“Always have a voice in the room and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”
Stephanie McMahon isn’t afraid of a good fight. As one of the principal owners and Chief Brand Officer of WWE (which happens to be the family business!), she’s gone head to head with some pretty macho men during her career. Earlier this month, she was honored with the Titan Award at the annual WORLDZ summit, the conference co-founded by Roman Tsunder that brings together some of the world’s most innovative minds in marketing. Read our conversation below to find out what it’s really like to be a fourth-generation female wrestling promoter and why she’s “completely comfortable in a male-dominated environment.”
Katie Couric: Your name has been synonymous with wrestling for generations, all the way back to your grandfather, Roderick “Jess McMahon!” Can you tell us a little bit about your family’s history? How did they end up in the wrestling business?
Stephanie McMahon: I’m not sure how my great grandfather, Jess McMahon, wound up in the business. However, the story that I have heard from my family, is that he was the first son of Irish immigrants to go to college and when he didn’t become a doctor or a lawyer, he was disowned. I have no idea if that is true or not, but that is the story I’ve heard… My grandfather, Vincent James McMahon, promoted boxing and wrestling in the Northeast region of the United States and my father, Vince McMahon (not a Jr!), turned a regional wrestling business into a global media, consumer products and live events juggernaut, currently valued around $6B that is available in 800 million homes worldwide.
Did you ever have second thoughts joining the family business? What do you love about it?
Growing up I loved everything about WWE, the larger than life personalities, the storytelling, and the business. My parents were trying to grow the company so most of the conversations I was privy to were about what was going on at WWE and the industry as a whole, and I was fascinated by all aspects. Most importantly, choosing to work for WWE was a way for me to give back to my family and I’ve never wanted to do anything else.
I have to say it’s inspiring to see you command such a powerful role in a pretty male-dominated world. Can you tell us how you’ve learned to navigate it so well?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to believe in yourself and know how to own the room. People say “fake it till you make it”, but I say always have a voice in the room and don’t take “no” for an answer. I also think I’ve had a ton of advantages, not only am I the boss’s daughter, but I grew up with my mom as the CEO of WWE. It actually never occurred to me that gender was a barrier in business until I got older. And because I grew up around so many men, I’m completely comfortable in a male-dominated environment… I’m actually far more comfortable in a room full of men then I am a room full of women, women are far more intimidating to me!
You’ve done so much in your career already…what’s left that you really want to accomplish?
From a company standpoint, there’s nothing but growth potential. I see no reason why in the next few decades that WWE can’t be as big as Disney, especially when you consider our multiple lines of business including consumer products and live events. We’re in 180 countries and 28 languages, and the opportunity to localize content around the world provides significant opportunity. From a personal standpoint, I want to make sure that the work I do is meaningful. I personally want to help women reach equality in sports, I want to help find a cure for pediatric cancer, and I want to make sure WWE is fulfilling our mission of putting smiles on people’s faces the world over.
What advice would you give to young girls who look at your success and want to emulate it?
The best advice I can give is to believe in yourself, surround yourself with people who make you feel good and ignore the ones who try to tear you down, and play to your strengths. Your strengths are what you do better than anyone else, cultivate that superpower and own it.
Okay, I have to ask — do you watch “Glow” on Netflix? What’s your expert take?!
I honestly haven’t seen Glow yet, but I want to! I’ve met some of the cast and they are incredible, and I saw that Geena Davis is on this season! I just need more time in the day 🙂
This originally appeared on Medium.com