Top Entertainment Executives Get Candid at Women’s Leadership Forum
Arts and Culture

Top Entertainment Executives Get Candid at Women’s Leadership Forum

(Image: Leroy Hamilton) Panelists and WLF Co-Chairs: (l-r) Chloe Barzey Donaldson, Nne Ebong, Jamila Hunter, Channing Dungey, Mara Brock Akil, Shaun Robinson, Salaam Coleman Smith

Last week the Executive Leadership Foundation hosted an empowering event, the 2015 Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF), at the Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills, CA. The WLF is an annual, one-day professional and career development conference designed for senior-level Black women executives. The conference features a series of panel discussions, forums, and organized activities crafted through the lens of gender and race. One of this year’s panels featured top decision makers in Hollywood gathered to discuss the business, opportunities, challenges, and creative process faced with transforming the image of black women on the small screen.

Just hours before the event, had the opportunity to speak with Salaam Coleman-Smith, Executive Vice President, ABC Family and event co-chair along with Gena Gatewood, Senior Communications Manager of the Executive Leadership Council, about this year’s event theme, Transformational Leadership: Mastering Disruption, where they indulged on the importance of the event and the mission of the Executive Leadership Foundation. What is the Executive Leadership Council?

Gatewood: The Executive Leadership Council is a 29 year old organization. We are a membership organization comprised of Fortune 500 and Global 1000 African American CEO’s and senior level business executives. Our goal is to increase the number of Black Executives at the C-suite level or two or three steps below the C-suite level. We also want to increase the number of African American and women representation on boards.

Salaam, how did you get involved with the Women’s Leadership Forum?

Coleman-Smith: I have been working in the entertainment industry for about 20 years, and about three years ago I became a member of the Executive Leadership Council. I was so inspired by all of the various senior level women who were part of the ELC that I really wanted to become an active leader. I was then tapped to be a co-chair for this year’s Women Leadership Forum.

This year’s event theme is Transformational Leadership, Mastering Disruption; can you tell us a little of what it means? What exactly is mastering disruption?

Coleman-Smith: The Women’s Leadership Forum brings together about 150 of the top African American female executives of Fortune 500 companies. When you think about the participants, they are all senior level executives. When the co-chairs and I were determining the theme, we felt like Transformational Leadership: Mastering Disruption was the most relevant rallying cry for this level of executives. For us, transformational leadership is about having the highest impact and influence in affecting change. With the concept of mastering disruption, we were seeing disruption in two ways. One is change that we can’t control and how do you master and overcome that, but also change that we actually create.

Can you offer an example of creating disruption for yourself?

Coleman-Smith: When people in the business sphere talk about disruptive leadership often times they are referencing new technology and things of that nature that shift the industry. As an African American business leader when we talk about disruptive leadership or mastering disruption we’re also talking about being change agents for our industry and for our communities. It can even be applied to our families. It’s all about influencing positive change.
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