Duration 25:31
16+
Play
Video

Debra Lee Interviewed by Julia Boorstin | Upfront Summit 2020

Debra Lee
Founder at Leading Women Defined
  • Video
  • Table of contents
  • Video
Upfront Summit 2020
January 30 2020, Pasadena, CA, United States
Upfront Summit 2020
Video
Debra Lee Interviewed by Julia Boorstin | Upfront Summit 2020
Available
In cart
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
Add to favorites
183
I like 0
I dislike 0
Available
In cart
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
  • Description
  • Transcript
  • Discussion

About speakers

CNBC's Senior Media & Entertainment Reporter. I cover all things content, distribution, and advertising related. I also helm CNBC's Disruptor 50 coverage; we create an annual list of the most innovative, fast-growing private companies. A former New Yorker, I live in LA with my husband and two kids.

About the talk

Topic: Business

Debra Lee (former CEO of BET, founder of Leading Women Defined) talks with CNBC's Julia Boorstin about building diversity on boards and in the C-suite. They cover topics including Debra's experience as the CEO of BET and on boards including Marriott, Revlon and Twitter; the importance and obligation of mentorship in building wealth and succession planning; how boards can hold leadership accountable for diversity; and whether she thinks there will be meaningful change as a result of the MeToo movement and organizations like TIME'S UP.

Share

Good morning, everyone. I'm Julia boorstin from CBC and it's so great to be back at The Apprentice Emmett, and I'm so happy to get a chance to 00:00 interview Deborah Lee. Thank you so much for taking the time to join us this morning. I'm excited. Hi, everyone 00:09 is running because he retired in 2018 suicide has served on a 00:15 number of boards currently on the board of Marriott Burberry and AT&T AT&T board meeting tomorrow. Sorry for the down 00:25 running board. The red line in Twitter is about how to get more women 00:33

and diversity into the c-suite particularly in the making media business. But first, I thought it would be viable as soon as it seems that her to 00:43 explain what you been doing, since you have to be focusing on since you left bet this is a project you've been working on for 10 years leading women 00:51 defined what And what are your goals they're leading women defined is a conference. I started this will be our 11th year. I started it when I was at 00:58 bet and then when I step down from bet two years ago, I took it with me and I started it because I just had the feeling that women as they 01:08

moved up on the corporate ladder or moved higher in any industry that they needed continued support that it got lonelier cuz there were fewer women 01:18 and I wanted to get the most powerful women of color. I knew together and talk about issues and you know, if there were 01:28 calls to action that we wanted to make this was during the Obama Obama administration. So one of my goals was to support President Obama, 01:38 but I said, let's get together once a year. I try to keep it under 200. So it's not I'm it's By Invitation Only but we talked about 01:48

everything from what's going on. In Haiti to getting out the vote to eldercare to financial 01:57 planning and what happens if you have relatives that aren't as successful as you are, how do we raise our black boys last year? 02:07 We had bethann Hardison who's in the fashion industry for my model interview Iman. So I try to pair up women that know each other 02:17 and it's really turned into something magical the women really look forward to it every year. They nominate other women to come women. I don't know 02:26

ask if they can come so it's really my passion projects and it's turned into something much more important than I ever thought and a couple of 02:35 businesses have come out of the conference. We're talkin about creating a fun for tech support women of color in Tech may be a Content 02:44 fund. So we're talking about doing different things but the magic comes and getting the Successful women together for two-and-a-half days. Michelle 02:54 Obama has been twice once when she was in the White House and she had such a good time. She said invite me when I get out of the White House Hillary 03:03

