TV Executive Shatters Glass Ceiling by Breaking into Video Production

By Kaplan, Peter | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 15, 1997 | Go to article overview

TV Executive Shatters Glass Ceiling by Breaking into Video Production


Kaplan, Peter, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Most people probably wouldn't walk out on a TV producer job in a major media market such as Washington - one they'd worked nearly 20 years to reach.

But that's exactly what Sheila Brooks did. Seven years ago, Mrs. Brooks stepped out of her job at Fox's WTTG-TV (Channel 5) to start a video-production business out of a spare bedroom of her New Carrollton home.

Now SRB Productions Inc. does work for "The Oprah Winfrey Show," Fox and Black Entertainment Television. The company has grown into a staff of seven and just expanded its K street quarters. And Mrs. Brooks is the president of the National Association of Women Business Owners.

"We do it all, from conception to completion," Mrs. Brooks said.

Her main reason for dropping out of corporate America has a familiar ring to many female executives: After nearly two decades in the television business, she doubted management would ever make room for a woman at the highest ranks of the company.

"I felt that I had reached the glass ceiling - always No. 2 or No. 3, but never No. 1," Mrs. Brooks said.

Her career had taken her a long way from her upbringing in a poor section of Kansas City, Mo. Her mother was divorced and worked two jobs to support her children. Neighbors teased Sheila because her mother sent her to a Catholic school on the other side of town.

"I knew that I had to work hard," Mrs. Brooks said. "I knew that my mother could not afford to give me things."

Mrs. Brooks said she first decided to become a television reporter at the age of 5. The decision ultimately would take her to Spokane, Wash., Seattle, Dallas and Washington.

Before she left WTTG, Mrs. Brooks was heading the station's award-winning documentary unit and helping start its "Fox Morning News."

After she decided to leave, offers came in from several stations and programmers. But Mrs. Brooks took her cue from a small video-production company called Vanita Enterprises. During a short stint with Baltimore-based Vanita three years earlier, she learned the administrative end of the business from the company's owner.

"I always wanted to run my own business," she said. …

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