Suzanne Scott made TV history two years ago after being named CEO of Fox News, the second news chief since the network was founded in 1996 and the highest-ranking woman to run a broadcast or cable TV news organization. For Scott, who joined Fox News at its inception, it was a steady climb upward, taking programming, production and creative roles. Read on for some thoughtful advice on becoming the boss you want (and don’t) want to be, why collaboration is such an effective leadership tool, and the one woman who has been her inspiration from day one.
Tell us about what you are doing now.
2020 took off like a rocket. We were ready for it to be an extremely busy year given the Presidential election, but in January the Senate Impeachment hearings consumed most of the month. Then came February 2020. My mom passed away on February 16 after six weeks in hospice. I returned to work soon thereafter, and in late February my focus immediately turned to the coronavirus pandemic. My first priorities were both ensuring the health and safety of our employees and providing a public service to our viewers with informative coverage around the clock. Within a week of the onset of the crisis, we set up more than 40 remote studios, quickly added more informative programming and hired additional medical experts.
How did you get to where you are today?
I believe in collaboration and teamwork. I am very fortunate to work with an incredible team of people. Four years ago, we took giant steps forward to improve and expand our business and that would not have been possible without an extraordinary team all rowing together. Along the way, I’ve been encouraged to take risks and challenge conventional wisdom. I encourage our leaders to do the same, all the while supporting each other and the team.
What pivotal moments did you face along the way?
I have worked at FOX News for 24 years. Each year has brought new challenges that I have persevered through and learned from. Currently, the global pandemic has become a pivotal, defining moment. I am so proud of how quickly and nimbly everyone came together to keep all of our platforms on the air during such a crucial time with viewers sheltered in place and depending on us hourly. Leading FOX News Media during this crisis and putting the health and safety of our employees above everything has been one of my most formidable responsibilities and a profound moment in my career.
Additionally, after being named CEO of FOX News Media, one moment I am extremely proud of is transforming our business so that all staff, especially women would continue to be proud to work here. To that end, it was a priority for me to have a senior leadership team equally comprised of women. Hands down, we have one of the most inclusive and supportive environments in news media—and we did so while maintaining our industry dominance and creating new platforms.
What do you see as the major opportunities and challenges for women today?
"The more we have women secure a place in the boardroom, the more you will see female CEOs."
While we are in one of the most inclusive eras in our history as a country, I am still one of a few women occupying the C-Suite. The more we have women secure a place in the boardroom, the more you will see female CEOs. Over the last four years, I have worked hard to help mentor and grow our next generation of women leaders. At FOX News Media, I promoted several women to SVP, EVP and President. We also have more women on air in prominent roles as hosts or anchors than any of our competitors. And I’ve implemented several new mentoring and networking initiatives to help ensure we are fostering growth for our most talented workforce. The women of today are smart and fearless with more opportunities to soar as long as we are working to provide them with the tools to capitalize on every available opportunity.
What advice can you share?
Learn from everyone throughout your career. I have learned from both bosses and staff who were outstanding, and from those whom I would never emulate. I have also learned the very kind of leader I don’t want to be from experiences with various superiors. When I was a producer, I once had a boss who was very dictatorial and wouldn’t take great ideas from the production assistants or associate producers. I believe everyone can make a contribution and that approach fosters creativity and collaboration. Being a collaborator is the most effective tool in my arsenal. I make it a point to speak to everyone and get a diverse point of view so that I can make the most informed decisions about everything affecting our business. Some leaders are threatened by people with great ideas—I’m not one of those leaders. Instead, I always embrace smart ideas and apply them if I believe they will help grow and drive an initiative or business.
Who helped you in your journey and how did they help shape your career?
I have worked with many extraordinarily brilliant visionaries whom I will forever be thankful for: Chet Collier, Rupert Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch to name a few. But one person who hits the closest is my mother Marie. My mother lived an incredible life. Born during the Great Depression, her story is one of great loss at an early age and tremendous survival skills. And she never stopped educating herself, celebrating life and being curious. She believed in people more than they believed in themselves, often encouraging and guiding those around her to lives they couldn’t have dreamt for themselves. … My mother will forever be the voice in my head. She always told me to focus on my strengths and that I could do anything I set my mind to. And no matter the setback, we can overcome it when we focus on our strengths and talent. I like to pass on that wisdom to everyone around me.
How are you finding balance between work and your personal life, especially now?
Every day, I ask myself a simple question: ‘is this a good use of my time?’ I’m blessed to have a husband and family who have always supported me. Every day brings new challenges and sometimes work wins and sometimes my personal life takes priority. One lesson I have learned is to be in the moment. For example, when I attend an editorial or executive staff meeting, I don’t bring my phone so I’m not distracted. I try and do the same at home. … It’s one of the pieces of advice I suggest to my mentees and younger staff. Whether it’s a run on the beach or pursuing a hobby, we must feed our souls and stay strong. We have to take care of ourselves both mentally and physically which will help us daily as we navigate both personal and professional demands.
Knowing what you know today, what one thing would you have done differently early in your career?
"Life, I’ve learned, often brings you great joy and great tragedy at the same time."
I would have kept a journal. Not just of my personal experiences and learnings, but including stories, images and changing technologies we were all managing through. These years have been extraordinary. ... From pagers to smartphones and from 9/11 to Covid-19. All while starting here in my 20s as a single woman to getting married in my 30s, having my daughter at 40 and in my early 50s having lost both my parents and a beloved brother. Life, I’ve learned, often brings you great joy and great tragedy at the same time. It would be fascinating for me to have a simple timeline and record of all of that.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, money or talent would be no object, what would you be doing?
The joke in my family is I aspire to be a beach badge checker at the Jersey Shore. I love people and the sun and how wonderful it would be to embrace the simplicity of making sure everyone has a beach badge (and that I have enough sunscreen on!). But truth be told, I cannot imagine doing anything else. Both of my parents had an incredible work ethic which many in my family have inherited. Neither of my parents ever retired. Working long, hard hours comes easy to me. In fact, I believe my work ethic has served me well throughout my life.