Here at NYMM, we recognize the huge gender gap in Hollywood film production. Although it’s a persisting issue, we constantly try to highlight the women who are paving the way for other women working behind the scenes.
We shared the news of Queen Latifah’s recently-launched program for women filmmakers of color. We provided a list of this summer’s must-see movies directed by women. This week we’re highlighting Ann Sarnoff, the first woman to be chair and CEO of Warner Brothers Studio.
Sarnoff is undoubtedly deserving of the position. She has worked on the development teams of popular television networks like Nickelodeon and VH1. Her executive experience involves roles at Dow Jones and the Women’s National Basketball Association. She is currently the President of BBC Studios Americas, where she launched BBC Earth and has promoted the popular British shows Sherlock and Doctor Who.
“I look forward to bringing my style and my perspective into the culture at Warner Bros., a style that’s collaborative, respectful of talent, of knowing who’s smart and who to listen to,” says Starnoff.
Executive positions in Hollywood film studios have always been dominated by men. Corporate boards at many media conglomerates lack representation of women. In a 2017 study from Variety, companies revealed percentages of how many women currently held executive roles. Disney had 33%, CBS had 21%, and Lionsgate had an alarming 8%.
1980 was the first year a woman became the head of a major Hollywood film studio. Sherry Lansing became President at 20th Century Fox, which was a huge achievement for women in film. She later became chairwoman and CEO of the studio, where she remained until 2005.
Between 2005 and 2017, the CEOs of Hollywood’s biggest film studios were all men. This was broken by Stacy Snider, who was promoted to chief of 20th Century Fox in 2017. Since then, she has been the only woman operating as head of a Hollywood studio. Now, Sarnoff will be joining her at the top of the ranks.
Sarnoff is making history within Warner Bros. Studios. Film critics have referred to the studio as “an empire of men,” due to its lack of women in decision-making positions. In its 96-year history, Warner Bros. has never had a woman in charge.
Ironically, Sarnoff has no prior experience in the film industry. Despite this, the chief executive of WarnerMedia, the company that owns Warner Bros., believes that her lack of experience does not disqualify her for the position. “She brings a consistent and proven track record of innovation, creativity, and business results to lead an incredibly successful studio to its next chapter of growth,” he says.