Clinton came on super Tuesday when she was running when we had it down in Miami, you know Maxwell has been I mean, it's a y. So, 03:11 yeah, I would love that if you want to know of anyone let me know 03:21 the previous panel touched on it. It's important to invest in women and people of color. What's interesting is 03:28 if you look at the Fortune 500 list last year, there was a record number of female CEOs in the Fortune 500 list and it was 33% 03:38 less than 7% of the Theo's on the 2019 Fortune 500 list for female number of women of color is still 03:47

low. I think was one or two and The first black female CEO back on the lessons Ursula Burns 03:57 what's 04:04 striking to me about those numbers? Is that what you look in the number of women and and diversity and Leadership? It does not match with financial 04:14 incentives statistically companies that have female CEOs female cfo's. They have better financial performance diversity on boards is 04:24 statistically proven to generate higher returns companies sell on or go public faster. I don't know if they have a woman at the house. So 04:34

it seems like there is a Chasm that needs to be bridged between what the right thing is to do for business. And what's actually happening. Let's 04:44 go back to your experience running bet the world changed a lot in your 13 years. Running that company and continue to change but what was your 04:53 experience being a very rare female CEO of color running that company is it was I don't know how to describe 05:03 it. It was it was interesting. I've been on boards for over 20 years. So before I was CEO of 05:13

bet I was CEO for 10 years. So I pretty much still running the company then Bob Johnson the founder was starting other Ventures 05:22 and and doing things even though you still at the company. So I came from this kind of protected area. You know, we were off 05:32 95% African American company. So race wasn't on the table or didn't feel like it was on the table. So it's surprising 05:40 to me when I first realized that being a female was an issue and that wasn't until I was appointed a t o o And all the 05:50

women and the company kept coming up in the hallways giving me high-fives and saying they never thought anything like that would happen and how proud 06:00 they were of me. I got a lot of media attention. And so I knew there were fewer women Executives at bet than male Executives, but I never thought 06:09 being a female was a hindrance to being a CEO. I never drive to be a CEO that wasn't in my game 06:18 plan. I was General Counsel for 11 years. So I thought I was as high up at the company as I was going to go. So when I was appointed CEO, oh that was 06:28

a surprise, you know, I had a big learning curve to do in terms of business issues and areas, I didn't know about and then in the midst of all this 06:37 fire, acquired Us in 2001, and I was still CEO at the time so all of a sudden I'm thrown into a bigger company and bet was 06:46 just a division, but I think even more so as Viacom I started realizing that sometimes you're treated different as a woman. I 06:56 mean as on board I'm on I could see that I remember being on the national cable television Association board, which you know, the Industry 07:06

Board, there are few women, but the men would come in at dinner and receptions and they talk to each other and the women were left to talk to the 07:15 staff people. You know, we were never include it in the conversations the way men were and some of my boards were like that other ones are 07:23 different where they know you as an individual they get to know your family what you're interested in. I know I love basketball, you know, so you feel 07:32 more a part of a group. So it was a mixed bag, you know being in the music industry kind of even though I thought of myself 07:42

really in the cable TV industry music being in the music industry was a little tougher because I was given the 07:52 icon music award by the recording Academy three years ago. I was the first woman in 15 years. And 08:01 since I received the award there hasn't been another woman and I'm like, I cannot be the only woman of note in the music industry when I'm really not 08:11 in the music industry ran a network that played music and so it's it's tough and we have to fight harder and you know, if 08:21

you have a family that's that throws another layer on to it cuz I cannot firmly believe no matter how equal a marriage is before you have children 08:31 when she have children it shifts to the woman and if you're, you know a career woman and want to move up the corporate ladder gets harder. 08:40 So, you know, I have a lot of views on it. I've seen a lot of women held back. I've seen boards deal with it in different 08:49 deal with the issue. Different ways but I want to get back to your point that it's proven that the more diversity you have On the Border in a company 08:59

the better it does and you don't run the risk of having these horrible mistakes that some companies have made recently and I've seen boards 09:07 grow from when I was the only woman or only person of color now, for example on the Marriott board. It's 50/50 and the board 09:17 operates in a much more conservative faction and focus on the consumers you joined Revlon 09:27 for you were replacing Martha Stewart bored and you were one of the 09:36 companies benefit from having extra 09:41

