, and I get very close to people.”

  6. 6

    Channing Dungey

    President, ABC Entertainment Group

    David Livingston/Getty Images

    “Listen before you speak. The best and most cogent arguments are made when you understand the perspective of the other people in the conversation.”

  7. 7

    Ava DuVernay

    Producer-director, 'Queen Sugar,' 13th'

    Erik Tanner/Getty Images

    “I’m in the middle of making a movie, so every meeting is about people wanting to hear my voice. That’s why we need more women and people of color to be directing: you don’t have to make your voice heard in the meeting — the meeting is about hearing your voice.”

  8. 8

    Elizabeth Gabler

    President, Fox 2000

    Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

    “Sense of humor.”

  9. 9

    Bonnie Hammer

    Chairman, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group

    Courtesy of Mary Rozzi/NBCUniversal

    “More often than not, not needing to have it be heard. Learning how to read a room, learning how to listen and then only speaking up when it’s important. The loudest voice in the room doesn’t always work. In fact, it usually grates to the point to the point that when you really need to be loud, nobody listens. I think reading a room, reading the personalities, reading body language, is kind of a lost art.”

  10. 10

    Taraji P. Henson

    Actress, 'Empire' and 'Hidden Figures'

    Vera Anderson/WireImage

    “I don’t have any tricks. I’ve learned that I do have a voice and I speak up — something we all have to do more often in this political climate.”

  11. 11

    Cindy Holland

    VP original content, Netflix

    Courtesy of Subject

    “Speak the fuck up.”

  12. 12

    Toni Howard

    Partner, ICM Partners

    “My honesty — saying what I know everybody's thinking.”

  13. 13

    Gale Anne Hurd

    Executive producer, The Walking Dead

    Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

    “I try to anticipate the difficult questions and be prepared with a Plan B.”

  14. 14

    Pearlena Igbokwe

    President, Universal Television

    Courtesy of Chris Haston/NBC

    “Opening my mouth usually does the trick.”

  15. 15

    Nina Jacobson

    Producer, 'The People v. O.J. Simpson'

    Michael Stewart/WireImage

    “To listen with was much care as you speak, and only say something when you actually have something to say.”

  16. 16

    Kris Jenner

    Reality star and business mogul

    Getty Images

    “Be confident in what you're saying. Be concise. Speak up first, so that your voice is the first one heard. Know your value and your bottom line. Don't take anyone's BS!”

  17. 17

    Kathleen Kennedy

    President, Lucasfilm

    Andreas Rentz/Getty Images


  18. 18

    Paula Kerger

    President and CEO, PBS

    Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

    “Fred Rogers had a wonderful trick. He would speak lower than most, causing people to lean in and listen more carefully. It doesn’t always work, but it is sometimes incredibly effective.”

  19. 19

    Donna Langley

    Chairman, Universal Pictures

    Courtesy of Alex J. Berliner/ABImages

    “No tricks, just a firm believer in doing the work.”

  20. 20

    Pamela Levine

    President, worldwide theatrical marketing, 20th Century Fox Film

    Courtesy of Subject

    “Only speak when you actually have something of value to add, and be more interested in listening than speaking. But when you do speak, don't apologize for what you say, don't be afraid to question the accepted wisdom in the room, and if you have confidence in your point of view, it will be taken seriously.”

  21. 21

    Frances Manfredi

    President, NBCUniversal Television & New Media Distribution, U.S. & Canada

    Courtesy of Heidi Gutman

    “Say something smart.”

  22. 22

    Courteney Monroe

    CEO, National Geographic Global Networks

    Courtesy of Subject

    “I have an extremely loud voice — just ask anyone who sits near my office! So it's never an issue.”

  23. 23

    Jennifer Yuh Nelson

    Director, Kung Fu Panda 3

    John Phillips/Getty Images

    “My voice is so quiet I've long given up trying to yell over the booming stentorians. I approach speaking in meetings like acupressure. A small tap and you can move the discussion forward. It's about quality rather than quantity.”

  24. 24

    Mary Parent

    Vice chairman of worldwide production, Legendary Entertainment

    Steve Granitz/WireImage

    “Understanding the point of view of others whether they are revealing it or not and shaping how I present my thoughts with this in mind.”

  25. 25

    Cynthia Pett

    Co-owner and managing partner, Brillstein Entertainment

    Courtesy of John Russo/BEP-LA

    “I don’t need a trick, I’m the loudest one in the room.”

  26. 26

    Gigi Pritzker

    Founder, OddLot Entertainment

    Dominik Magdziak Photography/WireImage

    “I don’t speak in a room unless I have something worthwhile to say. So, I just tend to be thoughtful, which works.”

  27. 27

    Sonya Rosenfeld

    Co-head of TV, CAA

    “Speak up and don't be hesitant.”

  28. 28

    Mireille Soria

    Co-president, feature animation, DreamWorks Animation

    Getty Images

    “I think the trick is to try to keep my ego out of it, I feel when I can focus on the matter at hand I’m most effective.”

  29. 29

    Sandra Stern

    President, Lionsgate TV

    Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

    “I grew up on the streets of Brooklyn. I don’t have a problem making my voice heard. But I find that I listen to others and invite other points of view and that tends to lend greater authority to me when I do have something to contribute.”

  30. 30

    Jenno Topping

    President of film and television, Chernin Entertainment


  31. 31

    Nancy Utley

    President, Fox Searchlight

    Courtesy of Fox Searchlight

    “I try not to babble on in meetings. I wait to say something that I feel will be impactful and shake things up or move us to a conclusion. Sometimes less is more.”

  32. 32

    Dana Walden

    Chairman and CEO, Fox TV Group

    Courtesy of Corey Nickols

    “I have a loud and somewhat surprising whistle.”

  33. 33

    Sophie Watts

    President, STX Entertainment

    Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images

    "Have an opinion.”

  34. 34

    Zhang Wei

    President, Alibaba Pictures

    Courtesy of Jasper James

    “Sometimes a little humor relaxes people and helps them pay attention.”

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