CNN vice president Any Entelis hails the #MeToo movement in talk about her career

Amy Entelis
CNN vice president Amy Entelis

In her 38-year career working in television, Amy Entelis has never had a female boss. Now, she serves as CNN Worldwide’s executive vice president for talent and content development — and through her rise to the C-suite from her start as a producer at 20/20 at ABC, she says the #MeToo movement is the most important cultural event of her career.

At an April 5 Poynter talk at the Yale School of Management, Entelis described the challenges she has faced as a woman trying to work her way to success in a hyper-competitive, ego-driven field. She told the 50-plus attendees — nearly all women — about the many instances in which she confronted gender bias, and she also spoke candidly about times when she made career choices based on what would be better for her family.

Entelis recalled an experience with a new boss, who came into work one day and hardly introduced himself to anyone. She brought him a memo detailing the stories she was producing so he could schedule a time to put her stories on air. But when she showed him the memo, “he took it out of my hand and he dropped it in the garbage can,” Entelis said. “That made me speechless, actually. It made me feel like I was insignificant … I was working for someone who didn’t care to have a five-second chat with me.”

With a two-year-old child at home, Entelis began to wonder whether this was the work she wanted to be doing. “That makes you think, are you going to keep doing this when the working conditions are so negative and somewhat hostile? It makes you look at your life very carefully,” she admitted.

At that point, Entelis said, she made a career pivot — from being a producer, an intense job that required last-minute travel and odd hours, to working in a recruiting role. ABC News, where Entelis was employed at the time, had begun to understand that it had a problem: It had too few women and people of color in on-air roles. Entelis approached an executive about a new position that would hire more diverse reporters, and the executive asked her: “What makes you think you can do this?” When recalling the story, Entelis laughed. “I don’t know how I got this cheeky, but I said, ‘well, you guys have screwed it up so far, so the bar is kind of low, and I think I can do this,’” she said. She got the job.

Now, Entelis sits at a conference table every Tuesday at a weekly meeting with CNN’s president and the rest of the senior management team. At least half the people at that table are women. “They have loud voices and big responsibilities, and it feels a lot better for me personally to be in a room now where there are a significant number of female decision-makers,” Entelis explained.

In TV, Entelis said, it’s especially important to have women and people of color represented both on the production side and on-air, because a more diverse team is more representative of the network’s viewers. “Diversity and respect in the workplace are not just nice to do. They’re good for business,” she explained. “Our overall audience growth demonstrates that those principles are working.”

Among Entelis’s many responsibilities are the hiring of CNN’s on-air talent and the production of CNN’s original series and films. In this role, she tries hard to cultivate talent. “I think it all starts with women getting really good assignments,” Entelis said. “This was true in 1986 when I started reporting and it’s true today.” She noted that If women and people of color aren’t positioned to cover the big stories, they won’t advance. She views it as her job to train talent and encourage people to take risks and follow opportunities.

Entelis also highlighted the work that she and her team have created lately. She showed a trailer for “RBG,” a documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg that premieres later this month. “We’re very proud of the fact that many of these films are done by first-time filmmakers, women filmmakers, and minority filmmakers,” she said.

Entelis concluded her remarks by offering advice to Yale students who will soon be entering the workforce. “Pay attention to what lights you up,” she said. “Since you’re among the fortunate students who will have great options, consider doing what you love if you can.” She didn’t shy away from the reality that women will likely have it harder than men, but she praised the courage of the #MeToo movement and encouraged women to speak up when they face harassment. “Respect in the workplace is not optional,” Entelis told the audience. “You may have many jobs, you will meet untold numbers of people, but you only have one reputation.”

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