growing diversity there only two of us and she mentioned Is 09:50 Martha Stewart when she went off to serve her time and unusual circumstance? But anyway, 10:00 and we had all these, you know older men sitting around the table talking about which lipstick 10:08 colors they preferred and it was just like they would pass it around and they would all have opinions about it or the packaging or the feel and I was 10:18 like, you know, it would really help his company. Is there more women in his room and put more 10:26

women on on the board? I think Ron perlman's daughter has taken over as CEO, but it and it doesn't only have to be companies that are targeted at 10:36 women, you know, it's just the more opinions you have in the more diverse opinions you have of the better company runs and I've been 10:45 at certain companies like Twitter where when I went on the boy. Or they were moving out the board members that have come on as BC. 10:55 And when you see a company going through that transition, they're looking for board members with more experience in corporate governance 11:05

and you know management and all the things you want in a very mature company. So I think it's important we were talking about this earlier 11:14 to one have more diversity in your industry. So there you have more women to pick from to put on board than the early stage. 11:23 But then when companies get to a certain point in space that the company's fine board members and I we talked about how Goldman has just said that 11:33 they won't take a company public unless there is a female on the board. I mean you shouldn't have to do that. But if we've been talking about this for 11:42

so long that I understand why they did it. I understand why California, so that's is California a lot which mandates Please have at least one female 11:51 board member as of this year. And then three female board members in a number of years. Do you think these laws are good thing or are you concerned 12:00 about their a good thing? Because the companies are going to do it. Otherwise we've been like I said, we've been talking about it for 30 years 12:09 and for a company to have a board now with no women or no people of color. They should be truly embarrassed but there's still a lot 12:19

out there and I do a lot of speaking on the need for diversity on board and in teaching women, you know how to get on a board because a lot of women 12:28 or people color don't even know where you start and that's one of the things we do at leading women defined kind of educate the women they are if 12:37 you're interested in a board. This is what you do, but you know, it's sad to see that we have to implement either California or Goldman, but we 12:46 really have to hold these companies feet to the fire. Involved in time's up particularly and the Focus right hand boards. 12:56

Well on 13:03 X up when they have when the organization was first started they came up with 10 to 11 subgroups and one of the subgroups that I 13:13 join was there a corporate board subgroup and they realize that it was important to have women on boards and that we were never going 13:23 to have a quality unless you have women on board unless you have women in the c-suite. I mean all the issues that time's up was 13:33 investigating the harassment the new no Revenge the retribution the in a women being harassed those 13:42

things can't happen. If you have women in decision-making rolls, you can't have a casting couch. If you have women in the 13:52 c-suite at the studio that mean you can but it's less likely if men have all the power they can do whatever they want. So I think X up realize 14:01 that they couldn't just focus on the executive ranks. They had to focus on the corporate boards, and the great thing is as and I think the prior panel 14:11 mention is Jim Lowry. If you have diverse people on your board, they're going to hold you accountable. I'm not going to sit in a boardroom where I'm 14:21

the only black woman and not ask why they're on other black women or why they're on other people of color, you know several boards. I'm on the 14:31 nominating committee at Twitter. I chair the nominating committee at Kodak I chair the nominating committee and I'm going to ask a question when a 14:40 search firm provides a slate of candidates. You have to have diverse people on it. I didn't hire a search firm that was trying to get Twitter's 14:49 business cuz I Told me there were no black male CEOs. I was like don't you know Ken Chenault don't you know Ken Frazier, you know, I 14:58

was made me people off the top of my head and then cuz I said to them, you know, I'm a black female. It'd be nice to have a black male on the board. 15:08 So once you have one person in the room or a couple of people you can hold the company's feet to the fire, you know, when the 15:17 issues come up you can make sure they're dealt with in a more equal way, you know, if it's a discrimination suit or harassment suit, you can ensure 15:26 that those kind of things aren't swept under the rug. So boards are really important, you know board not only oversee, you know, strategy 15:36

