2014 Women of Power: Producers Shonda Rhimes and Mara Brock Akil

These showrunners are bringing diversity to television

The Women of Power February 2014 issue of Black Enterprise comprises a list of game changers, highlighting their groundbreaking achievements and success strategies. Among those trailblazers in the television industry is ABC executive producer Shonda Rhimes.

Rhimes continues to defy the odds by having three primetime network hit shows at the same time—Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and Scandal. The 43-year-old single mother of two has created an empire and is the top network drama earner at the Walt Disney Co. with Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy pulling in more than $13 million in advertising for ABC each week—just shy of $300 million a season or about 5% of the network’s total revenue, reports Forbes.

As creator, head writer, and producer of highly rated dramatic series, Rhimes is a rare breed among African American TV showrunners, particularly African American female head honchos.

Rhimes, who was recently awarded a Diversity Award from the Directors Guild of America, was honored and “pissed off” at the same time, according to Entertainment Weekly, “because there still needs to be an award. Like, there’s such a lack of people hiring women and minorities that when someone does it on a regular basis, they are given an award,” she stated during her acceptance speech.

Rhimes went on to say that “it’s not because of a lack of talent. It’s because of a lack of access. People hire who they know. If it’s been a white boys club for 70 years, that’s a lot of white boys hiring one another.”

Also in the Women of Power issue joining Rhimes at the head of the class is television and film writer/producer Mara Brock Akil, who’s best known for the Grammy-nominated television series Girlfriends and the highly rated The Game.

The 43-year-old writer along with husband-director Salim Akil produced the remake of the 1976 film classic Sparkle and the film Jumping the Broom. The Bishop T.D. Jakes co-produced film was made for nearly $7 million, but grossed almost $38 million worldwide in box office receipts—surprising TriStar Pictures (the film’s distributors) and proving that African American audience want stories that are multidimensional and universal.

“Diversity is a business, and we’re hoping to fill that void of shortsightedness [in this industry],” Mara told Black Enterprise.

Akil is continuing to make waves in the industry. A recent partnership with BET led to the release of Akil’s highly anticipated original drama, Being Mary Jane, starring Gabrielle Union.

Embrace Your Power: The Moment is Now! Attend the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit hosted by State Farm, Feb. 26 to ­March 1, 2014, at Boca Raton Resort and Club, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, Boca Raton, FL. This exciting, executive leadership summit is designed to train, equip and encourage women to become industry leaders, learn career strategies, and discover proven work­-life balance techniques. Register today!

CELEBRATING 10 YEARS! Join us for the landmark 10th Annual Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit hosted by State FarmMarch 2–4, 2015, at Fort Lauderdale Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, Fort Lauderdale, FL. This exciting, one-of-a-kind executive leadership summit is designed to train, equip and encourage women to become industry leaders, learn career strategies, and discover proven work–life balance techniques. Register Now! http://www.blackenterprise.com/wps

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