Agents Of Change: How Female Agents Are Paying It Forward

Women Graphic
Illustration by Ada Yokota

As the music industry continues to strive toward a future where women are equally represented throughout the business, female agents are coming up with innovative initiatives to bring about change.
United Talent Agency coordinator Zoe Rae Williamson pitched La Femme Majeure as an all-female networking session that focuses on fostering connections and collaborations for young women working in music – and UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer and Natalia Nastaskin, general manager of UTA’s Global Music Group, were instantly on board.
“I noticed that most networking events for women were targeted towards female executives in high-level positions,” Williamson said.
“While these women are an inspiration to me, I also wanted to give the next generation of female leaders an opportunity to build their personal networks as we all climb our respective ladders. Ultimately, I felt the need to create a space for women of all ages and levels of their careers to learn from, inspire, and support each other.”
Following an inaugural event in May 2019 at UTA’s New York office, La Femme Majeure continued with November events in Los Angeles and again in New York City. UTA is targeting fall for its next event, with plans to roll out the series globally later this year.
“Since the first event, I have been surprised by just how many women work in the music industry, and by how many of those women are willing to put in the effort to make a substantial impact,” Williamson added. “It doesn’t always feel this way and it’s actually far easier to notice the lack of women. These events remind me in the best way that more women are joining the industry, changing the game, and taking charge every year.”
UTA’s employee interest groups include a group that focuses on matters and initiatives that are especially important to women, providing opportunities for female employees to listen to panels about topics including wage parity, and discuss issues impacting the world at large.

In addition to providing guidance or advice on day-to-day work issues, Nastaskin hosts gatherings for women in her group to connect outside of work.
“I want the women at UTA to know that I wasn’t born into a leadership role,” Nastaskin says. “I went through a lot of the same issues they are facing as they navigate the professional landscape. I share my experiences because if hearing about how I have overcome challenges helps just one other woman achieve her professional goals, it makes it all worth it.”
Over at ICM, board member and Co-Head of Talent Lorrie Bartlett and agent Andrea Nelson-Meigs founded the biennial Phenomenal Women dinner in 2016 as a way to support women of color in the entertainment industry.
Attendees include publicist Yvette Noel-Schure of Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment, producer Suzanne de Passe and Motown President Ethiopia Habtemariam, along with ICM agents Ava Greenfield, Yves Pierre, Mari Davies, April King and Dana Sims.
Bartlett has taken on a mentorship role for younger women at all levels, including sharing her insight as the first black board member of a major talent agency.
“Creating a pipeline that establishes inclusion is one thing,” Bartlett says. “The maintenance of that pipeline is another. Mentorship is an essential ingredient in getting people to the finish line.”
ICM has shown its commitment to diversity and inclusion with two company-wide initiatives launched last year – HER ICM and LGBTQ+ InQlusion. 
HER ICM “empowers women to drive change and create opportunities in the workplace, industry and beyond,” through events including bicoastal mixers, self-defense classes and viewing parties.

The agency is expanding its programming in 2020 with “Power Lunch,” an interview series with ICM’s top female executives sharing stories of their careers.
CAA’s mentorship program FORWARD, which was championed by multiple people at the agency, was created to attract, grow, and retain women at CAA by fostering a support network and empowering other women within its offices, as well as across the industry.
FORWARD’s pilot program in New York features 62 mentees and 24 mentors. Meet-ups are held once a month, with events including mentee speed networking mixers, panels and speaker series, as well as outreach programs.
As FORWARD continues to grow, CAA plans to expand the program into all of its offices.
“We help strengthen the tools needed to fulfill goals, navigate hurdles, and understand key topics within the business,” says Jillian Doyle, Music Agent at CAA.
She adds, “The hope is to cultivate an environment where we can work together and be confident someone always has your back. Our goal is to form strong partnerships. We challenge mentees to get outside their comfort zones, to bet on and advocate for themselves.”
With a robust mentorship program already in place at WME, music agents at the company started a separate mentorship program that connects female agents with other young women in the business, including in management, labels and engineering.
Nashville partner Becky Gardenhire has also continued her monthly lecture series “Talk the Talk,” which connects women in WME’s Nashville office with other successful women in the community.