If Chosen, Dana Walden Could be Disney's First Female CEO



American businesswoman Dana Walden is emerging as a strong contender for The Walt Disney Company’s next CEO role. She could be Disney’s first female CEO in its 100-year history, setting new standards for gender diversity in executive leadership and in its corporate landscape. Currently, she is the co-chairman of Disney Entertainment and a member of the President's Export Council.

The media and entertainment industry has been seeing a million faces walk in for a job appointment, and only a few happen to pique the interest of higher authorities who see a spark in the eyes of these individuals. When Dana Walden set foot into the industry, what awaited her was a journey that became a part of a historic Hollywood moment. 

Not long after she joined, the executive, who currently serves as Walt Disney Television's chairman of entertainment, saw that she would have the challenging task of integrating two studios, 20th Television and the then-ABC Studios, while leading ABC Entertainment and bringing on Hulu Originals. She also had to think of a new way to keep the young-adult-targeted Freeform going, as linear basic cable networks were becoming extinct.

Yet, early on in her career at 20th Century Fox, Walden delivered a powerful speech at a corporate retreat in Santa Barbara, California, that left a lasting impression on Chernin, the chairman and CEO of The Chernin Group's investment division, who didn’t remember her after several encounters with him. Walden made the bold move to attract his attention by telling Fox officials, including Chernin, that they had to go hard on securing better talent head-on. Walden made it clear that Fox should take bigger chances to establish relationships and create programming that could be picked up by syndication.

Mastering Show Biz

Walden and her fellow television executive, Gary Newman, began managing Fox's studio division together, the main source of series production for Fox, including other networks, in 1999. They continued in the same role for the next fifteen years until 2014, when they were elevated to oversee Fox Broadcasting as a whole.

While Newman, a former lawyer, took on a large administrative role in their company, Walden gained recognition for her eye on scouting talent and as someone with flawless taste in comedies and dramas.


Folks she’s worked with say that she eventually became a pro at handling the financial side of TV.

Clear Away Gender Stereotypes

If elected as Disney’s CEO, it could send a wave of change in the media and entertainment industries, challenging gender stereotypes while serving as an inspiration for the next generations of female leaders. Known for her resilient and strategically astute leadership style, she could show what revolutionary power women can wield in this field in executive roles. Although Walden may be a top choice for the CEO role, it is not without difficulties.

Challenges that Await Her

Aware of the complexity that lies ahead, Walden would have to deal with Disney's intricate governance structure and current investor issues. There are changing business conditions to watch out for and Walden may have to capture and capitalize on opportunities as they come to seize Disney's expansion and innovations forward.

Walden does have the experience of handling challenging times. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, there was a drastic speed in the streaming revolution that Disney so heavily invested in. She witnessed the huge restructuring of Disney back then to adapt to the changing circumstances. The launch of Disney+ in 2019 exposed the voracious appetite that the platform would have for content.

Times of Glory

In her lengthy career, Walden’s bag of awards and accolades started to grow heavy while she was supervising the creation and production of some of the most cherished television programs ever.

Made Companies Rise to the Top

Post Disney’s 21st Century Fox’s acquisition in 2019, Walden joined the company, overseeing Disney Television Studios (20th Television, ABC Signature, 20th Television Animation, and Walt Disney Television Alternative), the original entertainment slates, and content marketing for ABC, Freeform, Hulu Originals, and Onyx Collective, leading Entertainment for Walt Disney Television. She maintained ABC’s position as the top entertainment network for three straight seasons for the first time in 25 years. Under her direction, Hulu Originals achieved a record viewership, especially for series like the Little Fires Everywhere, Nine Perfect Strangers, and The Handmaid's Tale in 2019.

A Series of TV Hits

The studios Walden oversaw at 21st Century Fox garnered 184 Emmy® honors, 29 Golden Globes®, 17 Screen Actors Guild Awards, 24 Peabody Awards, and Humanitas Prizes in her 25 years there. Many No. 1 television hits, including This Is Us, Empire, and Glee, as well as multiple Emmy Award winners, Modern Family, Homeland, Ally McBeal, Arrested Development, The Practice, and Boston Legal, can be attributed to Walden. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, New Girl, 24, How I Met Your Mother, and other notable television shows are under Walden's supervision. 

Sparking Up Fruitful Collaborations

Along with John Landgraf, she oversaw the long-running and fruitful collaboration between 20th Television and FX and FX Productions, which uplifted the popular television series The Americans, Sons of Anarchy, Pose, American Horror Story, and American Crime Story.

An Honorable Student

Walden was awarded a lifetime achievement award from Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business in 2021. She was chosen as MIPCOM's Personality of the Year and earned the Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award from the National Association of Television Program Executives. 

Won Recognition for Her Showmanship

She was admitted into the Television Hall of Fame by Broadcasting & Cable in 2013. Variety recognized her Showman of the Year, the Publicists of the International Cinematographers Guild named her Television Showman of the Year, and The Hollywood Reporter named her Executive of the Year for 2019.

With all the excitement around Disney's CEO succession, Dana Walden has an opportunity to make history. Her rise to the possibility of heading one of the most famous media and entertainment businesses in the world represents the advancement of female diversity in corporate leadership. Industry onlookers and insiders alike are eagerly awaiting the decision, realizing the potentially revolutionary effect Walden's leadership may have not only on Disney but also on the industry as a whole.

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