and financials and all of that but they also oversee succession planning unit 1 questions. I 15:46 asked on the boards all the time is you know, what did People coming behind the CEO look like Are there women are there people of color for 15:56 some boards to actually color code, you know, they have charts and squares with who's coming up the rank like what you got to tell me who they are 16:06 and what they look like so I can ensure that it's going to be a diverse group that's ready to take over you mentioned your 16:16

work with X that focus on board and it seems like you can't talk about CEOs in the media industry or diversity media industry without talking about 16:25 the transformation that we've seen over the past several years with me too and time's up. I was thinking of the Harvey Weinstein trial going on right 16:33 now is how the departure of Les moonves at CES Kevin tsujihara. And now I guess the question is do you think 16:41 there's going to be meaningful change continue? I mean you seen some of these 16:51

men replaced by women. Do you know it's opened up more opportunity for an turn off at Warner Brother and Sarnoff 17:01 and the woman who heads up CBS News who replaced a man? So you've seen some opportunities on the other 17:10 hand. I've heard some men stay and it's really disturbing that. Okay well to the prevent this issue. I'm not going to hire any women, you know, I'm 17:20 going to leave the door open when I have meetings with women. I don't want to be accused of inappropriate behavior, which I think is totally the wrong 17:30

answer and I really hope there's not that kind of pushed back as a result of this. I hope people boards and hiring 17:39 committees and CEOs think more about it think more about diversity as they're thinking about succession planning. I was honored by 17:49 the Advertising hall of fame maybe six months ago and I was very honored but I looked out at the audience and I looked at the other 17:59 people being honored and it's still a white male industry and I challenge the CEOs in the leaders in that room had to take 18:08

someone of color or a woman, you know under under your as a mentor and not just a mentor to 18:18 give them advice but a mentor to make sure they're they are a successful through the system to make sure they own Equity to make sure 18:28 they end up as wealthy as you I mean, if you're not thinking in those terms if you're just making, you know, I need a woman in the room. I need a 18:38 black person in room. That's not being a good Mentor that's not changing the playing field. You need people who have power not just 18:47

diversity officer is not just you know, 1hr you need people who have operating Authority 18:57 can obtain stock options can be successful can be you know recruited by other companies you want it, 19:06 you know, there's nothing wrong with having someone grow up at your company and having them go to another company and you know, it looks good for you. 19:16 Yeah. Yeah. So I think they're still not enough of that thinking and corporate Suites 19:24 men are afraid to Mentor women. They don't want to be alone with them and you can truly Mentor a woman 19:31

if you can't have dinner with her lunch with her in a public place. So what would your advice be for your hubby in terms of how mentorship changes 19:41 or expands going forward? So it doesn't fall prey to those traps not kind of back. But it may be 19:50 people are signed. So it's not just who you like over, you know someone else but it's got to be something that's up out 20:00 in the open and people aren't afraid to have dinner with a female alone or you don't have it have a group of guys 20:10

and invite some women to the Rose Bowl to see if football game how about that? I love sports, you know, that was I never play golf but I always love 20:19 basketball and football and so, you know a lot of the activities at bet or somewhere around sports events. So I 20:29 made sure that the women were invited that it wasn't just an all-boy outing. So you saw it just takes more planning a man and you 20:38 know, but people shouldn't shy away from it because you know, you can't be successful. If you're not part of the Inner Circle, it's funny that a 20:48

company I work at. We had a diversity Consulting come in and say well there it most companies there's an inner circle and it's usually 20:57 white men then there's the Outer Circle which is some other white man, and then women and people of color the people in the Outer Circle have to work 21:07 harder cuz they have to do their job, but they also have to prove that they can fit in with the Inner Circle. So they have to act a certain way or 21:17 dress a certain way or you know, they may not be able to be themselves. And in that room. The question was asked how many of the women felt like they 21:26

