Film and television mogul Gail Berman told Yale students that they cannot predict where their professional lives may bring them.
Berman, a former president at both Fox Broadcasting Company and Paramount Pictures, talked about her circuitous career in theater, television and film and the role her gender has played in her work at a Pierson Master’s Tea on Tuesday. Her success has been due largely to her strong work ethic, she told a room of around 20 students.
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Berman said she does not know if life in the corporate world is more difficult for women than men, but added that women continue to face discrimination in the workplace.
“It is a practical reality of corporate life,” she said.
Berman said she left Fox for Paramount because she felt she was being underpaid, and thinks her gender may have affected her compensation.
Still, being a woman has some advantages in the professional world, Berman said.
“I brought a unique point of view to circumstances that needed it,” she said.
Berman’s career as a theatrical producer began shortly after she graduated from the University of Maryland in 1978, when a close friend called her and suggested they team up to produce a show that hadn’t yet caught on in the United States: “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Despite significant roadblocks, the two of them eventually raised the necessary funds and gained the rights to the show. Berman called the experience a “fantastic fantasy.”
“[Working on the project] was tantamount to thinking I was going to be the president of the United States,” she said.
The musical gained traction, and only three years out of college, Berman was a Broadway producer. By the end of the 1980s, after a string of major shows, Berman described herself as “burnt-out.”
Berman said she had wanted to go into the theater world since sixth grade, adding that she had reached a turning point in her career, and had no idea what to do next.
“The one thing I ever wanted to do, I had done,” she said.
Up to this point in her life, Berman had never had a professional interview. In spite of this — and regardless of the fact that she knew very little about the television industry — she was offered a job at a start-up cable channel. She later took a job at Fox, where she became producer of a number of successful shows, including “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
Berman eventually advanced to the role of president of entertainment at Fox, then went to Paramount Pictures.
Two students interviewed said they enjoyed hearing about Berman’s career.
Zach Bell ’14 said he appreciated that Berman was able to provide insight into a variety of industries and professional situations.
Jake Keaney ’14 said he was struck by the gender inequalities Berman mentioned.
“I was struck by how the stereotypical view of men in power in corporate America is basically true,” he said.
Berman co-founded the film and television production company BermanBraun with former T.V. network executive Lloyd Braun in 2007.