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BET Networks CEO Debra Lee On Leadership, #MeToo And Building Diversity In Entertainment

Part of the series “Women, Leadership and Vision”

Debra Lee at 2017 BET Upfront NY

In recent years, a lot has been written about the deep challenges African Americans face in terms of representation and leadership across TV and film both behind the camera and in front of it. But as we’re seeing from the blockbuster success of the film Black Panther, finally, damaging beliefs and misguided fears about the potential public appeal of black lead characters and stories that pivot around them, have been obliterated. Up until now, white people outpaced people of color nearly three to one among film leads, nearly four to one among film directors and more than seven to one among film writers.

To learn more about how diversity is being developed and supported in entertainment today, and how top influential leaders are taking up that charge, I was thrilled to catch up with Debra L. Lee, Chairman and CEO of BET Networks and arguably one of the most influential female voices in the entertainment industry.  One of THR’s 100 Most Powerful Women in Entertainment and Billboard’s Power 100, the Harvard-educated lawyer helmed BET’s reinvigorated approach to corporate philanthropy and authentic programming like “BET Honors” “Black Girls Rock!” which positively impacted how women and minorities see themselves and their community. Under her leadership, the network’s ratings and revenue have grown substantially.

Last February, the GRAMMY Organization recognized Debra with the Salute To Industry Icons Award, making her the first woman to receive the distinguished honor. She has also received the Distinguished Leadership Vanguard Award by the National Cable Telecommunications Association, was inducted into the Broadcasting Cable Hall of Fame, The Cable Pioneers and the Washington Business Hall of Fame. By also serving on the corporate board of directors at organizations like Twitter, Marriot, Washington Gas

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