were Outsiders and there were four five female Executives in their very high-level CFO general counsel. 21:36 They all raise their hand. And nothing was ever done about it. They all raise their hand and said they felt like Outsiders that even though they have 21:45 these very powerful positions that they felt like they weren't in the Inner Circle of decision-making and power at the company. 21:54 What is the financial opportunity in changing that in breaking up the Inner Circle? So it's not so hot. Right? Well those of the 22:04

biggest financial success that comes out of that is, you know, hopefully getting higher positions getting higher salary getting 22:13 more stock options or Equity or or being in the room when people decide to start another company, you know, knowing 22:23 feces and and you know, thinking about starting your own company, they're not enough women who have done that you see more of that in 22:32 the tech space and other areas, but we need more of that and in your not I feel confident confident enough to do that. Unless you have a 22:42

sound financial footing at the company you're at that's another great thing about boards as you get back up and an 22:51 equity and you know, the company goes public if it's not public or visits stock goes up. It's a way of creating well, so I think it's all about wealth 23:01 and Jim Lowry mention that in the black community creating wealth is sometimes seen as a bad word, you know, and women aren't used to that they're 23:11 used to making enough and and not asking or rocking the boat and I love the fact that now women and men are 23:20

discussing their salaries that's has to be out in the open and women have to know their worth and not be afraid to ask for it because that's 23:30 the only way you create wealth and none of us want a salary and then when we pass away, we don't leave our kids anything we wanted. Well, and that 23:39 should be the norm with women and with people color we shouldn't be afraid of it. So we are the importance of transparency the importance of 23:49 mentorship that inner circle and what it would be just in time any other last thoughts on either best practices. You've seen 23:58

it companies that have been able to expand their diversity or things that you you would like to see other companies do well one thing I would like to 24:08 see and I think you started with this is have more female CEOs when I became CEO, I brought a different perspective to the 24:17 position and sometimes I will always say that I used to hate to go to my own staff meeting cuz it was mostly men. There's a lot of testosterone in the 24:26 room. They weren't necessarily supportive of me. I didn't have a lot of people I could trust in the beginning cuz I inherited a team but over time I 24:36

hired more women in ie Send out the room and I gave women more opportunities than they would have had under someone else. So I think the thing I would 24:46 focus on the most is making sure there more female CEOs and creating a work environment where female CEOs can be successful, 24:56 and that means some flexibility if they have kids or other interests and not making it so hard for women to break that glass 25:06 ceiling. We need to break the glass ceiling. That is a perfect. Thank you. 25:15

Cackle comments for the website

Buy this talk

Access to the talk “Debra Lee Interviewed by Julia Boorstin | Upfront Summit 2020”
Available
In cart
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free

Video

Get access to all videos “Upfront Summit 2020”
Available
In cart
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
Ticket

Interested in topic “Business”?

You might be interested in videos from this event

March 6 2020
New York, NY
5
7
commercial, cretech, data, investment strategies, projects, property, proptech, real estate, real estate technologies, technology, womeninproptech, womeninproptech summit

Similar talks

Neeraj Agrawal
General Partner at Battery Ventures
Jyoti Bansal
Co-founder & CEO at Harness
Whitney Bouck
COO at HelloSign
Available
In cart
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
Mellody Hobson
Co-CEO & President at Ariel Investments
Jason Hirschhorn
CEO and Chief Curator at REDEF
Available
In cart
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
Keith Rabois
General Partner at Founders Fund
Dan Primack
Business Editor at Axios
Available
In cart
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free

Buy this video

Video

Access to the talk “Debra Lee Interviewed by Julia Boorstin | Upfront Summit 2020”
Available
In cart
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free
Free

Conference Cast

With ConferenceCast.tv, you get access to our library of the world's best conference talks.

Conference Cast
505 conferences
19653 speakers
7164 hours of content