Kicking Off July With Trio-Power

Billboard opened July 2018 with one of their most empowering and inspiring cover stories, yet. And, they graciously provided PINK the opportunity to showcase their cover and exclusive quotes from their hard-core power trio, for you, our readers. It’s our pleasure to introduce to you the most powerful black women at the three major-label groups, Motown Records President Ethiopia Habtemariam, Epic Records President Sylvia Rhone, and Atlantic Executive VP Juliette Jones.

These women are redefining leadership in a music business that – with label revenue strong, Spotify stock rising and startups proliferating – requires a wider talent pool than ever, from blockchain engineers to bilingual vocal coaches. Epic president Sylvia Rhone says, “Aspiring female executives will be able to find their place in this music ecosystem – and change the world.”

Motown Records President Ethiopia Habtemariam on making the music industry more inclusive for women and people of color: “It’s on [music executives] to be vocal and active in creating opportunities,” she says. “Real initiatives need to be put in place. If the people working on a project don’t look like the people you’re trying to touch with your records, there’s a problem.” 

Ethiopia Habtemariam on others trying to negate her success: “I heard people say, ‘Oh, she got the job just because she’s a black woman and they’re just trying to cover their asses,’” she says. “OK, cool. Even if that was the case, it’s on me. What am I going to do to make an impact and assure that other people get these kinds of opportunities in the future? Plus, I love proving people wrong.” 

Epic Records President Sylvia Rhone on being a woman running a label: “As a woman, you have to come from a position of confidence,” she says. “There’s a certain gift that women have in their management style that’s more inclusive than a male counterpart’s. One of the keys is to always be your best self. There’s no secret formula to it. You just have to understand that you’re managing a team of people, whether it’s two or 100, that is far more important than you.” 

Sylvia Rhone on the long-term effect of the #MeToo movement: “No one can adequately convey the trauma of a woman who has been harassed. In the past, so many women have felt compelled to keep silent for fear of losing their jobs. The toll that kind of secret takes on their lives is immeasurable. Everybody should be made to feel safe in their work environment. This movement has allowed women to speak their truths and reclaim their power. It’s given women a voice and hopefully stops the institutionalization of discrimination and sexual harassment.” 

Atlantic Executive VP Juliette Jones on the frustration of being a female exec often mistaken for a groupie at shows: “Consistently in my career, when I’m with artists, I’ve been harassed because it’s assumed the woman is a groupie,” says Jones. “Ten men with no credentials will walk ahead of me, but security will stop me. ‘Oh, that’s right,’” she says, laughing. “‘I’m here to try to sleep with Young Thug.’” 

Juliette Jones on gender disparity in the music industry: “It’s important, as women, that we learn to use our power to support each other, plus be comfortable in asking questions and voicing our career desires,” says Jones. “We need more [Atlantic chairman/CEO] Julie Greenwalds and Sylvia Rhones in the top seats — someone who sees the potential in women. I don’t think men are up there systematically keeping us out. It’s just not top of mind for them.”

As we see pioneers like these three and study their lives, we can allow negativity to sink in as it says: Everything has been done, you’re late in the line of progress. Instead, we say: False. With our busyness, don’t just read these ladies’ quotes and let them rush out of your mind, instead, focus on each of their words and choose to marinate on their wisdom… wisdom that you can easily make your own. Trust wisdom — it can guide you to develop your personal platform. Have faith in wisdom — it can knock on your door today, or perhaps a year from now, providing you the exact strategy needed to develop your vision into reality. Most of all, allow wisdom to develop you into the woman you are designed to be.

“Let your dreams be bigger than your fears and 
your actions louder than your words.” —Christine Caine

By Mavian Arocha-Rowe
Photo by Sami Drasin, exclusively for Billboard

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