Shonda Rhimes Has Some Powerful Words About Women in Hollywood

"I haven't broken through any glass ceilings."

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At Marie Claire's 2nd annual New Guard event, Betsy Beers, the executive producer for hit shows ScandalGrey's Anatomy, and How to Get Away With Murder, delivered a brilliant, no-holds-barred speech about how television saved her life. At the crux of her inspiring story was her experience in conquering the gender gap in Hollywood. We laughed, we related, but most of all, we left wanting to kick some ass in every male-dominated arena that crosses our path.

As Beers' powerhouse partner, Shonda Rhimes had the same potency when she spoke about her own experience with women in Hollywood as she accepted the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award at The Hollywood Reporter's Women In Entertainment Breakfast yesterday. During her speech, entitled "On Ceilings Made of Glass," Rhimes didn't just recount her journey to the top as a black woman in Tinseltown, but explained why she's not the one who's broken the glass ceiling—it's a collective effort.

"I come from a very large, very competitive family," she began. "Extremely competitive. And by competitive, I mean, my mother says we're not allowed to play Scrabble anymore when we get together because of the injuries and the tears. One of the rules in my family is you don't ever get a trophy for participation, you don't get a trophy for just being you. So getting an award today BECAUSE I'm a woman and an African-American feels…I was born with an awesome vagina and really gorgeous brown skin. I didn't do anything to make either of those things happen. To get all Beyonce about it, people: "I woke up like this."

She continued and explained that she's a product of the women who've courageously and ruthlessly paved the way for her.

"Look around this room. It's filled with women of all colors in Hollywood who are executives and heads of studios and VPs and show creators and directors. There are a lot of women in Hollywood in this room who have the game-changing ability to say yes or no to something.

15 years ago, that would not have been as true. There'd have been maybe a few women in Hollywood who could say yes or no. And a lot of D girls and assistants who were gritting their teeth and working really hard. And for someone like me, if I was very very VERY lucky, there'd have been maybe one small show. One small shot. And that shot would not have involved a leading actress of color, any three dimensional LGBT characters, any women characters with high powered jobs AND families, and no more than two characters of color in any scene at one time — because that only happened in sitcoms.

30 years ago, I'd think maybe there'd be a thousand secretaries fending off their handsy bosses back at the office and about two women in Hollywood in this room. And if I were here, I would serving those two women breakfast.

50 years ago, if women wanted to gather in a room, well it had better be about babies or charity work. And the brown women were in one room over there and the white women were in a room over here.

From then to now…we've all made such an incredible leap.

Think of all of them."

The remainder of the speech is just as stirring, and we invite you to read it in full on Medium.

Related Links:
Read Grey's Anatomy Producer Betsy Beers' Inspiring Speech about Female Empowerment
Marie Claire's 2nd Annual New Guard Celebration of the Most Powerful Women in America
Melinda Gates on Philanthropy, Empowering Women, and the Ebola Epidemic

Lauren Valenti
Beauty Editor

Lauren is the former beauty editor at Marie Claire. She love to while away the hours at coffee shops, hunt for vintage clothes, and bask in the rough-and-tumble beauty of NYC. She firmly believes that solitude can be a luxury if you’ve got the right soundtrack—that being the Rolling Stones, of course.