In her role at the head of all of WarnerMedia’s content-focused teams, Sarnoff ushered in a new hybrid theatrical release strategy during the pandemic. The company committed to releasing its entire 2021 theatrical slate in theaters globally and streaming day-and-date on HBO Max in the U.S. The result was $1.6 billion in worldwide box office and an industry-leading 12.3% global market share (as of 9/6/21). Sarnoff, the first female chair and CEO of Warner Bros., says “Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women’s Changing Lives” tops her long reading list of female empowerment books: “This book taught me so much about the psychology of ambition and the differences in the way men and women approach and embrace it.”
Best advice for someone looking to re-enter the workforce after a hiatus?
It really depends on where you are in your career. If you’re a woman who stepped out of the workforce to raise kids, you might want to consider doing some consulting in an industry that you have a lot of experience in. The consulting projects can give you exposure to the companies (their culture, growth potential, etc.) and they can also get a sense of what you might be able to contribute to them. I know quite a few women who have successfully re-entered the workforce with this approach.
Do you have an example of male allyship that made a difference to you?
I’m so grateful to incredible female mentors I’ve had, like Gerry Laybourne, but most of my bosses have been men and most of them gave me career stretches which allowed me to raise my game and build skills in new areas. I’ve always given the advice to people whom I mentor—work hard and do right by your boss; focus on the company’s success and good things will happen. That principle has always served me well, regardless of the gender of my boss.
What one female empowerment book do you think every woman should read?
I have a long reading list on this front, but my favorite is Anna Fels’ “Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women’s Changing Lives.” This book taught me so much about the psychology of ambition and the differences in the ways men and women approach and embrace it. Anna profiles women like Katherine Graham and Margaret Thatcher and others in that first generation of women who pursued careers outside the home and how their ambition paved the path for the rest of us.