Mikayla Roberts | Staff Writer
Within the past two years, Black women have broken glass ceilings in the media industry more than ever before. Names like Rashida Jones, Channing Dungey and Kim Godwin made headlines as they were announced as the first Black women to lead in their respective roles.
This surge of minority women stepping into powerful positions has brought a lot of questions about what now. How will these women make a difference in their positions — and will this wave continue?
“It’s something that we’re still understanding in the moment as a gender, or as women or people that identify as women, earn their way up the ladder but also understand the barriers that we have faced to rising through the ranks and how we present differently,” said Nayyera Haq, the chief foreign affairs correspondent and host of “The World Tonight” on the Black News Channel.
In December 2020, in the heat of a global pandemic and social unrest, Jones made history as the first Black woman to head a national cable news network, becoming the president of MSNBC.
Jones, a Hampton University graduate, spoke candidly about her plans to emphasize MSNBC’s ability to cover hard news and shift the narrative of being a perspective-heavy network in many interviews after her appointment.
“With Rashida what we had was an enormously capable television producer and executive who was rising at a time when the nation and the media business were taking a cold, hard look at who we are and what we are doing and who’s making the decisions, and how can those things be changed,” Washington Post editorial board member and longtime MSNBC contributor Jonathan Capehart said.
The same could be said of Dungey, the former ABC Entertainment president and Netflix executive, who was appointed as chairman of Warner Bros. Television Group in October 2020 — when Black Lives Matter protests were in the headlines almost daily.
“Those of us who are on the executive side of the fence, we need to be better about making sure that within our ranks, we are hiring, supporting and promoting people of color and women, and giving them the opportunity to tell their stories,” Dungey said during an interview with Not Real Art the Podcast.
Godwin, a Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University graduate, was named the first Black woman to head ABC News five months after Dungey was appointed.
It was reported by Forbes that Godwin’s “considerable experience” was expected to help the network prolong its dominance in the news industry.
“Kim is an instinctive and admired executive whose unique experiences, strengths and strategic vision made her the ideal choice to lead the outstanding team at ABC News and build on their incredible success,” Peter Rice, chairman of Disney General Entertainment Content, said to Forbes. “Throughout Kim’s career in global news organizations and local newsrooms, she has distinguished herself as a fierce advocate for excellence, collaboration, inclusion and the vital role of accurate and transparent news reporting.”
This appeared to be a common response to the newly posed question: What do these women bring to the table?
There were many accounts given by members of the National Association of Black Journalists on the perspective of Black and Brown people finally getting the representation they sought for so long.
“It’s about damned time and long overdue,” NABJ board member Roland Martin said to The Daily Beast. “The media has been largely defined through the prism of white men and white women. So to bring a different perspective, a different flavor—someone who can bring a different analysis and viewpoint to storylines—is critically important.”
Although these minority women have been in these leadership positions for months now, seasoned media professionals say they are still inspired daily.
Michelle Fisher, host of BNC Go’s “Morning Hype,” expressed feeling a personal freedom in presenting her perspective as a Black woman in media during a virtual panel discussion.
“I think that [freedom] is certainly something that has impacted my storytelling — just being able to confidently be myself in the stories that I tell and the way that I tell them and how I choose to engage with viewers, too,” she said.