Demand What You Deserve

An Interview with Susan Rovner, Executive Vice President, Creative, Warner Bros. TV and Co-President Warner Horizon Scripted Television

By Alyse Rovner

Susan Rovner is the definition of hard work, determination, power, and success. Rovner values hard work and has been working at Warner Brothers for over 21 years. She started off as Director of Drama development and has truly worked her way up to the top.

As Executive Vice President, Creative, Warner Bros. TV and Co-President Warner Horizon Scripted Television she works on and oversees “61 plus shows.” Rovner works on Westworld, Riverdale, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, Queen Sugar, Claws, a new spin-off of Pretty Little Liars called The Perfectionists, Shameless, Big Bang Theory, You, and many more TV shows at Warner Brothers Television.

But achieving this great success has not been easy for her and she has faced many challenges on her journey because of those who doubted her ability because she was a woman. For example, Rovner said, “At different points in my career I have been told I wasn’t getting promoted because ‘I wear skirts’ and that I was paid ‘pretty well for a girl’ and that I was being passed up for a promotion because I put my family before my boss.”

Rovner persevered against these challenges and did not let this sexism inhibit her future. The confidence she had in her own ability and her own acknowledgment of her worth would allow her to reach success. Rovner lives by the theory that “success is the best revenge. The more success you achieve, the more power you have to set a different tone and effect real change.” And as she has “risen in the industry, (she has) done just that.”

Rovner recalls a story that has been vital to her experience in the industry.

“Many years ago I attended a woman’s leadership conference offered by TimeWarner, where I met a woman that told me about the Tiara Syndrome. The Tiara syndrome is when women work extremely hard, and keep their head down and hope and pray someone will put a tiara on their head, and give them what they had been working for (a promotion, etc.). Something, that, I myself had believed would happen if I worked hard. Unfortunately, that never happens. Keeping your head down and working hard is not enough. You also have to lift your head up, you need to look around and you need to demand what you want and demand what you deserve. No one is just going to make you Queen unless you ask and demand it. Realizing this changed the entire trajectory of my career. I realized I had to make my intentions known to those around me and ask for what I wanted (in addition to working hard of course).”

Rovner works hard and uses her voice to enact change within the company as well as her career. She puts emphasis on helping to mentor women and has been a vital part of the program Femtors, a program for mentoring younger women in the television and film industry. In addition to being a mentor, Rovner brings in many “new voices and talent to Warner Brothers. We (Warner Brothers) recently made a big deal with Ava DuVernay. On Queen Sugar, we only hire female directors. All the heads of the creative departments and my direct reports are women. We are hiring many more diverse executives and talent.” Rovner has shown her dedication to helping others and expanding representation in media at Warner Brothers through bringing in new voices and talent.

Rovner talked about the sexual harassment that exists in Hollywood, and how this has been pushed to the surface through “Times Up.” She was aware these problems existed within the television and film industry and that although she is “not involved with the movement directly, (she) supports the movement fully.” She has seen great change at Warner Brothers because of the movement, because “people are encouraged now to report if something occurs, and before many people had been scared.” Rovner also says that “ if investigations prove the allegations to be true, action is now being swiftly taken.” Rovner believes that “a safe working environment is of the utmost importance” and is relieved that this “is now being taken very very seriously.” Rovner has seen Warner Brothers change for the better because “people are more careful and more polite and more aware.”

Continuing on, Rovner imparted some words of advice.

To all the young women who are trying to get involved in the television industry, “don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. I mean this in terms of promotions, salary and where you see yourself going in the company.”

Rovner is an inspiration and has taken initiative to promote change at Warner Brothers. She is not only the definition of hard work but also a representation of what it means to speak your mind and never settle. Rovner has accomplished so many amazing things and I cannot wait to see the amazing things she will continue to do in the future.