A+E Networks Chairman Abbe Raven: "For Some Reason, the Dynamic Between Two Strong Women Is Good Copy"

Abbe Raven Illo - H 2014
Illustration by: Alexandra Compain-Tissier

Abbe Raven Illo - H 2014

Raven, who retires in February and will be succeeded by Nancy Dubuc, writes for The Hollywood Reporter that men can't seem to comprehend a planned successful transition between two women

This story first appeared in the 2014 Women in Entertainment issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

My early days in the cable industry were very much like many of the tech startups you see today: If you worked hard and were determined, you were quickly given more responsibility. The programming side provided great opportunities for women with an entrepreneurial spirit.

I rose through the ranks with brilliant, powerful women such as Gerry Laybourne, Anne Sweeney, Bonnie Hammer, Debra Lee and Carole Black. Each of these women not only blazed a trail in this industry for the many women you see on The Hollywood Reporter's Power 100 today, but they all also led multibillion-dollar businesses and created some of the most iconic brands shaping American culture.

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When I became president and CEO of A+E Networks, I never wanted to be known as a great "female" CEO — I wanted to be known as a great CEO, period. My focus was always on expanding our brands, double-digit growth and nurturing the creative culture of our company. My competitors were mostly men, and often I was the only woman in the room in meetings and on industry boards.

After 33 years in this business, I am enormously proud that I am passing the reins of A+E Networks to Nancy Dubuc — not because she is another female executive but because she is one of the boldest executives in media with an unparalleled track record. Over the last several years, many journalists have written about the working relationship between Nancy and me. For some reason, the dynamic between two strong women is good copy. In fact, a reporter at this very magazine suggested Nancy becoming my successor was "a cautionary tale." Was this because a man couldn't comprehend a planned successful transition between two women?

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Perhaps the cautionary tale is that while we celebrate the Power Women in Hollywood today, we need to be working toward the day when it will be commonplace in corporate America for women to pass the baton to other women. And perhaps each of us might ask whether we are doing all we can to change the paradigm for future generations. It's incumbent upon each of us to mentor and encourage the next generation of women leaders in our industry. What I learned from the women who came before me is that you have to work hard and seize every opportunity that is offered to you. Yet you have to be true to who you are. You have to have your own unique voice and not be afraid to use it.

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I am enormously proud that at Lifetime we have hired more women executives, directors, writers and producers to tell their stories than any other network. We have created a home for strong female voices like Jennifer Aniston, Eva Longoria, Allison Anders, Marti Noxon, Demi Moore, Angela Bassett and Linda Woolverton to bring their passion projects to fruition. I challenge more women executives "in power" to do the same.

After 33 years at A+E Networks, Raven, the chairman, will retire Feb. 2.