Warner Bros. has appointed its first ever female CEO just three months after the company was rocked by a sex scandal.
Female actors are still paid significantly less than their male co-stars, female directors are dramatically underrepresented at the box offices and award ceremonies, and every day another actor speaks out about their experience with sexual abuse and misogyny in the industry.
But it finally looks like change might be afoot at the very highest levels of the entertainment industry, as Warner Bros. has announced the appointment of its first ever female executive.
The company has appointed BBC executive Ann Sarnoff as its CEO, making it the first time a woman has headed the studios in its 96 year history.
The appointment comes just three months after the Hollywood heavyweight was rocked by a sex scandal involving former chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara, who stepped down back in March.
It was alleged that Tsujihara had an affair with UK-born actress Charlotte Kirk before later helping her get roles in Warner Bros. films – a process known in Hollywood as the ‘casting couch.’ It’s rumoured that the studio has been under pressure to find a female executive to stabilise the company ever since.
Sarnoff will automatically become one of the most powerful women in Hollywood when she officially joins the company this summer, overseeing worldwide operations and content at the studio responsible for films such as Wonder Woman, iconic TV series including Friends and the whole Harry Potter franchise.
There are still very few women occupying executive roles in the industry, with practically all of the other major studios including Disney, Universal and Dreamworks currently headed by men. Warner Bros. in particular is seen by insiders as a distinctly masculine environment – founded by four warring brothers in the 1920s and run exclusively by men ever since, Sarnoff will be the only female on an all-male executive team.
“It’s hard to overestimate what this does to arguably the most masculine studio ever,” says a producer who knows Sarnoff well. “This is the studio that thrived on making gangster movies and the Lethal Weapon/Joel Silver era. This is 1,000 percent a groundbreaking change.”
The fact that Sarnoff has been appointed at all is a sign she’s already breaking the mould. Let’s hope she uses her position to shake-up the still dramatically unequal and unrepresentative industry, from the casting room right up to the board room.