We never need an occasion to celebrate women, but why not take advantage of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day to spotlight women we admire and have worked with over the years.
Some industries have been more open to women in leadership than others, entertainment public relations being one of them. Back in the 70s Pat Kingsley and Lois Smith launched Pickwick, which became the “P” in PMK, and Rogers & Cowan’s New York and London offices were headed by women. The late 80s saw the beginning of a number of female-led or partnered agencies, including our own. Women led studio and network PR departments long before they broke into senior management in other areas. Subsequent generations of women have benefited from having great role models.
Entrepreneurship has not always been synonymous with women; however, based on some of the female-led companies we’re working with, it should be. They all saw an opportunity and built a business around it. Serial Box co-founder and CEO Molly Barton started out as a fiction editor at Viking and a non-fiction editor at Oxford University Press but her work as the Global Digital Director at Penguin Random House is what put her on the path to Serial Box, a premium audio entertainment company focused on immersive storytelling. She is continually innovating both product and business models to meet the needs of content creators and consumers alike.
Kukua founder Lucrezia “Lulu” Brisgnani is the ultimate risk taker, founding a Nairobi-based, women-led edu-tainment start-up whose mission is to inspire kids to change the world through curiosity, creativity and STEAM. The company’s not-so-secret weapon is a feisty female superhero, Super Sema, who will be making her global debut today on International Women’s Day with the premiere of animated series Super Sema on YouTube. Super Sema is just the beginning. Lulu and COO Vanessa Ford have brought together leading African talent and world class technology and entertainment creatives to create edutainment properties that will promote the ability of kids to grow up with a global mindset and use STEAM to save the world.
We knew Ava DuVernay as an entrepreneurial publicist before the world discovered her incredible talent as a filmmaker. We include her here because of ARRAY, an independent film distributor and resource collective committed to amplifying independent films by people of color and women globally. She uses her powerful platform to create opportunities for others.
Effie Brown is another gamechanger so no surprise that she became CEO for Gamechanger Films, a film finance and development company dedicated to groundbreaking narratives that disrupt the status quo and advance the cultural conversation.
Michelle Rice, General Manager, of TV One is making it her mission to create stories directed at young millennial women of color with her brainchild, CLEOtv. The digital network offers millennial and Gen X women of color a variety of scripted and unscripted programming that is tailored to their interests. Rice felt it was important to give this specific cohort an opportunity to see themselves represented in mainstream media.
BRON Studios co-founder Brenda GIlbert has led the company’s expansion into animation as well as nonscripted. As head of BRON’s animation department, she oversaw this year’s hit The Willoughby’s and for BRON Life, she has a Nicki Minaj project that will be on HBOMax.
They all follow in the footsteps of former clients Esther Shapiro, Marci Carsey, Suzanne dePasse and others who left companies that would not let them move ahead to establish their own enterprises to achieve success.
We are thrilled that female filmmakers are finally being recognized for their contributions with industry awards. Most notably is Chloe Zhao who is currently the frontrunner for the Best Director Oscar. If she wins for Nomadland, she will be only the second woman to achieve this honor in the history of the Oscars, after Katherine Bigelow became the first in 2010 for The Hurt Locker.
And a salute to women would not be complete without celebrating the fact that two of the highest offices in our country are now held by women, Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. We are thrilled that the generations that follow see possibilities that previously could never have been imagined.