Since its early hits in the '70s—you may remember little films called Star Wars and American Graffiti—to its present-day blockbusters, both Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic (a division of the film company) have produced movies that rule the box office and TV shows that command primetime. And they do it with women at the helm: Fifty percent of the Lucasfilm executive board is female, setting a new standard for the entertainment industry.
Four women in leadership roles at the two companies—Janet Lewin, Vice President of Production, Visual Effects (Lucasfilm); Gretchen Libby, Vice President of Marketing and Production (ILM); Rachel Rose, Research and Development Director (ILM); and Jessica Teach, the Executive in Charge of the San Francisco studio (ILM)—took the stage at Marie Claire’s exclusive Power Trip conference to talk about “the secret sauce” of their success. When it comes to the creative process, Teach explained, the word “no” is absent from her vocabulary.
“The "special sauce" about ILM and Lucasfilm is the spirit you see in the films—of pulling off the impossible and not knowing boundaries of working together through some of the hardest situations,” Teach said.
Lewin started as a temp in the purchasing department 25 years ago, suggesting that the companies' opportunities for career growth are impressive. “We really look for talent and try to cultivate that,” Lewin says. “And it's inspiring to have so many female leaders to serve as role models for the younger generation.”
Libby explained to the Power Trip audience that Disney, which now owns Lucasfilm, hired a chief diversity officer, Latondra Newton, 18 months ago. Newton quickly found a direct correlation between diversity and inclusion and TV ratings and awards. “The actual impact that this is having on the entertainment or can have on the entertainment industry is pretty big,” Libby says.
Rose, who won the Academy Award for Technical Achievements this year, adds that it’s important for women to be able to see other women in leadership positions and tech industries. She wants to make sure young women who take interest in computer science or executive jobs are not discouraged by the lack of women and diversity in the space, she says.
“I've tried very strongly to be someone who shows up in the room and make sure that the people know that I'm here,” Rose says. “Not just because I'm a woman in this field, but I'm a woman who feels comfortable doing that.”