'Hollywood Reporter' To End Annual Index Of Powerful Women In Entertainment
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
Next, we have a story of what's in a name. Make that a list of names.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
It's a list of the 100 most powerful women in Hollywood, ranked each year by The Hollywood Reporter under the direction of Janice Min. Are you editor-in-chief or executive editor or something else?
JANICE MIN: I am actually - my title is too long. I'm the president-in-chief creative officer, so you can just call me the editor, which is really what I am.
INSKEEP: Janice Min is a powerful woman. And this year, she decided to change her publication's list of powerful women. This is the story of why she made that decision. We tell it because it illuminates something about the way women have to fight their way to the top in Hollywood. The Hollywood Reporter list includes a picture of each person and a short biography. You see famous industry players like Angelina Jolie, who's now a director. You also see less famous but very powerful executives like Bonnie Hammer of NBC Universal, who was ranked number one on last year's list. Editor Janice Min says the magazine started this list in the 1990s...
MIN: ...Thinking that somehow this was going to be encouraging and open up a wide opportunity for other women.
INSKEEP: And frankly, also gets a lot of readers, right? I mean, people flock to these kinds of...
MIN: Sure. It gets a ton of readers and then, you know, this a business. It's not a charity. It also gets a lot of advertising.
INSKEEP: Companies want to look supportive of women's progress by buying ads in the top 100 women list. There were even ads for...
MIN: ...People congratulating people on the list because, as you know, people in Hollywood love to congratulate people in Hollywood.
INSKEEP: Except that Janice Min of The Hollywood Reporter began to notice a problem. Hollywood's most powerful executives really, really wanted to be congratulated. Janice Min found herself being courted.
MIN: I have never had more lunches in my life.
INSKEEP: The executives really wanted a high ranking on her magazine's list.
MIN: People were having, let's say, their teams come in and talk about the woman's accomplishments for the year.
INSKEEP: Wait, are you telling me that an executive would send people in the same way that an actor might campaign for an Oscar? They were campaigning for spot number four?
MIN: Yes, yes, yes. Almost everyone on the list did this.
INSKEEP: It turns out that a list like this, casually glanced at by many readers, really is an announcement of who has power. For many women, just being in the top 100 wasn't enough. They needed to be number one - or at least in the top 10.
MIN: I love so many of the women on this list. And I think for a lot of the women, the list began to represent something very important. It was, this is how important I am the eyes of the people who employ me.
INSKEEP: And a higher ranking could affect an executive's negotiations in her next contract. Were women or their representatives also tearing each other down?
MIN: There's a little bit of trash talking. And, you know, in the most corporate sense - just comparing number of employees, qualitative, quantitative success out of the year.
INSKEEP: And having staked so much on their rankings, women who finally saw the list were often crushed. The emotions unleashed by this simple list got Janice Min thinking. Women have made enormous progress in Hollywood - think of directors like Kathryn Bigelow or Ava DuVernay. But it's a very limited number of women. One study found that 4 percent of Hollywood film directors are women. Janice Min thinks of ambitious executives...
MIN: ...Who have been sort of raised in Hollywood feeling like there's only X number of positions for women at any given place - that you can have only one alpha female at a studio, at a TV network, and then that box is checked.
INSKEEP: And she says the limited opportunities for women have sometimes turned them against other women.
MIN: Basically, what the list was - if you're number 39 on this list, for example, everyone on top of you is a threat. You need to jump over those people.
INSKEEP: I think you're giving us an insight into a subculture here. Because there is...
INSKEEP: Because there is a stereotype of women, that they are far more collaborative than men, for example. That's a thing that some people would say about women. But you're saying that for women trying to climb the power ladder as an executive or a director or a producer in Hollywood, it has actually been ferociously competitive and individualistic at this time.
MIN: Ferociously competitive. And that has definitely underscored this belief that there is only room for a certain number of women at the top.
INSKEEP: Which is why Janice Min says she is changing The Hollywood Reporter's list of powerful women when the latest edition of it comes out this month. Women will no longer be ranked one to 100. She's hoping that change will encourage women to help each other and see each other as...
MIN: ...Partners to help them get better treatment, better pay, more time in front of and behind the camera for women in Hollywood.
INSKEEP: So the rankings will go away, although The Hollywood Reporter will still publish its list of 100 women - unranked now but still attracting readers, as well as those advertisers celebrating the progress of women. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.