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.

EllenDegeneres AvaDuvernay JenniferYuhNelson_getty - H Split 2016

EllenDegeneres AvaDuvernay JenniferYuhNelson_getty - H Split 2016

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

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

  2. 2

    Gail Berman

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

  3. 3

    Mary Berner

    “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

    “I like to do a British accent.”

  5. 5

    Ellen DeGeneres

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

  6. 6

    Channing Dungey

    “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

    “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

    “Sense of humor.”

  9. 9

    Bonnie Hammer

    “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

    “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

    “Speak the fuck up.”

  12. 12

    Toni Howard

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

  13. 13

    Gale Anne Hurd

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

  14. 14

    Pearlena Igbokwe

    “Opening my mouth usually does the trick.”

  15. 15

    Nina Jacobson

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

  16. 16

    Kris Jenner

    “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


  18. 18

    Paula Kerger

    “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

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

  20. 20

    Pamela Levine

    “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

    “Say something smart.”

  22. 22

    Courteney Monroe

    “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

    “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

    “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

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

  26. 26

    Gigi Pritzker

    “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

    “Speak up and don't be hesitant.”

  28. 28

    Mireille Soria

    “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

    “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


  31. 31

    Nancy Utley

    “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

    “I have a loud and somewhat surprising whistle.”

  33. 33

    Sophie Watts

    "Have an opinion.”

  34. 34

    Zhang Wei

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